JEFF PROBST CONFERENCE CALL
Date: March 27, 2007
1:00 pm ET
Question 1: Is there a possible alliance that could come to light in the next couple of episodes?
Jeff Probst: Well, I’ll tell you this coming episode this week has one of my it’s one of my favorite moments of the season. It’s one of my favorite moments of all time. It’s just one of those great, exciting moments. And it does involve a friendship between Yau-Man and Earl. And Yau-Man makes a quote that’s similar to Rudy’s quote about Richard Hatch, we’re friends just not in a homosexual way. Its just people coming from different cultures, you know this guy that was born in the south China sea teaming up with this black guy. And Yau-Man says as much. He’s like I just never thought a big strong black man would become my ally in this game. And it’s said with such delight and such love and really, it’s a bond that will prove to be very strong.
Question 2: You’ve worked in Vancouver before doing movies do you have plans to return anytime soon to shoot any other films?
JP: I’d love to come back and do another movie, but I don’t have any plans at the moment. I really enjoyed Vancouver. It’s a lot like the city I lived in for a long time, Seattle, only a little more metropolitan and a little more fun. And great crews up there. Vancouver definitely has a strong industry that can support a lot of production. So I’d love to come back.
Question 3: How do you keep this interesting for you? How do you keep Survivor something you still want to do or, you know, keep up your love of it?
JP: Fortunately for me, I don’t have to do anything to keep my interest in it. I am most fascinated by people, and why we do what we do. Any time you shove 20 people into this sort of extreme conflict, if you’re a student of human nature, you’re going to be interested.
Survivor could be played forever and it would never get old. You might get tired of watching it as a television show but experiencing it as a contestant it will never get old. I’m right there in the middle of it, and I have a hand in the game. I’m fascinated by watching how people justify their ethics and the same mistakes that we make because we are human. And then honestly I look at my own life and try to become a better person, and I can tell you certainly in the last three years I have worked harder on myself and invested more time in myself trying to get to know who I am and who I’d like to be. And it’s a direct result of Survivor. The challenges are great because they propel conflict. We design our challenges to either bring out a hero or force somebody to be a goat or, you know, things like that. But what interests me about the show are the small comments out the side of somebody’s mouth or the alliances that people would never find themselves in. And suddenly realize I judged a book by its cover and once I started reading the pages, man, this person’s a lot more interesting. That’s the stuff I just love and it makes me happy. And it gives me hope we can find the positive in Survivor. A lot of people look for the negative and the conflict because that’s good drama. I’m always looking for the moments I can root for people. That’s what keeps me out there.
Question 4: Do you think this year’s Survivor teams the “haves” vs. the “have nots” has cut down the drama or the surprise element of the show? And if so, in retrospect, would you have taken a different approach?
JP: Well, I would answer it this way each season of Survivor is in a sense a science experiment. You don’t know what you’re going to get. You have all these variables and you concoct this stew and then you see how it plays out. If we could go back to the beginning now and start Fiji over, I think we would make one change, and that is we would have the “good” camp. We would have them play for that each week. And that’s something we talked about, and we just didn’t know which way it was going to go. We didn’t know if that would get too confusing and nobody would ever know where they were living and so that would be hard for the audience. We didn’t know. So we decided let’s just go for winner take all and see what happens and in the past we’ve had pretty good Survivor luck. This time, if you look at this as a mistake, then we certainly didn’t have luck. But I will say the season isn’t over yet and, you know, there’s new life now for people. And some people get to taste, the good life. Other people are still starving on Poor Man’s Island. But I think the show begins to pick up a lot of steam beginning this week.
Question 5: Do you think it was a mistake to divide the teams as such?
JP: Well, I don’t think it’s fair to classify it a mistake. I’ve been fully vocal about things that I think were mistakes. This is one where you don’t know. It’s not like we shouldn’t have done that. It was an option and we went with it. I’ll definitely be candid in saying, yes, we would probably change it if we could. If we could go back now and change it, we would. I wouldn’t put this in the world of mistakes. What I would put in the world of mistakes was giving the losing tribe Ravu a chance to win the beach a couple of weeks ago. I hated that idea. I fought against it until Burnett finally said shut-up we’re doing it. You know, it was in our books and you’re kind of stuck with that stuff. But it just felt to me, like I’ll give you a better one that’s more notable. The outcasts in the Pearl Islands hated it. I think that was a mistake. I think if you’re voted out of the game, you’re out of the game. That’s what I’d call a mistake. This one, I’d call an idea that didn’t work out so well.
Question 6: Last week when Lisi was sent to Exile Island, she asked to be voted off the island at that moment, which seemed like an insane mistake for a player playing for a million dollars to make. In your opinion, why after all these seasons of Survivor do players continue to make such obvious errors like that in their game play?
JP: I think it’s because of what I was saying earlier human nature. It’s very easy to sit at home and back seat drive on an episode of Survivor because you’ve got a meal in front of you probably, or you just finished it. Your feet are up on the couch. You’re about ready to go to sleep in your bed. You may have some lovely children running around giving you love. Life is fine. You’re just watching a TV show. When you’re out there and it’s 105 degrees and you haven’t eaten a lot and you’re with people you don’t like and this 24/7 mental pressure of “what should I do next?”, “how should I play this game?”, is wearing on you. I think your defenses come down and your truth comes out. And in the case of Lisi Lisi is not the most stable person that we’ve ever had on the show. She is very emotional. And she makes quick assessments and reacts even faster. And she knows this about herself but it is her nature. She can’t stop. She knew she made a mistake. And she’s not done making mistakes. You know, Lisi’s mouth gets her in trouble just like Rocky’s does. So I hear you. Believe me when I was sitting out there I thought, thank you, Lisi. Thank you. This is gold. We cut that moment down to its bare essence, which is Lisi losing her mind, and me pointing it out. But that went on for about seven or eight minutes. I was sitting there thinking, I wonder if she’s just going to walk off and never come back. I didn’t know. And then she kind of gathered it back together and realized, oh god, I’ve made a terrible mistake, and, you know, the roller coaster continued for her.
Question 7: If you talk to any Survivor fan they’d tell you that you are an integral part of the show. What’s your future with the show? And do you think it could go on without you?
JP: I definitely think Survivor could go on without me. It would certainly be a change. And, you know, after 14 or well, when we’re done with next year, it’ll be 16 seasons, I think it’s asking a lot probably of the audience to stick around when you bring in a whole new attitude. But yes, the show can go on because I’m not the show. I’ve become a part of this version of Survivor, but the essence of the game is putting a group of people out and abandoning them and forcing them to get rid of somebody every week until only one person is left. That’s a basic game. You could play it at home with couples. You could play it in the school yard. I’ve done versions of it in high schools when I go and talk. It’s just a fun game that forces you to make choices. As far as my future, when we’re done the end of this year we’ll have shot seasons 15 and 16, and I honestly don’t know. I really don’t. I wanted to come back after Exile during my last contract. I wanted to come back. I just wanted a new contract. I’d been under the same contract for a long time, and so we worked that out and everything’s great. I’m at a point in my life now where I think, where I’m considering what do I need to do for me? I would hate to leave money on the table because in this industry when you have a job you’re a fool to walk away from it. But I have also have learned a lot from Survivor, and I think about mortality a lot. I think about the fact that when I’m dying what am I really going to remember and care about? And I want to make sure that I push myself and that I don’t get too comfortable. And even as I say that, I honestly know there are people going, “this guy’s a bigger idiot than I thought, for even thinking that.” I became friends with this actor Robert Forster who was nominated for an Academy Award in Jackie Brown, Tarantino’s movie, and he was in a movie I made. And we took a walk one day and went on a hike – he flat out told me don’t you ever walk away from this show. He (Robert) said, “I had a career starting and then it dipped and it hit the bottom. And for 25 years I couldn’t get work and now I’m grateful to have work again. When you have work, you take it because there’ll be a time when you can’t get it.” So those words echo in my ear.
Question 8: It seems that all the destinations for Survivor are somewhere where it’s really hot. Any chance you’ll do one where it’s minus 40 degrees in the winter like Northern Canada?
JP: You know, we have talked about Canada believe it or not. We have really talked about it. We had a long discussion about it for these two seasons upcoming seasons. And we’re still on the fence about it. We see a lot of positives that would be new and different. And then there’s some negatives, you know, because physically you tend to shut down when you get cold. You don’t do as much. You’re going to be wearing parkas and hats and boots. And you’re not going to be in bikinis. Challenges become a little different so there’s pros and cons. I think though that Mark is probably leaning towards truly considering a colder climate, especially if the show goes on further because it’s hard, to find locations.
Question 9: Will there be another All-Star season? I know some of your feelings about the previous one. What would you feel or how would feel about doing another one?
JP: I’m trying to think of a good analogy as to how I feel about it. When we did the first one I personally didn’t want to do it. And throughout the filming of the show, I didn’t enjoy it. Because they weren’t new people they had already done this. And there’s a lot of problems with people that have already played. One, they forget how miserable it’s going to be until they get out there. And then they suddenly remember, oh my god, I’m only on day four. They become really irritable, and as a result irritating. There’s also the fact that people who lasted long in the game which almost every person who qualifies for All-Star would, would be in that category. If you’ve lasted any length of time in the game as most All-Stars have, you’ve learned a little about how the show works, picked up some of our lingo. And you become bigger than a contestant. You’re now part of the family. And so you hear people, I mean during the All-Stars it was (Pro), is production holding us up — things like that. And that just drives me nuts because that’s not part of the show. I don’t blame them. That’s who they’ve involved into after playing it once. We put them in this situation. But I will say when the (All-Star) show aired, and I watched how the Survivor audience, the loyal Survivor audience — that’s the only reason we’re still on the air. And so I’ve had to really rethink it and realize my own personal preference is really irrelevant. This is a show that we make for the people who watch it. And we’ve been blessed with a loyal fan base. I think they do want another All-Stars, and it would not be out of the question to have another one. We’re due.
Question 10: If another All-Star season did happen and you had the ultimate say on who came back, who would you like to see get another chance or who would you like to share the experience with again?
JP: Well, I’d like to see it do something a little different than just the flat out All-Stars. And, that could mean many things. I mean we could, like you say, give somebody another chance. Maybe we have a few people that we give a second chance to that you might not think of as All-Stars. Or maybe we pit the All-Stars against other people or maybe we do a different version of men versus women with All-Stars — just something to break it up from what we’ve normally done. And I think — and again, I don’t really know how it would go down — and I’m being completely honest, but I’m guessing that if we did an All-Stars, we should probably do it starting with where the last one left off and moving forward. Now I don’t know that we should do another All-Stars and bring Rudy back again or bring Rupert back again even though they’re so fun and popular. We should probably do a fresh one with new people. And then it begs the question, do we have enough big names to do it?
Question 11: The rich versus the poor angle this year has left some fans feeling that this has made the game unfair and that it’s thrust more of an advantage upon one group than another, making the game not as enjoyable. Recently, there was a twist to the game with the tribal switch up to try and make things different. Some may argue that this twist was an act of desperation on the show that you know something’s going wrong and you’re trying to correct it. What are your thoughts to this?
JP: Well I would say to the switch comment first, we’ve had a switch in almost every season going back to Africa. We build switches in because it does break up the game. In this case you can read into it that we’re desperate. But the truth, is not knowing how it’s going to play out even if it were even, it would still be a bad situation for us. Because even if the game is dead even, that means you have firmly entrenched alliances in both sides, we want to break those up. There’s two key points for us in the season. It’s how do we divide them initially. It’s how we start – we start the show by dividing them. The first critical thing is how long do we let them stay that way before we break it up? Those are the two big points – how we divide them and when we break them up. But, I can’t argue with the audience. I can feel that it’s not been as fulfilling because it’s been unfair. I do agree that I think the reason you watch Survivor is you know from history that anything can happen. And I think it’s going to start getting exciting this week. But I always say that the audience is right. And I’m just happy that the audience sticks with us to see how it plays out. We’ve never had two seasons in a row where people were lackluster. I can’t recall anyway. We’ve had some seasons where people are like oh, I don’t know, it wasn’t so good. But they come back next season and so far we’ve always come back with a stronger season. As far as being desperate, yes, as producers, you sit in there and you think man, something’s got to happen, somebody’s got to win. There were many times where I’m pulling for Ravu to win a challenge and they don’t. But there’s nothing we can do about it. And that’s why Survivor works because the people are in control of the game. I’ve learned that you can’t wish for something that you can’t control. I don’t know if that’s a good answer. If you have a follow-up to have me clarify I’m happy to.
MURTZ JAFFER: Jeff, you gave it to Lisi pretty hard after the twist last week. Why did her comments bother you so much? And is it tough to remain effective while still retaining objectivity?
JP: Well, you know, it’s funny, a friend of mine called and said, “man, I loved how you gave it to Lisi.” And in the moment, I think that when I’m hosting Survivor it’s a bit of a different persona. And it’s one that I’ve gotten comfortable with. I feel like I know the edges of the frame to where I can wander. And I was merely – me, I was merely pointing out what I think everybody at home was probably thinking which, is you’ve lost your mind. You told everybody to vote you out. And it gets worse. You’re going to Exile Island. But here’s the silver lining. There could be something that’ll save you. I doubt you’ll want it, but maybe you’ll give it to somebody who does. That’s how I felt. I think you’ve lost your mind. So I’ll see you later. And I’m not trying to be harsh on her. I’m just saying exactly what I feel. And I was that way at tribal council sometimes with Anthony. When people were picking on him I could have said, “oh Anthony, I feel bad for you,” that’s not what I was thinking. I was thinking, “Anthony, they’re picking on you. Are you going to stand up for yourself or not?” This is about the human spirit, what’s happening here. I don’t have to live with you. You do. So what do you want to do? I’ve got my own problems. I go back to my tent and deal with my own life. So it’s kind of like group therapy on Survivor every day. I truly believe that. And I’ve had a couple of psychologists say it’s very close to group therapy in terms of how candid people get with each other. So – and as far as keeping my objectively and being effective, I’m sure I lose my objectivity at times. I feel it when it happens. I get personally involved in a moment, and I probably put 5 cents in instead of my 2 cents instead of the allowed 2 cents.
MURTZ JAFFER: Where does Survivor: Fiji rank in terms of your favorite seasons of all times?
JP: In no particular order – no in particular order, I’d say season one is still my favorite season because it was just – it’s indescribable what it was like to help – to be a part of creating something like that. We were creating it. Richard Hatch was helping us create it as well — all those people were. The second season, I thought Australia was an incredible season. And I remember vividly, Michael killing a pig with his hands and then two days later, those same hands in the fire, flesh dripping off his bones. I remember thinking man, there’s something here, there’s some bigger thing going on here. I really liked the Pearl Islands a lot, and I like the Palau a lot. I think Tom Westman’s probably the prototype for the ideal winner in terms of fairness and deservingness and all that. I mean he was such a great winner. And I liked the Cook Islands a lot. Those are probably my five favorites seasons.
Question 14: Do you foresee a time when Survivor’s open to international contestants?
JP: You know what it is? Mark doesn’t own the rights. He only owns the rights to do a version – an American version. So to do a US version, you have to be a US citizen. We would have opened it up a long time ago. We would love to do an international Survivor. It’s unintelligible. But Charlie Parsons, the guy who owns Survivor who actually created the first version of it, he owns those rights and he has many versions of Survivor that go on in different countries. And so we’re prohibited from doing that.
Question 15: Do you also see this season of Survivor to be sort of a yin to last season’s yang where everybody last season was so lovable and so in tune with each other, and this season they’re kind of nasty and hateful?
JP: Yes, it’s interesting. I didn’t think of that. But yes, this is definitely a rougher group. And we knew that when we were out there. We felt it. You can always feel the vibe. And Fiji was a tough season. It was a tough season to shoot for us physically because it was our second one back-to-back. And that for some reason, that really depletes all of us. And by the time we finish the second season, we’re all so ready to come home, we can’t wait. And it was very hot and the conditions were extremely tough, especially for one group of people. And again, it’s like I was saying earlier, it’s so different I think to do Survivor than it is to do The Apprentice or Amazing Race or any of these other shows where at least you’re on an airplane for a while or you’re in a hotel room or you take a shower or you’re driving a car and you’re eating some food. You get nothing out there. You get nothing. You get nothing to the point of our doctors coming out there, and short of having a broken bone, you don’t get anything from them either. It’s like the worst tough love experience because the idea is, it’s your show. You have to live. You have to get through it. And I think that’s why when you talk to people who have experienced Survivor there’s a lot of pride. Because as hard as it gets, they made it through. Even if they only lasted three days, they lasted three long days on their own. So I think as a long answer to your question of yes, this group was much more a group of rascals and kind of got on each other’s nerves, the other thing I’ve noticed about Fiji is Fiji is probably more diverse than the Cook Islands were, even though that was supposed to be our diverse season. Because we truly have – people that are really different from each other. And you hear it in their speech. And you hear it in the way they talk and the way they think and whether it’s Rocky or Edgardo or Lisi or Anthony, you know. You look at Anthony and how he would have fared on last season’s show, it’s just a very diverse group.
Question 16: How much of the tape do you review before tribal council? Because it seems like you know exactly what’s going on in camp and you ask the most pointed questions possible?
JP: I watch no tape at all. I never watch tape. Our tapes come in, they get dubbed, they get shipped out. I have no time or interest. I get a download from the producer on the beach which basically tells me the big beat. If for instance, if somebody has found – they hit an immunity idol, I will know because I’ve got to be prepared for that to possibly get played. If somebody’s camp has burned down, I will know. If there was a major fight, I will know. But the little stuff, I don’t know. I truly don’t. And in fact, they usually say is that enough? Is there anything else you want to know about? And if you were to sit in on tribal, tribal airs on the show, you get 5 minutes, 4 minutes, sometimes 6 minutes. You get five or six questions. Tribal, in reality’s, well over an hour long. And it covers the same topics every week — camp life, leadership, alliances, who do you like, who do you not like, who’s pulling their own weight, who isn’t. And it’s amazing when you just sit there and have nothing to do but listen and just watch – watch people roll their eyes or tune out, watch people support somebody and not support another. You can quickly figure out who’s mad at who and who isn’t. And then you just start leading questions. I use leading questions all the time. Instead of saying is there anybody here you don’t like, it’s how many of these people don’t you like? And that usually gets you a better answer. And the last part of that is we only put in the five questions that matter. It may take me 20 questions to get to where I needed to get to. And that question you’ll hear is the one that feels like I must have been reading a script. I sometimes get frustrated because I know that my ego gets in the way, and I think I wish I could show that I worked to get that answer. But that’s the point. The point of the show is getting out information that you need. But that’s the honest truth.
Please credit Murtz Jaffer and Reality Dish when using this information.