Casting director Lucky Price has been working on The Block for 18 seasons, sifting through tens of thousands of applications each year to select five teams he thinks viewers will either love, or love to hate.
The first test: Can you actually complete the show’s mammoth online application form, a task that may require several sittings?
“It’s a really rigorous application, but there’s a reason we do that: It’s like the first, basic vetting. If you can’t get through the application, you probably won’t finish your renovation on The Block,” Price told news.com.au.
If you do get selected, the only thing a Block contestant is guaranteed of is several months of hard work – a big auction day profit is in no way guaranteed.
Last year saw the most wildly varied results in the show’s history, with winning team Omar and Oz pocketing almost $1.7m of profit at auction, judges’ favourites Tom and Sarah-Jane making just $20,000, and others failing to even attract a bid.
But interestingly, Price says disappointing auction results don’t seem to reduce the avalanche of hopefuls applying the next year.
“I think innately, Australians are all dreamers, and there’s something about the possibility that you could be the one that makes that million bucks,” he said.
“It’s that dream: It doesn’t matter what happened before because you’re going to do it differently, you’re going to do it your way. When people put their hand up, they’re thinking that maybe this could be their golden ticket.”
But as a program with an enormous amount of hours to fill – The Block airs over 50 episodes per season – contestants hopeful for their “golden ticket” also have to contend with their worst moments playig out on national television.
This year’s couples Kristy and Brett and Leah and Ash are currently in the eye of the storm, as viewers react negatively to the tight on-screen alliance that’s seen them draw a line between themselves and the other three teams.
Past contestants like 2021’s Tania and Vito or last year’s Sharon and Ankur could probably impart some well-worn wisdom about how to survive a Block viewer backlash.
Price also has some advice of his own.
“The thing is that The Block – and I always say this to contestants – it’s a giant wave. It’s a huge tidal wave and you can make a choice. You can get dumped by the wave, or you can get on top of that wave and throw your arms up in the air and have the ride of life,” he said.
“There’s going to be days where you get dumped and there’s going to be days where you’re riding high. It’s an extreme situation, but mindset is everything.”
And while tensions between the two contestant factions on The Block look set to explode in tonight’s episode, Price said he doesn’t cast with conflict in mind – rather, he’s looking to assemble five teams who’ll each offer something different from one another.
“Life is a far better script writer than I am. If you put ten strangers together, the odds are they’re going to be really different people – and they should be, if they’re representative of the people watching. It’s five couples next to each other, all coming at the same task in their own way. Naturally conflict is going to occur out of that, and that dynamic is interesting. That’s what we watch it for.”
And for Price, the key to acing your Block audition – and, in turn, surviving your time on the show – all comes down to one thing that “sounds simple but is actually really hard.”
“Typically, 95% of the people we cast on the show have never done anything in front of the camera before. So for them to come in and quickly feel comfortable, it’s hard, but it’s vital because it’s only at that point that audiences really get to connect with you if you’re just actually being yourself in an authentic way.”
And that, he insisted, was more important to success on the show than any previous reno experience – which may explain how sisters Eliza and Liberty, reno novices but very entertaining TV, ended up on this season.
“Yes, they have no renovation experience, but the way Eliza can Google and find an answer to something in a split second? She’s got nous. They have get up and go, and they have drive. So it’s leaning into what your strengths are,” he said.
Having said that, Price offered one word of advice to other reno newbies keen to apply: “If you can’t paint? That would be one of the first things I’d probably try and learn to do before I started shooting the show…”
With applications for the next season of The Block set to close in just a few weeks, Price – who is himself a transgender man – said he wanted to put the call out for applicants with diverse backgrounds and identities to put themselves forward.
“It’s top of the list,” he said. “Diversity is imperative and an absolute non-negotiable. And I want to make it, I really want to get the word out as best I can that we are looking for all different Australians to apply. I really call on people: If they’re not seeing themselves represented on the TV, they need to put their hands up to the part of it.”
Casting for the next season of The Block is now open, and applicants from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Submit your application by October 15.
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