Sunday, 3 April 2016

London Audition Visit

Yes, gentle reader, yesterday I was in London for an audition for a quiz show. OK – so I never need too much persuading to pay a visit back to my hometown. Hmm, now there’s a point. I will probably always think of London as my hometown. It’s a sobering thought that I actually lived in London for just the first 22 years of my life, while I’ve lived in Port Talbot, South Wales, for almost 30 years. Well, all I can say to that is where you’re born, brought up and educated will always have a pull on you. It will on me, at least.

The purpose of the visit, of course, wasn’t just pleasure. As the proprietor of the dormant Life After Mastermind blog, I sometimes get sent advanced publicity from production companies, asking if I’ll pass on the message that they are looking for contestants for new quizzes. One which passed my way a few months ago was for a new quiz. I don't want to say too much about it right no, because production companies can get very funny if you start giving away details of the show, or auditions before it goes into production, so you'll just have to forgive me for keeping a lid on that for the time being. On a whim, and the promises that a) nobody was going to automatically be disbarred from entering because they actually have a halfway decent general knowledge, and b) there are potentially oodles of bunce on offer, I applied, then promptly forgot all about it.A fortnight or so ago I got a phone call where I chatted to an assistant or researcher about the show, and my application, and they checked on my availability for audition. Only London was available, and it was scheduled for the 2nd April. If called, would I be able to make it? Well, to be honest, I might have had second thoughts, had this been at any other time than bang in the middle of the school’s Easter break. But since it is slap in the middle of the Easter break, well, why not? Not that this actually was an invitation to appear, mind you, they were just ringing to check that I would be available if they wanted to give me the once over. Ten days or so passed, and I didn’t hear any more, so I decided that they had probably got enough people they wanted to look at for the auditions already. That’s fine. It’s very difficult to know what any production team is really looking for in a contestant for a new quiz, and so there’s no point in getting bitter and twisted if you don’t get an audition, and if you don’t get on the show. Either persevere and apply to other shows, or give it all up as a bad job, and do something else with your time.

Three or four days ago I had a phonecall inviting me to audition. Could I make it? - Sure, no problem. – Great, we’ll email you with the details. – Terrific. So there I was To be honest, as long as I have the time to do it, an audition in London is probably just as easy for me as an audition in Cardiff would be – apart from the cost of the petrol, of course. So, yesterday, I got myself packed and ready, then drove down in leisurely fashion. Once a year I usually take part in a charity quiz event in Central London, and doing this I’ve learned that my best bet is to park the car in Hanwell, where I grew up, and get the tube into town from Boston Manor.So there I was. I walked the route from the station to the hotel where the auditions were being held, and then carried on walking down into Trafalgar Square, where I was as I wrote this next bit on my trusty school issue Surface Pro.


Saturday 2nd April: 3:15pm- So, here’s the bottom line. Why am I doing this? Going for the audition I mean? Well, the thing is, I have never said that I will never go on another TV quiz again. I don’t need to prove anything to myself, but my attitude has always been, well, if I see a show which I fancy trying, and I think there’s even a slight chance of me getting on it, then I’ll have a go. For example, I did Fifteen to One with Sandi Toksvig in Glasgow in 2014. I didn’t win – shame – but had a lot of fun doing it. But there’s more than that. When you get right down to it. . . well, when you get right down to it, I rather enjoy the audition process. This is going to sound arrogant, but there we are, so be it, but since Mastermind 2007, I don’t have this destructive urge to have to prove myself on a TV quiz. Whereas Mastermind 2007 was all about showing what I was made of after four unimpressive and underwhelming TV performances. 

Of course, there is always another aide of the coin. Having won Mastermind, there seemed simply no point in applying to many TV quizzes now. Case in point – Pointless. My son and I have applied together on more than one occasion, and never had any contact from the production team at all, let alone had the sniff of an audition offer. That’s the way it goes. Then there was ‘Breakaway’, for which I had an audition in Cardiff a few years ago. I was surprised to even get offered an audition, and my suspicions that my application form had not been read thoroughly were confirmed in the audition itself. We took it in turns to film short pieces to camera, and one of the questions we were all asked was ‘Have you ever been on TV before?” Well, the guy doing the audition supressed a chuckle when I told him I’d messed up the £32,000 on Millionaire, then his expression changed completely when I mentioned about Mastermind. Ah, Dave old son - , I told myself, for that’s my name, - you won’t be getting on this show, then. And to be fair, I didn’t.

I didn’t succeed in my first ever audition either. That was for a well known team quiz show, which was auditioning teams for its very first series. Since it had never been on we really didn’t know what to expect. Being the honest and straightforward chaps that we were, we played it absolutely straight, flaunted our quiz credentials, and wiped the floor with the other two teams auditioning at the same  time. We later found out that they both got on and we didn’t. I don’t really know that there’s any great moral that you can draw from that, other than auditions are funny things. 

I don’t think you can say that you’re not competing against the other people auditioning at the same time, if there are any, but the nature of the competition may well be a lot different from what you perceive it to be. It ain’t all about winning the audition folks.Another funny audition experience was for the second series of “Are You An Egghead”. This was getting on for a year after my Mastermind final was broadcast. Now, I want to make it clear that I didn’t actually apply for this show. The production team got in touch with Mastermind, who, quite rightly, said that they wouldn’t give out my contact details, however they would contact me and let me know about the interest from Are You An Egghead and leave it to me to decide if I wanted to follow it up. All well and good. I gave it a whirl, and had a phone audition. After this I was invited to a face to face audition in Bristol. My attitude was a little – well, hang on a minute, YOU wanted me, I didn’t even apply for the show. Well, what the hell, they explained it was just procedure, so I went along with it. It’s the only time that I ever went to an audition, though, pretty much knowing that unless I did something really stupid I was a shoe-in for the show.

The second Mastermind audition was interesting, because it was such a contrast with the first. In the first it had been a face to face audition, just me with two members of the production team. A nice chat was followed by a long and exhaustive bout of horse trading over specialist subjects, then we finished with the relative haven of the 20 GK questions. Then a year later, all I had was a phone audition, where we chatted briefly about my experiences in the previous series, and I was asked 20 questions, after which I was told ‘well you’ve obviously got a very good general knowledge’ Thanks very much – it did the trick whatever else came into consideration.

Millionaire had its own unique application process. Basically, answer a question either online or on the phone, and your name goes into the hat for a call back. So if you enter, let’s say 200 times, as I did, then your name went in 200 times. The callback was not an audition. You were asked one question with a numerical answer. Get close enough, and you were on the show, regardless of your appearance or personality. It was that simple, although changed for later series.

Then there was my last audition before today which was for Fifteen to One. Now, that was frankly a bit odd, if you want my opinion. Not the audition itself, but the fact that the team were so insistent that you didn’t post anything anywhere giving away any details of the audition itself. I have respected this request, and will continue to do so, but frankly I don’t see why. I have been through a Fifteen to One audition now, and believe me, I don’t see any way that knowing what happens in it would help you to perform better in it, but hey, that’s their choice, and I’ll continue to respect it.

When you boil it down, most auditions come down to a lot of the same basic ingredients, and are there to answer a few basic questions. On TV – how well do you present? It doesn’t have to matter if you’re no oil painting – I’d never have been on TV at all if it did – but it does matter how you come across, and how the viewers are likely to react to you.  Can you talk? No seriously, this is a lot more pertinent than you might think. Most shows don't need you to be a general knowledge genius, but they want to make sure that you have at least an average, man in the street(or viewer in the house) knowledge, enough to make it interesting. Do you have a discernible personality? Do you come across as the sort of person who will have an emotional reaction to playing the game - pleasure, enjoyment, anger - it's all good.

I’m currently thinking about my next move from here. I don’t want to show up at the hotel before 4pm at the very earliest. In my experience, while the people carrying out the auditions are usually super nice, with the best will in the world auditions rarely run to advertised time, and they are so busy they don’t really need you hanging around for too long before the audition is supposed to start.


Time – 20 past 6. Audition’s over- I'm currently sitting on a tube train bound for Northfields. That’s 1 stop before Boston Manor. Don’t sweat it – I can walk from there to the car.The audition then. Hmmm. Gotta be honest, you can only judge from what’s put in front of you, but my gut reaction is that I won’t be taking part in the show. Or rather, I won’t be going forward to the next stage, the short listing stage. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know if I would actually want to go to the next stage – oh, who am I kidding, I would. Why do I think I’m not going through? Well, for one thing, I was picked last to play. Maybe coincidence, maybe not. For another thing, when the  contenders in play at any one time gave a wrong answer, if it wasn’t modern entertainment, then I would give the right answer. Look, I said I wouldn’t lie to you, OK? And if I’m being totally honest, one of the main reasons I go to auditions is to show off.

So, no chance then? Well, I honestly do not think I will get on the show. The standard of the others seemed, on admittedly a small amount of evidence, to be okay, but not brilliant, which makes me think that this is what the team making it really want. It’s not impossible that I might get called to the shortlisting weekend, though, but if I was, I reckon it would only be to put the others into some kind of contrast by comparison. Well, I don’t know. One thing I did like though was that the lady carrying out the audition did say that win, lose or draw we would definitely hear from them. I’ve no reason to doubt her, and it will be very nice if it happens, because in my experience you usually only tend to hear back if you’ve got through.


OK, well that's what I wrote yesterday. I have no idea what the timescale is, and whether we'll get a phone call or an email, but that's fine. Looking back, I enjoyed yesterday, and that's really the point. Watch this space.


dxdtdemon said...

I'm guessing that with the lack of mentioning IQ tests and intense personality evaluations, that this show isn't 500 Questions, or if it is, then they're doing the auditions extremely differently on your side of the Atlantic.

Londinius said...

Sorry dxdtdemon, but for the reasons I gave in the post, I'm not going to give away the name of the show yet. Not publically, anyway. If you want to email me at I will, though.