Survivor has thrilled audiences ever since its first season back in 2000, and it continues to do so, year after year. The premise of everyday people living on an island together, competing in exciting challenges, forming alliances with each other, and fighting the elements of mother nature day after day has kept the world on the edge of their seats, season after season. But how does a TV show like survivor operate as smoothly as it does and continue to produce fantastic drama and suspense?
Well, the producers of the show are invested in doing just that—making Survivor as engaging and thrilling as they possibly can. They want the audience watching at home to feel as though they are going through the same experiences that the contestants are, as if they were there with them—which is why the film and production crew are with the contestants every step of the way. The crew is there filming through the tough weather, cold nights, unbearable heat, and anything else that the contestants are going through. This is why the show is always able to produce amazing content.
There are a ton of behind the scene elements that go into creating a show as intense as Survivor. The show has all the elements that go into the set of a television show, the only difference is that they are all stranded on an island. This means a ton of camera crew, producers, department heads, and caterers are behind the scenes making sure that everything runs smoothly. You would be surprised as to how much the viewers don’t see at home that contributes to this show’s success.
Talk about a dream summer internship. ‘The Dream Team’ is known as a group of young college students who score the ultimate internship by spending their summer testing out the upcoming Survivor challenges. This is done in order to perfect the challenges and tweak any problem that may arise when the actual contestants do them. The best part: they actually get paid to spend their summer in destinations like Fiji.
These interns also get to help out around set with prop making and production preparation. There are definitely no coffee runs in this job.
Most people think that contestants hop directly on a plane and head home after they are voted off at tribal council. Truth is, the show does their best to avoid any leaks by sending early vote-outs on vacation while the rest of the season unfolds. While the jury members have to stick around for air time, the others are sent on the adventure of a lifetime to an exotic location that is kept secret every year. I guess there is something good that comes out of being an early vote-off!
Ever wonder where those in the jury go after they are voted off at tribal council? I mean, they definitely aren’t thrown back into the wild since they tend to show up at every council looking as fresh and groomed as ever. Truth is, the jury members go to a resort called Ponderosa where they are fed, pampered, and have the chance spend time with those voted off and strategise on who they are going to vote for to win the whole thing.
Before the show, contestants are instructed to bring one or two outfits onto the island with them, usually depending on their profession or ‘title’. The producers inspect each contestants wardrobe in advance to make sure it fits their ‘character’. This explains why the ‘smart’ professions are dressed in white collar shirts and the more liberal professions are in more expressive clothing. One of the more well-known contestants, Cochran, frequently wore sweater vests on the show even though he stated that he had never worn one in his life.
For all those times that you see a contestant doing a confessional towards a camera, they are actually talking to a crew member. Every once in a while, a producer will pull a contestant aside to do an interview to get their input on a situation arising. However, the crew is not allowed to talk back (expect for when asking a specific question) and must stay dead silent throughout the contestant ranting and telling them all of their deep and hidden secrets.
Even though the survivors look like they are all alone out there, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The crew is there to follow the contestants' every move, but for the most part tries their best to act invisible and blend into the surroundings.
Besides camera operators, there’s an art department, challenge department, music, sound, lighting, catering, and everything else you could think of that does into the production of a TV show. The camera crew is present 24/7—through rain storms, intense heat, and whatever else Mother Nature brings.
Since the crew is so massive, they obviously have their own base camp on the island where they reside. The crew is equipped with comfortable accommodation, unlimited food and drink, and spaces where they can communicate about the show. Back on Season 16, a few contestants actually managed to break into the production camp, stealing Gatorades and peanut butter.
Since then, the contestants have been more closely monitored and the geographical boundaries have become a lot more strict in order to avoid this from happening again.
Ever wonder why the votes always seem to arrive at a suspenseful tie while announced at tribal council? Well, I think we have all figured out by now that the votes definitely aren’t announced randomly.
After the votes are cast by the contestants, Jeff sits down with the producers where they work together to arrange the votes in the most dramatic order possible. That way, we are on the edge of our seats until the very last second—as I’m sure the contestants are as they wait for up to an hour to hear the results.
On our screens, the tribal council takes around 10 minutes, give or take. However, in reality, it actually takes hours to get through. The contestants sit there for up to 3 hours answering Jeff’s burning questions, and the producers then sift through the footage to reveal only the most quote-worthy lines to the watchers.
Those 3 hours are definitely not as intense as the few minutes we get to witness, as only the most important information is revealed for, of course, dramatic effect.
We all know that the winner takes home the million dollar prize, while second place leaves with $100,000 and third place with $85,000. Not too shabby for 39 days on an island, eh? What you probably didn’t know though, is that it trickles down so that the very first person to get voted off pockets only a couple thousand dollars. Every player also gets $10,000 for simply showing up at the live reunion. These people are putting their entire lives on hold, so it makes sense that they receive a small compensation.
On our TV screen, challenges are done in about ten minutes time. However, it’s no surprise that the preparation for the challenge beforehand actually takes hours.
Each person is walked through the challenge by a crew member from the challenge department, where they are shown in detail each component of the task and are able to ask questions. The teams are then able to strategise beforehand, and each team member also has to meet with the medical team to make sure they are physically able to compete.
Spoiler alert: contestants definitely don’t trek to each challenge along the beach and through the forests. In order to keep the location of the challenges a secret, contestants are transported to and from the challenges and tribal council in blacked out vehicles. Otherwise, they may see another team’s camp, the tribal council location, or the location they are competing in.
It’s extremely important that the contestants are kept ignorant to the location of everything, otherwise, they may show up at an unexpected time.
Survivor contestants unfortunately don’t do ALL their own stunts. While the contestants definitely go through every challenge to the full extent, body doubles are used for certain things simply for convenience.
For example, doubles are used for aerial shots during challenges in order to get a shot in advance that doesn’t have a million camera crew boats in them. They also may be used to recreate parts of the challenge if the crew members didn’t manage to get a certain shot. Who are these people you ask? The Dream Team! Who else?
Survivor gets thousands of applicants every year, but sometimes they need a specific people to fit into the mould of the team. The contestants on the show are always very diverse and different, and there is a method to the madness when picking players. From the characteristics of their personality right down to their specific game strategy, the producers have to create a good mix in order to mesh different personalities together—It’s what makes great TV after all!
Even when they are selected, the contestants still have to go through a long audition process in order to make the cut.
Each contestant is assigned their own personal camera operator in order to ensure their every move is captured. This way, it is guaranteed that absolutely everything will be caught on camera, including an individual player sneaking off to search for a hidden immunity idol or certain important strategy sessions.
The contestants only get relieved of this when they have to use the bathroom (or the bushes in this case), where they are strictly forbidden to go searching for an idol.
The contestants are provided with a few ‘essentials’ while roughing it on an island—including birth control, feminine hygiene products, vital medication, sunscreen, and insect repellent.
In terms of birth control, producers definitely don’t want any survivor babies to show up, as we know there can be some funny business that goes on when you’re stranded on an island for a month.
The other items are to insure there is not an outbreak of infection or severe skin damage. However, the contestants are not allowed to have toothbrushes, combs, or razors. Say hello to smelly breath and hairy legs!
When you watch a challenge on TV, it seems as though there is no camera crew in sight and that only the players and Jeff are present. Obviously this isn’t true, as there are up to 50 boats in the water during challenges as well as camera crew hidden in the bushes on shore.
It’s pretty insane to think that you never see ANY of these crew members during the challenges, which is why they are so great at their job.
It may seem that Jeff Probst has the best job in the world, and he kind of does. However, he definitely doesn’t show up to announce a challenge or run tribal council and spend the rest of the time lounging on a beach chair. He is actually an executive producer and show runner of the show, doing a whole lot of work behind the scenes to ensure the show goes smoothly.
After all, who knows the show of survivor better than Jeff? Probably no one, which is why the show needs his expertise to run smoothly.
Whenever there is a medical emergency at camp or at a challenge, the medical staff is always there to help within seconds. This is because there is a team present at all times in the case of a contestant collapsing from heat exhaustion or lack of hydration. The show takes its contestants' safety and health very seriously, which is why they have the medical staff present 24 hours a day. The team observes the players for possible early signs of sickness as well, so that they can jump in when they deem necessary. .
While it may seem that the contestants are free to roam the island as far and wide as they desire, they are actually limited to certain areas. All other areas are strictly off limits and forbidden to explore. This is because there could be a challenge being set up nearby or even the other team’s camp. Each location in the game isn’t as far away as it may seem, therefore these boundaries are essential in order to keep each team on their turf.
Back in 2008, Jeff Probst actually resigned from the show permanently. He has openly spoken about how he felt unfulfilled being a host since he had been on the show for seventeen seasons. However, a few months later he changed his mind.
This was the turning point for Jeff’s career on the show, as he became the executive producer and was much more involved. You might even say he is now the backbone of this show, as he has so much experience and now is responsible for producing it as well.
While contestants are not allowed to bring outside tools into the game, some players have attempted to do so. One contestant designed a pair of fish hook earrings to use for fishing, as well as sewed flint into her cardigan in order to make fires.
Another player actually smuggled matches and somehow succeeded. The producers try their best to inspect all clothing that goes into the game, but sometimes the contestants out-wit them. This doesn’t happen anymore (that they know of), but was the case in earlier seasons.
In terms of all-star seasons that feature returning players, the game essentially starts before they set foot on the island. Since a lot of these contestants have played together before and may have relationships in the outside world, a few pre-game alliances have formed in the past before filming has started.
This is probably why the gameplay on these seasons is seemingly a lot more aggressive than seasons where no one knows each other, since they all have relationships outside of the show.
Survivor is a show that seems as though it is never going to end, with 37 seasons so far and no sign of the show stopping. How does a show possibly last that long? Well, it obviously takes loyal watchers to keep a show on air. However, the show has a few tricks up their sleeve in order to stay financially stable.
One of these strategies is that the show has shot two seasons back-to-back in the same location every year. It’s a huge reason why the show has maintained its longevity and affordability.
Who needs The Bachelor? Any true fan of the show remembers the season where Amber and Boston Rob got together to not only win the million-dollar prize, but to also go onto the live finale to get engaged. They are now married with four daughters, and Rob actually went onto survivor a second time to win the million dollars himself (Amber won it the first time). Sheesh, talk about a power couple.
There are many other survivor couples that have come and gone, but none as long-lasting as Rob and Amber.