Sunday, January 19, 2014

How Survivor South Africa Champions on M-Net really chose its contestants: 'Individuals who proved a drive to win, no matter what it takes'.

Survivor South Africa: Champions, starting today on M-Net (DStv 101) at 17:30, and filmed on an island in the South China Sea, brings a completely new real-life, sociological case study in group dynamics to South African television.

In this season the two tribes are each led by South African sport stars, Corne Krige and Mark Fish, who can't be voted off, which results in a major change to the group and leadership dynamics at work over the course of the 27 island days.

But how were the chosen 20 contestants for this fifth season selected by production company Endemol South Africa and M-Net programming executives?

"Contestants have to understand that Survivor South Africa is both a mental and physical game and have to illustrate their strategic abilities," TV with Thinus is told.

For Survivor South Africa: Champions, 60 potential contestants culled from the national audition process underwent "intense physical and psychological testing".

M-Net invited South African citizens older than 18 to attend auditions for Survivor South Africa: Champions in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban where more than 5 000 people showed up with the usual "camping out" at the audition venues to be as close to the front of the queues and several dressed in outrageous attire trying to make that important first impression.

It was here where wannabe Survivors had only 30 seconds to convince members of the selection committee that they should be chosen to go to the island - unknown to them located in the South China Sea - a long, long way from home.

"The ones with the best first-round pitches then appeared in front of the committee again, as they grilled potential candidates with more questions and then whittled down the numbers for more intensive audition sessions," I'm told.

"In the end, there was a shortlist of 60 contenders who went for intense physical and psychological testing before the final 20 Survivors were selected."

So why the change from the usual paper entries to physical auditions? It's much easier to gauge whether someone has the making of a Survivor in person than on paper says the production.

As in the previous four seasons, the selection committee, a panel of M-Net programming executives and the directors and producers of the series, was looking for "contestants who would surprise the audience as well as their tribe mates - multi-faceted individuals who can prove that they have the drive to win, no matter what it takes".

"The panel was also on the lookout for candidates who were very familiar with the Survivor franchise - both locally and internationally."

Survivor South Africa: Champions was filmed in October 2013, but the identity of the contestants only revealed last week by the pay-TV broadcaster.

The chosen contestants who made the final shortlist were only allowed to tell their close family members and employers that they are on the show, and everyone - the contestants as well as those they told - sign strict confidentiality agreements.

"Having two predetermined tribe captains - a worldwide first for Survivor - brings out different social dynamics to previous seasons," says the production.

"The Survivors don't scramble to become a tribe leader. Instead they try to win their captain's favour. Outside of the spotlight they have more space to connive and form or jump alliances. This makes this season totally unpredictable. It's a completely new case study in Survivor group dynamics."