Working Crew on Survivor TV Show: pt 2- Life on Crew

Survivor Thialand TV show crew filming a rehearsal

filming rehearsal for Challenges – Survivor Thailand

Working Crew on Survivor TV Show: pt 2- Life on Crew

So, what’s it like being part of the Survivor TV show crew?

I suspect you’re all dying to hear how glamorous life is crewing one of America’s most famous and popular Reality TV shows…

So here you go:

Yes, I did in fact get to ‘hob-nob’ with directors, producers, cameramen, and even show host, Jeff Probst.

I did get to regularly ‘live-it-up’ indulging in superbly mixed cocktails most evenings at the well-stocked crew bar. Some friendly cameraman, grip or the other colleague was always buying me my favorite cocktails, to my great delight.  For the 1st time in my life I took to drinking Singapore Slings, Pina Coladas, B52s and Black Russians.

We also enjoyed occasional lively beach parties and special events.

cameramen - Survivor

cameramen – Survivor

I befriended department heads, award-winning cameramen, lighting crew, gaffers, artists, prop makers, film editors and boat captains.

There were some pretty amazing characters on crew. One man used to be a personal bodyguard to movie stars whenever they traveled through Europe. One cameraman had been a journalist in Columbia for 6 years in the mid 1990s. (How did he get out unharmed?)

One guy in the marine department held the WORLD RECORD for free diving. Another man normally lived on a platform way out on the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Australia.

electrician Steve working on Survivor Thailand

electrician Steve working on Survivor Thailand

The show electrician generally worked  in remote N.E. Australia, often going out to jobs by airplane. Another guy normally delivered yachts. The Survivor crew were all for the most part gregarious, interesting and great fun.

Meanwhile, we all dined morning, noon and night on generous buffet spreads of gourmet cuisine, desserts to die for, and tasty espresso coffees. Survivor fed us all exceedingly well.

Lash driving ATV - Survivor Thailand

Lash driving ATV – Survivor Thailand

I barreled around the production area on a sturdy ATV like an Amazon Queen. I carried a bulky walkie-talkie to communicate with colleagues out in the field. The radios made us look really cool and important… Hey!

I helped the Art Department create The Challenge sets and the props for Tribal Councils, which were then seen on TV by the world.

That’s the glamorous side of a film production.

But all that glamour and fun were squeezed in between the overwhelming reality of a film production: a huge amount of work. ‘Work hard, play hard’ would be an apt phrase.

During the two Survivor episodes I worked on, most crew members worked a solid 12 hours/day, 6 days/week. But managers, supervisors, department heads, producers and directors worked much longer, generally 16-18 hours/day.

That seems about par-for-course for film work. Over the years, I’ve had many friends who’ve worked in the film industry: artists, prop makers, make-up artists, hair designers. Typically, they all worked non-stop for 2-6 months during film production, with little time left to sleep or eat, let alone do anything else. From what I’ve seen, during film productions personal life is just put to the wayside

Lash at tent - survivor thailand

here I am at my tent on Survivor Thailand

From that perspective, my job on Survivor was relatively easy. I worked the minimal 12 hour day. My daily routine looked like this: Work 12 hours. Sleep 8 hours.

The remaining 4 hours of the day I used for personal needs. I used 1 1/2 hours in the morning before work to get ready, eat and maybe do one personal task like cleaning my nails or tweezing my eyebrows. In the evenings I had 2 ½ hours to shower, eat, and either relax, socialize, or exercise before bed. That was life on crew.

As a rule, all Survivor crew got one day off per week. However, an unexpected glitch robbed a few of us of our days off at the beginning of the Survivor Thailand production.

Lash - Unit Department colleagues - Survivor Thailand

Here I am with Unit Department colleagues – Survivor Thailand

The head of my sub-department (i.e. my immediate boss) got sick and quit a few days into the production. Her assistant and I had to pick up the slack in her absence. We ended up running the entire sub-department on our own! As a result, for the first crucial month of production set up, we had no days off. For an entire month.

I proceeded to eat 5 meals /day– and lost weight. That’s a good indication of how much energy I exerted every day.

Needless to say, it was exhausting. I was much relieved after one solid month of 12 hour days to receive two full days off. I was so spent that I slept the entire first day. I recovered on the second day. Then it was back, full swing, into production.

Lash with Thai crew - Survivor Thailand

Lash with Thai crew on Survivor Thailand

So, what exactly was I doing 12 hours a day for three months?

I was hired as a Thai translator by the Unit Department, which is responsible for setting up all the housing, food, and daily necessities required by the crew to function smoothly. Survivor Thailand took place on Koh Tarutao National Marine Park, an undeveloped island just off the coast of western Thailand near the border of Malaysia.

Because it’s a national park, the island had no resorts, restaurants, shops or modern facilities. That meant the Unit Department had a massive job.

Marine Department boat heading to Koh Tarutao Island - Survivor Thailand

Marine Department boat heading to Koh Tarutao Island – Survivor Thailand

Essentially we had to set up an entire new modern town and a tent city, including housing, electricity, sewage, internet capabilities, air conditioning, laundry facilities, house cleaning and more. The company also installed a bar, a gym and other recreational facilities (As if anyone had time for that!)

Not surprisingly, building a new town from scratch required many specialists: electricians, carpenters, restaurant and catering personnel, technicians.

The electricians, carpenters, caterers, film crew ‘gofers’ were hired as full-time staff for the duration of the production. They helped unpack containers, set up the new town, tear it down afterward, and re-pack the containers. Other specialists like satellite, internet, and phone technicians were hired just temporarily to make their installations.

hundreds of tents - Survivor Thailand

hundreds of tents – Survivor Thailand

My particular department within the Unit Department was in charge of all crew housing. We had to set up over 300 tents to house the cameramen, camera assists, film editors, gaffers, lighting crew, restaurant staff, temporary specialists, journalists and ourselves.

We also had to equip the tents with beds, mattresses, cabinets, tables, chairs, linens, lights, torches, brooms, dustpans, and trash bins. And then of course we had to provide toilets and showers.

In addition, about 40 ‘VIP’s were set up in national park houses and bungalows, where they were provided with phones, internet access and air-conditioning. The Unit Department specialists took care of those accommodations. The poor electrician had to run miles and miles of electric lines to bungalows, tents, the restaurant, the bar and other facilities.

Once the extensive housing was completely set up, we were charged with keeping the town clean and functioning. We provided regular personal laundry service and linen changes, spare torches and light bulbs, and repairs or replacements for anything broken.

Thai staff pitching tents - Survivor Thailand

Thai staff pitching tents – Survivor Thailand

I was hired as a Thai translator to help get the Thai staff pitching tents, cleaning, and organizing. Tragically , I managed within a few days to have the entire Thai staff hate me and their jobs! It was a complete disaster! A near mutiny ensued.

Part of the problem was due to my minimal Thai language skills, part of it the southern Thai dialect, a lot of it cultural differences that I didn’t know about. I’d never worked in Thailand before and I quickly discovered it’s an entirely different ball game from traveling around the country as a paying guest.

In addition, everyone suspected the workings of one female Thai translator who simply hated me from the beginning. She had tried her best to prevent the company from hiring me. Once I was hired, she proceeded to make my life hell.

Lash with Thai crew - Survivor Thailand

Lash with Thai crew – Survivor Thailand

Fortunately for me, everyone in my department was already wise to her and consequently blamed her, more than me, for the near mutiny. Finally, our department director called a big meeting during which he put certain people in their place. After that things quickly improved.

Within a few days, not only did my Thai staff suddenly become co-operative, but they actually came to love me. From then on, we all have a great time working together. They bustled about singing, smiling, joking around and helping me improve my Thai.

It was a miraculous turnaround. And we all suspect the woman giving me trouble had been put in her place at the meeting. (She later befriended me, oddly, and even asked if I wanted to work with her in LA!)

art department busy painting -  Survivor Thailnd

art department busy painting – Survivor Thailnd

As my department was busy erecting a full town, other departments were bustling around too. The art department was busy building props and sets at various locations. I helped them out in my spare time.

A large Marine Department (not military marines, but boat people) were preparing boats for sea transport between various locations.

Marine Department with transport boat - Survivor Thailand

Marine Department with transport boat – Survivor Thailand

The Transportation Department got busy chauffeuring people around by bus and truck. They were also charged with unloading huge barges and boats on a daily basis: food, drinks, laundry, equipment and machinery for the film.

All in all, it was a huge, bustling month-long production set-up in preparation for the film crew: cameramen, directors, producers and last but not least, the contestants. to arrive and begin filming Survivior Thailand.

Here’s my next installment about working on Surivor TV Show crew- Mishaps and Misadventures Behind Scenes

…and here’s the  the full series of 7 posts about my adventures working on Survivor Thailand.



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  1. Audrey | That Backpacker

    So that’s what it was like behind the scenes! I always wonder how reality tv comes together; looks like it was a whole lotta work! That shot of the tent city is pretty cool.

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Audrey,
      Yep, that’s what it’s like to crew Survivor! .. but I have much more to add in my ongoing series, so stop back to get more behind the scene’s scoop. :))
      cheers, Lash

  2. David @ Surviving Survivor

    I loved reading the detailed account that you wrote a couple of years ago, but with pictures it’s even better.

    So, are you watching Survivor nowadays, or are you still haven’t done so?

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi DAvid,

      Good to see you here! Thanks for stopping back to read again.

      Wow, I’m so embarrassed about the previous versions of my Survivor stories! no photos! pretty crap writing. I’m surprised anyone could enjoy reading it! :))

      As for the current Survivor Episode, I’m traveling through Indonesia and don’t have much access to tv, especially at the hours survivor US airs, IF it’s even shown here? So, nope, not watching this episode. Are you? If so, how is it? Thanks for stopping by and commenting. cheers, Lash

      1. David @ Surviving Survivor

        Yeah, I can’t believe I hadn’t been here in such a long time, sorry about that. In recent months (you know with the whole working full time and having a kid) I kinda unwillingly stopped reading a large bunch of blogs I used to read.
        Survivor is shown all over the world with the internet with the proper tools (a VPN in the US, a good streaming site or some less legal ones). :-)
        I haven’t missed an episode since I’ve left the US actually (it’s even easier to watch it on my computer as I can watch it whenever I feel like, not just as it’s airing).
        The new season started a couple of weeks ago (in the Philippines) and it seems it’s going to be a good one after 3-4 somewhat disappointing ones.

        1. Lash WorldTour

          No worries about not visiting lately. HOnestly, I don’t know how anyone has time to read other peoples’ blogs! I’ve never figured out how to fit it in yet… But I’m quite curious about your site SurvivingSurvivor. I’ll have to go take a peak!

          Yeah, someone told me about the new Survivor episode, which is why I finally started running my series just now. :))

          Glad to hear it’s shaping up to be a good season there. Enjoy!
          cheers, Lash

  3. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family

    Yay! I’m so happy you finally wrote about this!! I’m a HUGE Survivor fan so was dying to hear what it was like behind the scenes. Sounds like it was an intense experience – fun and exhausting all at the same time. And you got to do it twice! I’m so jealous!!

    (BTW, I think you mean season, not episode. Episode refers just to the weekly show, whereas season refers to all the episodes of Survivor Thailand.)

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Bethany,

      You said it just right- intense experience!
      lol- Thanks for the correction! Just about every time I write about this show or mention it to a Survivor fan, they’re able to correct me on some fact or other! I used to call it ‘Survivors’ :)0 cheers, Lash

  4. Madeleine

    Hi Lash!

    What a crazy and unexpected opportunity you got there, I barely can believe it :) I am glad it happened to you :) You never know where speaking Thaï/being hypoglycemic can lead you…
    Thanks for sharing this story, I’ll stay tuned for more!

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Madeleine,

      Yep, you just never know!
      I don’t think I”m actually hypo-glycemic, I got tested for that. But it’s the easiest way to explain to people that I literally need to eat immediately or I’ll be sick.

      Yes, please do stop by again! cheers, Lash

  5. Teli

    Hi Lash,

    If a person was hypoglycemic or had symptoms similiar to you (need to eat immediately or I’ll be sick)… would you advise them not to try out for Survivor Show?

    Appreciate your opinon,

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Teli,

      Wow, I’m not a medical doctor, so I can’t advise you.

      But I know that I personally would never consider becoming a contestant on Survivor. Those guys really go through hell out there. I mean, they really do have to survive on their wits and get through a lot of stress physically and psychologically. Did you ever notice how skinny or even emaciated some pf them get over the course of the contest?

      As a contestant, I would not count on being able to get food regularly, let alone ‘on demand’ if needed.

      I would imagine that the Survivor recruitment team makes all potential contestants undergo a complete and thorough physical exam before they are accepted or not. The company is extremely safety conscious about both crew and contestants. I would not be surprised if anyone who’s diabetic, hypoglycemic, has seizures or any other health conditions would be barred from joining.

      cheers, Lash

      1. David

        Yeah, every potential contestant contestant gets a bunch of physical and psychological exams, and if you’re not in perfect health, you have little to no chances to be selected (although I’m convinced that they select a few lunatics on purpose each season as long as they’re not dangerous to themselves or others)

        1. Lash WorldTour

          Thanks for the details, David.

          I figured as much. :)

          Ha, ha, love your ‘intentional lunatic’ theory. Could very well be. :)

          Thanks for reading and commenting.

          cheers, Lash

  6. Jonathan

    I am a recent film production college grad and would love to be on the film crew for Survivor, be post production editor, or anything with them related to film. Do you have any advice for me as to how to get my foot in the door? Do you have any names of who I could email inquiring about this? THanks!
    Jonathan Sladek

    1. Lash WorldTour

      hi Jonathan,

      Congrats on your recent graduation.

      I’m so sorry, I don’t keep in contact with anyone from the crew. And since I worked on the show in 2002, I dont’ even know if the same people are working on production or not.

      My only suggestion is to check their website for job applications.

      Best luck, cheers, Lash

  7. nadia

    Nice to read your blog. How did you find out about the job in the first place? I would love to be on their art department team.

    1. Lash WorldTour

      hi Nadia,


      Sure, lots of people would love to work on Survivor Art Department team!
      Here’s how I got in: http://www.lashworldtour.com/2012/09/working-crew-survivor-tv-show-pt-1-picked-crew.html

      cheers, lash

  8. Amy

    So fun reading this! I know it was posted a long time ago, but I’m about to graduate from college with a degree in film production and I am dying to work on the set of survivor. Any tips?! I can’t seem to find an application anywhere.

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Amy,

      Great, glad you enjoyed reading about behind the scenes of Survivor. it was a blast!

      Sorry, I really have no idea how to go about getting a crew job. The only thing I can suggest is to check out their official website and see if they’ve got a ‘jobs listing’ or ‘application’. If that’s not there, I assume they are not recruiting.

      Good luck!

      cheers, lash

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