Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Truth about American Idol Auditions, part 4

 The Executive Producer Room

So, where we left off last night, 4/5 of my small group had made it through to the Executive Producer room and was sitting in the courtyard area of the River Room.   Here's the setup:
Telling It Like It is...

Feel free to click on the above link to get an even bigger picture of the audition room, so you can understand the basic setup.   I am seated in row 2 of contestant chairs.  There is one row in front of me, filled in with people, and everything next to us and behind us is empty (waiting for people to come out of the small room).   Directly in front of us are a set of double doors,  a bunch of PAs, a cameramen, people trying to arrange potted plants (one on each side of the set of double doors), and some other random people.  To our left is the open area where we entered the black curtain, and to the left of that is the near/far chair setups for the small room we discussed in the last post.  Behind us and to our right is a Sports Bar type of area, that is enclosed by half wall/half colums.  The families are all seated in this area and they are not allowed to leave it.  It gives them a partially obscured view of the double doors but they can still sort of see if they stand up. 
In the little nook that the Sports Bar created between it and the wall, there is a group of 5 or 6 contestants that have been there a long time by now, so they have all made friends.  They have vacated their chairs (the ones starting at 1, 2, 3)   and are pow-wowing on the floor playing guitar and singing.    I am sitting behind the 3 stick figure people in the chairs with Jessica again on my left and Jorge again on my right.

We don't know how the executive producer round is going to work yet, but we are told it will start as soon as everyone is in the room.  That makes us very uncomfortable because only 25 or so chairs have been filled and there are clearly a lot more behind us.  2-3 new people trickle in every few minutes, after they go through the small room.   It's about ten or eleven by this point, we haven't eaten anything of substance since at least seven and many of us have been there since six.  I am starving but am still nibbling on the granola bars, fruit, and other random things in my bag.  Some kids parents have brought them chips and things out of the vending machines.  We are explicity told that when the round starts, if our number is called, and we are not there, we will be cut, no questions asked, they will not come to find us.   I think at least at one point this occured where the person was not there and they DID make an effort to find them (and the person came yelling and screaming) and was allowed to audition.  Why the person wandered off to begin with is beyond me.

Eventually some sort of producer (if you haven't figured out yet, Idol has at least 8-10 producers, and 3-4 executive producers.  Most famous are Ken Warwick, who I actually met that day, and Nigel Lythgoe who sadly was NOT present -- he's famous from "So You Think You Can Dance."  - it's basically the same group of 3-4 Brits who are responsible for about 15 reality TV shows,  and about 8-10 Americans.)     So the producer comes out and explains the process (you may want to refer back to the handy dandy picture I drew for you):

Contestants are seated in ORDER, by contestant number.  (At this point I realize, I think, that even though on audition day #2 we auditioned according to ticket number, our contestant numbers handed out on the yellow tickets were according to producer, and our groups of five were done by contestant number.  So, in other words, Jessica's contestant number was the next highest from mine, and Jorge's the next lowest).  So we're all still sort of still in our 5 person groups, or what's left of them, and we're seated in order by the number on our stickers.   I also realize just how many people were cut at the New Orleans arena, because the gaps in our numbers are HUGE.   I saved my sticker to upload for you all (I wasn't supposed to) but it tore into a million pieces.  I did manage to sneak a picture of my original golden ticket before they took it away from me (gotta love smart phones), so I will try to upload that one at some point.        So, contestants are seated in order.  The very first three people to audition/make it through this far are seated in chairs that I marked on the picture 1, 2, 3, and it continues that way down the row, and then snakes around to the three chairs behind where the three stick figures are drawn.  That's us,  then it goes down that row, and snakes around, and back down the other row, and so forth and so on.   The PA's are making sure you sit where you need to be seated.   

As people go into the room, this is the drill:
1.  chair 1 and 2 stand up and go into the room, these are contestant #1, and c2, respectively.   C1 goes straight to the judges.  C2  stays in the curtain area just through the door with the PA.    Before C1 comes out for the infamous "yellow ticket reveal",  C2 goes into another area in between curtain area and audition area.   Meanwhile, C3 and C4 are moving into chairs 1 and 2, and the entire line must pick up all of their things and move down the line.  Every five minutes.  Talk about already being nervous, now you're having to make yourself uncomfortable again every few minutes and keep track of all of your stuff (if you don't have someone with you to hold it).      While C1 and C2 are still in the room,  PA's are going to find C1's family and C2's family.  C1's family is placed outside of the double door, and C2's family is taken out of the Sports Bar and put on standby.    C1 then comes out,  there is lots of screaming from C1's family (or crying, whatever the case may be), and then a brief camera interview occurs (more on this as well later).   C2's family then gets placed on potted plant detail for the next big reveal. 

Meeting Ken Warwick
 Finally someone comes to us and tells us we are about to start this process.   Contestant 1 and C2 go inside the room and apparently are not very good because neither comes out with golden tickets (shock to all of us because they were both the super-popular strumming the guitar guys who play in bands in real life and we are flabbergasted).   I think a few more people went in and came out unsuccessfully as well, but I'm unsure how many, less than ten.  The room is very tense, and there is no noise.   I guess this justifies a visit from Ken Warwick because he gets out of the audition room and comes out to meet us.  He introduces himself, there is wild applause, he tells us he likes the city, he makes a few jokes. He tells us that the reason he is there is because this is standard procedure, but also because he doesn't know who the judges are going to be.  (Keep in mind, this is just a few weeks after Simon "retired"  and it was in this same week that Kara DioGuardi was fired).  He mentions that there is a lot of "buzz in the air"  about the entire situation and people are worried, but don't be, he is finding new judges and it will be a great Season 10.  He lets us know that personally he hates all of the contestants from Season 9 and thinks they are the most boring bunch of indivuduals he ever saw.  He knows that's why ratings dropped.  He is really trying to amp up Season 10, and is sure it will be the best ever.  Back to our auditions...  He tells us that we are there to IMPRESS him and so far we have been anything but.  He reminds us that we are auditioning and need to show a lot of energy.  He reminds us that we learned the song "Billionaire" because he wants to test how well we can learn music in a pinch, and that if we're on the show we could potentially be learning 5 new songs a week between the group songs, music video songs, our actual song, and in later rounds 2-3 songs per show.  He tells us that so far not one of the contestants has been able to sing the song well, and no one knows the rap.  He wonders why no one bothered to learn the rap?   He wishes us well, says it's nice to meet us, and goes back into the room.  There is wild applause. 

My initial reactions to Ken Warwick
I realize he is very British, sarcastic/dry sense of humor, cute accent but very cut and dry.  I realize he is probably a total asshole in real life, even though he put on good airs today.  I don't find it hard to believe at all that he got along well with Simon Cowell.  I think he's a great businessman, he obviously knows we are curious about the news of the new judges and he comes right out and tells us the reason and not to worry about it,  he changes the topic and gets us thinking about the audition again, AND he sets us up for extreme failure by telling us to give more energy AND reminding us again about the Billionaire song, and of course wanting people to rap because a) they can't get the full song together if no one does the middle verses of it and b) people rapping is even sillier than people singing badly.

This post is long enough already!  Going to post it now so you guys can read it, and when I return you'll have a detailed account of MY exact audition,  what the families did, and who the other contestants were and what they did.   To Be Continued...


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Very enlightening and enthralling blog...nice work!

  3. I'm British/Canadian so I appreciate all the stuff you said about the British producer and why you think he told you the stuff he did. So much manipulation - it's really eye-opening stuff.

  4. Did you do all of this auditioning in one day?