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Working Crew on Amazon Survivor pt 4 – My Job on the Dream Team

testing one of the Amazon Challenge games

testing one of the Amazon Challenge games

Working Crew on Amazon Survivor pt 4 –

My Job on the Dream Team

If you’re a Survivor TV fan and have ever wondered how things work on Survivor behind the scenes, you’re gonna love this post. I detail my crew job on the prestigious Dream Team and throw in a lot of information about other Survivor production departments along the way.

Overview of Producing a Survivor Season:

Creating a Survivor Show Season takes more than a dozen different departments all working closely together for over three months. It starts with pre-production work like scouting locations.

Then it moves on to location, beginning with the crew’s arrival. The production and filming areas are set up. The challenge games & tribal council sets are created and the set & camp locations are found.

challenge set in Amazon

setting up a challenge set for Amazon Survivor

Eventually the show contestants arrive as well as the film crew. Contestants begin their long ordeal surviving in remote camps and the filming gets underway. The camera crew film the contestants live 24/7 in their camps, at the challenges and at tribal councils. That continues for about 6 weeks.

Eventually the show comes to its conclusion and the production is wrapped up. Everything is packed up and everyone leaves. Final post production work is completed elsewhere.

safety crew and rangers - Amazon Survivor

safety crew and rangers – Amazon Survivor

This labor-intensive work requires location scouts, directors, producers, camera crew, editors, camera tech, grips, lighting, electricians, an art department, a Challenge dept, make up & costume dept, a transportation team, a unit department, a medical team, catering, house keeping, carpenters and a security team.

Most of these jobs and departments are self-explanatory. Others might be a mystery to anyone not working in the film industry. And a few special departments are specific to the Survivor TV Show.

On the Amazon Survivor Season I worked for The Challenge Department, one of those special departments created exclusively for Survivor. Within that department I was a member of the glamorous Dream Team.

What, you might well ask, is a Dream Team?

Glad you asked…

The Challenge Department:

First of all, the Challenge Department’s task is to dream up and design all the Challenge Games for the contestants to play live on Survivor. Once the department creates the games, they collaborate with the art department whose job is building those creations.

That could entail digging pits, hanging up nets and ropes, rigging up a flying fox, building large game sets and decorating them all with color schemes and traditional designs or patterns of the country in which the show takes place.

Dream Team of Survivor Amazon

Dream Team of Survivor Amazon

The Dream Team:

The Dream Team’s purpose is to assist the Challenge department, art department, directors, producers and camera team with testing & preparing the challenge games and film sets before the live filming of contestants takes place.

To this end, one of our major tasks in the Amazon was testing the Challenge games before the contestants played them. We Dream Team members ran through the games, hopefully just as the contestants would, while the cameramen, directors and producers practiced filming.

They had to determine the best camera positions, angles and techniques to use for filming any particular game before they filmed the contestants live.

grips on Amazon challenge

grips setting up camera tracks on an Amazon challenge

During the practice runs, grips were on hand to build any structures necessary to get the best shots. They might need to lay down tracks, built scaffolding or towers, set up platforms in trees and so on.

The art and challenge department staff also watched the game practices to determine if any adjustments needed to be made to the structures they’d just dreamed up and built.

On the Amazon show I got to test out many exciting, fun and unusual challenge games. I ran through a jungle obstacle course, got thoroughly drenched in a mud pit, had to gorge on a massive suspended slab of meat and whizzed down a flying fox for the first time in my life. It was a blast!

Amazon Survivor behind the scenes

Amazon challenge set up

Sitting in on Tribal Councils:

The Dream Team’s second job is to sit in as ‘contestant guinea pigs’ for practice shoots of the Tribal Councils. The lighting crew have to make sure each light will properly spotlight the contestants. The directors and camera crew have to decide on the best camera positions. Grips have to build any structures necessary to get those shots. And the art department double checks the set and props for visual and structural integrity.

Survivor fans already know that each Tribal Council is unique. Each time, the contestants are slightly fewer. And which team is forced to have a member voted off depends on which team lost the most recent challenge game.

In the Amazon, every three days, just before a live Tribal Council was filmed, we Dream Team members were ushered over to the Set and asked to sit in particular seats as stand-ins for specific contestants. The directors, producers and camera crew rapidly got themselves set up.

Just before the contestants arrived, we Dream Team members were all hastily ushered away. We were never allowed to watch a filming or see the contestants in person. The company feared a breach of security.

contestants arrive to Tribal Council Amazon

sneak peak: contestants arriving to Tribal Council Amazon

Occasionally, when practice shoots were running to the last possible minute, we couldn’t leave the area before the contestants arrived. So we’d get quick glimpses of them arriving, usually exhausted and stressed, from behind some trees or walls. Those moments were always thrilling since they were so ‘forbidden’ and the contestants so ‘off limits’ to the crew.

Contestant stand-ins:

Our third job entailed acting as stand-ins for the contestants for any extremely distant helicopter shots and for close-up hand or foot shots. As it turns out, distant shots cannot be filmed live while the contestants are playing the challenge games because… Well, think about it: all the cameras, directors and production crew surrounding the live game set would also end up in the shots!

So the day after certain challenge games were played by the contestants, we Dream Team members were dressed up as various contestants and ran through the games while a helicopter filmed overhead.

contestant stand-in on Survivor

me & other Dream Team members dressed as contestants for helicopter shots

On the TV Show, close-up hand and foot shots are mainly used during the show host’s explanations of the games to TV viewers. Cameramen don’t have time to take those hand & foot shots of the actual contestants while the games are running live, not to mention that would mean an unnatural interaction with the contestants and many interruptions of the games.

So randomly throughout the production period, various members of the Dream Team would be called over to one of the Challenge Sets to have their hands or feet photographed while demonstrating the games.

Helping the Art Department:

When we weren’t busy testing Challenges, sitting in on practice tribal Councils or doing miscellaneous close-up shots, we were assigned various helpful tasks with other departments. Usually we helped the art department make props and game sets.

props on Survivor Amazon

props on Survivor Amazon

As I mentioned in last week’s Survivor story, at the time I was really hoping to get a job with the Art Department on later Survivor shows. So whenever I was sent to help make props or sets I was quite excited. The work was exciting and the art department guys were really super fun.

As it turned out later, I never did get a position in the Art Department. But I certainly enjoyed my work making props and sets in the Amazon.

And that wraps up my explanation of the Survivor Dream Team and my job on Amazon Survivor.

Check out the next post in this series to read more specific details about our Dream Team jobs.

QUESTIONS:

Do you have any other questions about the Dream Team or other happenings behind the scenes?

Have you ever worked on a film?

If so, what was your job?

—————————————————————————————————————————–

Be sure to catch my previous stories from behind the scenes on Survivor:

Amazon part 1  –  part 2  –  part 3

Thailand part 2 – Life on Crew

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27 comments

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  1. Caz Makepeace

    what a cool experience Lash. I loved reading about this. I used to be a major Survivor fan.

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hey Caz,

      Great to see you here.

      Glad you enjoyed the view behind the scenes.

      thanks for taking time to stop by, have a read and leave your comments.

      cheers, Lash

  2. Bret @ GGT

    Fascinating! As a longtime Survivor fan, it was great to read about what goes on behind the scenes.

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Brett!

      Nice to see you here. Great, glad you enjoyed the ‘report’. It was certainly fun doing the work!

      cheers, lash

  3. Suzy

    I would think it would be fun to have to be a contestant stand-in, being a reality star without the reality I suppose!

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Suzy,

      Yeah, it was really fun. A blast, in fact!

      Thanks for stopping by, as usual.
      cheers, Lash

  4. Michelle Grabuski

    What an amazing experience! I love Survivor and this is a great behind the scenes look at what is involved with the filming. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Michelle,

      Welcome!

      Great, glad you enjoyed it! That’s exactly why I wrote this series – for people like you.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      cheers, Lash

  5. Richard mouser

    How can I apply for a crew job?
    Thanks

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Richard,

      Sorry, no idea how to apply.

      cheers, Lash

  6. Andrei

    Great post! I loved reading about your experiences… i’m sure it was unforgettable. I have a question for you: How can I contact someone from survivor to be on the dream team? I know you can’t apply, but maybe I can convince them otherwise :)

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Andrei,

      GReat, glad you enjoyed reading my behind the scenes tales! It was great fun.

      So sorry, I have no idea how to get on the Dream Team nowadays. I’ve been out of contact with the whole crew for several years already. Sorry.

      Thanks for stopping by, cheers, Lash

      1. Andrei

        I had to try! I hope one day I can experience an adventure like yours as well. Working for survivor has been a dream of mine since 2000. i will make it happen somehow. If anybody has any leads, please let me know!

  7. Lindsey

    Hey Lash! Great post, sounds like an amazing experience! I was wondering – how did you land the job as a Dream Team member?

    Thanks,
    Lindsey

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Lindsay,

      Welcome! Yes, it was an amazing experience!

      While working crew on Survivor Thailand I got to know the Director of Challenges Department (boss of Dream Team). So I applied to him for the position.

      thanks for stopping by.

      cheers, Lash

  8. Lara

    This was really interesting! Did you ever consider competing on the show? Are dream team members even eligible to be contestants?

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Lara,

      Welcome! Thanks, glad you found it interesting. I sure had fun!

      I would absolutely NEVER want to be a Survivor contestant! They really do have to survive out there in the wilderness, with no assistance or interaction at all from the crew. I’m sure you’ve noticed how ragged, haggard and skinny they get during the course of the show? I presume I would not qualify medically anyhow since I need to eat full meals every 4 hours or get very sick. (Which is one big reason I would NOT want to even try it if I could!) It’s also a huge psychological head trip. No thanks!

      I suppose the crew – or former crew – who were American citizens could apply to be a contestant just like any other American. But I’m not sure about that.

      Would YOU like to be a contestant?

      cheers, Lash

  9. Hayley

    Hi Lash,

    I would love to work on the grip or camera department for Survivor, but I don’t know how to apply! Do you have any advice?

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Hayley,

      Yes, indeed, so very many people write to me wanting to work crew on Survivor and wondering how to get on.

      I’m afraid I can’t help. I just got on crew purely by chance. I have no idea how to actually get hired by application. Sorry!

      cheers, Lash

  10. Sharon

    Who makes up the games they play for the imunity necklace? I have a very good idea. Please tell me who to contact. Thank you Sharon

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Sharon,

      Welcome!

      Sorry, I dont’ even know what the immunity necklace is.

      But all the games are created by the Challenge Department and/or Art Department. Genearlly the Challenge Dept. comes up with the ideas and then the Art Dept. makes them.

      I don’t know who’s in charge of the Challenge Dept. now adays. I was working crew in 2002. 13 years ago!

      Sorry I can’t help more. Good luck contacting them.

      Best regards, Lash

  11. FW

    Hi I have been in film for a long while now……..I am from South- Africa and was wondering how I should go about to try and become a crew member…..I know that one of my friends Johan Oosthuizen works on Survivor……I would really appreciate any advice. I can forward a CV if needs be, I am registered with “Call a Crew” in SA, have done an international “Steadicam” course with Garrett Brown and absolutely love the outdoors.

    Best regards
    FW Stark
    +27 82 927 0535

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hello FW,

      WElcome!

      Sorry to say, as I’ve replied to all other inquiries here about how to get work on Survivor, I have no idea. My only suggestion is to check the Survivor TV website and look for a job application procedure. Best luck!

      cheers, Lash

  12. Allison

    This is all extremely interesting stuff. While I always dreamed of playing the game, my biggest dream was to work for survivor. Right now I am touring in the music industry as a production assistant with many hats. I would absolutely love to give tv production a chance, any suggestions on where to go or who to call to submit N application? I would extreme appreciation any direction!

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Allison,

      Thanks for stopping by to read my tales.

      The only thing I can suggest is to check out the Survivor Website and/or search for their office/applications information online. I have no contacts or insights into that. Sorry.

      Best luck! cheers, Lash

  13. Joel Kramer

    Hi Lash,

    How long were you on site as part of the Dream Team? Was it just a 3 month time period?

    Thanks!

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Joel,

      Thanks for stopping by. Yep, it was a 2-month stint.

      cheers, Lash

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