How to Pass the 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' Audition Process
What it takes to be a "Millionaire"
So YOU want to be the next millionaire on ABC's hit game show, but your not sure exactly what that requires or how to approach the audition process. Here is all the information you need, gained directly from my experience auditioning for millionaire in NYC.
Here are some answers to the most common questions about the audition process:
Where can I try out?
There are two ways to try out. 1) you can attend a taping of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" in NYC, before which all attendees are invited to take "the test", the first step in the audition process. 2) The millionaire producers go around the country periodically offering auditions in major cities. Because of the sheer numbers of people that show up to these auditions, I would say your odds of being selected are worse than trying out in NYC, but you save yourself the travel expenses if you live far away. Go to http://dadt.com/millionaire/auditions/ to check the dates/locations of upcoming auditions
What are the different stages of the audition process?
There are 3 stages that you must pass if you wish to be a contestant on "Millionaire." Here they are along with my estimation of the pass rate:
1) The Test - this has the lowest pass rate (between 5-10%) and is used to quickly filter the applicant pool (are you smart enough)
2) The Interview - If you are luck/smart enough to pass the test, you will have a 3-5 minute interview with a junior producer. The primary purpose of this is to ascertain if you are normal, attractive, and articulate enough to be on T.V. (I would say at least 50% pass this point. If you have a personality and aren't uncomfortable speaking to strangers you should be fine)
3) The Screen Test - This is the final stage of the interview process. You will be video taped by a producer while playing your very own pretend version of "Millionaire". This is the time to really bring the personality.
How often can I try out?
There are no strict limits on how many times you can audition, but the producers do reserve the right to cap your audition opportunities. When I tried out, there was one kid who had been there 6 times in the past month to audition (he was more than a bit odd and had been cut at the interview/screen test stage at least twice)
Next we will take an in-depth look at each audition stage and what it takes to succeed...
Step 1: The Test
The test in its current format is a 30 Question timed, multiple choice test. While they do not warn you of a time restriction beforehand, they do alert you when you have 5 minutes left (which for me was about 9 questions in). I would estimate that the total time allotted for the test was 10 minutes.
The questions are all over the map, from pop culture to history to geography, botany, art, food and everything in between. The questions do share a common style however, they seem to emphasize quick thinking and reasoning skills more than just raw knowledge. I only felt like I knew half the answers on the test cold, but 90% of the other half I felt very confident in because logic was enough to arrive at the correct answer.
Skills required to pass this portion
- Speed Reading - You have 20 seconds per question so you must read and think FAST
- Fast and Logical - You must have excellent deductive abilities to eliminate wrong answers and be able to apply them quickly and decisively
- General Knowledge - you must have enough general knowledge to apply successful deductive reasoning. Especially useful is pop culture as those questions tend to be more "you know it or you don't" than the type you can reason out.
What is a Passing Score?
It's tough to tell if the producers grade on a curve or not. It's possible that they just advance the top X percent of scores to the next round of the audition process. From # of questions you can miss standpoint, I would say you must get at a bare minimum 28/30 correct (I got 29/30).
Pass Rate (5-15% Low)
From an odds standpoint, the test is your largest hurdle to getting on millionaire. In my pool of 120-150 applicants, only 10 or 12 people passed (including myself). Because of the nature of the test, just because passed it once doesn't necessarily mean you will pass the next time you take the test.
Step 2: The Interview
In this stage you will meet with a junior producer who takes a headshot of you, looks at your personality questionnaire, and talks to you briefly about why you want to be on "Millionaire" and what makes you a good candidate. They are primarily evaluating you on 3 factors in this stage: How attractive you are, how funny and interesting you are, and how comfortable you are speaking to strangers. There may also be some sorting based on age, race, and gender (this is T.V. after all.
How do I pass this stage?
In general, being funny, interesting and attractive are characteristics you either have or you don't, but here are some tips to emphasize your natural attributes:
- Dress to Impress - They want to see what you'd look like on T.V. so show them! Wear some khakis or dress pants, a solid color button down shirt, and some (unscuffed) dress shoes. Put your best face forward for you best shot.
- You can prepare to be funny and unique - There are two questions they will ask you for sure: "What would you do with $1,000,000?" and "Why would you make a good contestant?" If you prepare answers to these questions you will have a leg up. In general you should either go for "heartwarming" or "hilarious." This is television, not reality and they are looking for characters and stories, not people. Also, have a funny story you can tell about something interesting that happened to you.
- Be relaxed, confident and engaged - Television is no place for the shy and awkward unless you're hunk pretending to be shy and awkward. Make eye contact, and be engaged while being interviewed. Speak with conviction and passion. If you're funny and you know it, show it. If you're not, get some help with prepared funny answers in advance, or shoot for heartwarming instead. Stay relaxed, don't fidget, and don't look away or appear disinterested.
Step 3: The Screen Test
This is the final stage of the audition process, but in many ways the most challenging. At this stage, the person trying out will essentially play a mini version of the actual game show while a producer films them. Essentially, this step allows the producers of the show to get a good glimpse of how you will perform on camera should you make it to the real show. Any sign of nervousness or discomfort displayed one-on-one with a producer will likely be magnified tenfold in front of a live studio audience. For the producers of the show, this is most certainly the most important step. If they could choose between smart contestants and camera-ready contestants, they would pick the latter every time.
When I reached this stage of the audition, I was given very little time or instruction. I was basically led by a twenty-something girl with a video camera into a deserted stairwell where she filmed me while asking me 'Millionaire' style questions. I was told not to look into the camera and was encouraged to speak my thought process out loud if I didn't know the answer immediately, but other than that I was given very little guidance as to what they wanted of me. At the time. I didn't realize how critical this step was (or even that it would be a step of the audition process).
I wasn't expecting this step, so I was caught a bit off guard, and nervous. I ended up singing a song early in my audition (she asked if I had any talents) and it helped get the jitters out of the way. I'm sure I still looked a bit uncomfortable, and remember having my hands clasped for much of the interview. If I knew the answer to a question, I answered it matter of factly (with no delay or drama) and if I didn't, I basically just guessed after weighing my options vocally but unconvincingly. I made good eye contact with the producer and even attempted to be funny (which is normally one of my strong suits) but I think my nervousness came across and not all of my quips landed. While I would say I was probably at least average in this stage, I did nothing to stand out from the crowd (other than singing) and was unremarkable in terms of energy or charisma. If I find out in a week or two that I did not make the cut, this step will be 100% of my focus before the next time audition. I will literally rehearse playing millionaire for maximum producer appeal. Here's what I think they are looking for:
What they are looking for:
- They want to see that you are comfortable on camera. Keep your hands, face and body loose.
- SMILE! They don't want to see you nervous or uncomfortable, even when facing a tough decision
- Be dynamic and emotive. If you are feeling excitement, or uncertainty ordoubt, or pride, show it! Don't be afraid to fist pump or high five as long as it looks natural and not forced. This stuff is gold for producers. Watch a game show on TV (not Jeopardy) and see what percentage of the contestants are middle-aged men/women who constantly dance, yell, or fist pump. The producers (and the audience) want to see emotions, not intelligence.
- Be Unique. Do you have a special talent? This is the place to show it. Whether you do impressions, or sing, or you can burp for 49 seconds straight, anything you can do to stand out from the crowd is a leg up.
- Don't just be yourself, be a caricature of your self. That is to say, be yourself but even more so. Take your identifying characteristics (especially personality characteristics) and crank them up a notch or two
A final note: I've said it before, but it bears repeating: practice, practice practice. Some of us are naturals on camera, but that's certainly the minority. The rest of us will need to rehearse to get to the comfort/energy level the show is looking for. Have a friend or relative or significant other tape you while asking you questions. Even better, have a stranger video tape you. Get pointers from friends, try different approaches, and see what works!