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Inside Nine’s Gold Coast season of Hot Seat

Sam Cleveland | October 12, 2020

Casting for Nine’s Millionaire Hot Seat boils down to a single question: “do we want this person to win a million bucks?”

That’s according to series producer Becky Taylor, who’s just shepherded her production from locked-down Melbourne to the Gold Coast to shoot 30 episodes.

“We all want to see other Aussies win, and our amazing casting producers choose people we’d love to see it happen to,” she says.

The Gold Coast episodes were cast exclusively out of Queensland, a Millionaire first and COVID contingency Taylor couldn’t be happier with.

From 5,000 applications, 180 contestants were cast in less than two weeks via Zoom “audition rooms” that virtually mimicked the process of the show’s in-person casting tours.

“To be honest, Queenslanders are our favourite type of character — they’re warm and open and sometimes a bit quirky — so it was easy to fill 30 eps with great people,” she laughs.

Behind the move

The Gold Coast itself will also guest star, with idyllic springtime footage of the tourism hub to be sprinkled throughout the new eps.

“We’ve shot some new footage to showcase the destination and give our audience a Gold Coast escape from the COVID blanket we’ve all been living under,” says Taylor.

“The Gold Coast is always going to be a place where people want to shoot — for MasterChef and really any show that travels, Queensland is a destination.”

The Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre (GCCEC) housed the Hot Seat production, with the show’s entire Melbourne set packed into seven semi-trailers and convoyed across two states.

“Logistically this was a monumental effort by amazing crew in two states,” says Taylor.

When shooting in Melbourne became untenable, Hot Seat looked at several alternative locations; the Gold Coast’s accessibility and the size of the GCCEC (Hot Seat’s tall set is a square peg) helped make its case.

Screen Queensland, The Star and the City of Gold Coast — the only local government in Australia to offer screen production incentives and support — also bought in.

“It was a pain-free process from the outset and when the Queensland Government and their partners stepped in with a can-do attitude, it came together very quickly,” says Taylor.


Local talent

Nine came north, Taylor says, confident in the capacity of local crew to replicate the show’s drumtight studio presentation.

A handful of department heads and key personnel travelled up ahead of the production and quarantined, while almost 60 locals were booked to help deliver the show.

Audio assistants, camera operators, grips, director’s assistants, floor managers and makeup and wardrobe were all recruited locally, as well as lighting and LED screen techs.

“Based on Nine’s success with shooting the Logies on the Gold Coast, there was absolute faith in local crew to deliver,” says Taylor.

The show was run from an Outside Broadcast truck parked by the GCCEC, with the live feed transmitted to Hot Seat’s Docklands Studios control room, where Taylor watched.

On the floor inside was Gold Coast grip Mick Smith, whose company Mick’s Gripping supplied and operated the Technocrane on all five days of production.

Smith and his team work regularly on feature films and TV commercials, designing custom camera mounts and stabilisers for vehicles, boats, cranes, drones and cable cams.

For Nine he shoots the Logies, the Gold Coast Marathon and The Today Show.

On Millionaire, Smith thought his Technocrane would be reserved for a few sweeping high angles of the studio, then discovered more than half the show would be shot on his camera.

“It meant having to swing the camera from one side of the stage to the other in a few seconds and land in the exact same place every time,” he says.

“It ended up being one of the hardest jobs we’ve done, but the director was excellent — really demanding but really respectful — and Eddie just hits it every time, there’s no second takes with him.”

Millionaire Hot Seat’s Gold Coast season airs on Nine from Monday October 12.