Behind the scenes at The Block

<i>The Block Glasshouse</i>.
The Block GlasshousePhoto: Supplied

The Block has become a television juggernaut which continues to enthral viewers each season.

Fiona Lowe, Assistant Production Manager, takes us behind the scenes of this cult TV show to answer questions we've been curious about for so long.

How many staff bring The Block to life on our TV's?

On set most days there are 28. We've got six crews on every day and we are shooting from 6am until 9pm. In the Production office (off set) there are 14 staff, but we visit the set a lot.

Our associate producers stay on and shoot the evening stuff with the diary cam. If contestants are doing an all-nighter before reveal invariably there will be an associate producer with them until 3am.

We shoot over 50 hours per day when you count the discs we get from our cameraman, the car cams, the diary cams, the go pro's and the time lapse cameras. There's a massive edit team in Sydney as well who condense that down to what you see on air.

Is there strong camaraderie between the crew and contestants?

The camera crews and the producers spend so much time with the contestants that they do develop a great sense of camaraderie and kindness and understanding towards each other. Sometimes the contestants can annoy us when they don't do what they are supposed to!

Scotty always refers to it as "The Block Family" and it really is. From the executive producer down there is a great sense of community and support among all of us and that's reflected in our attitude to the contestants as well.


The contestants encounter so much stress - are there procedures in place if they are not coping?

There's not a psychologist on site but our executive producer Julian Cress is on site every day and he deals with the contestants and he is very aware if anyone is struggling. He wouldn't compromise anyone's health for any storyline.

The sleep deprivation must be difficult - can they catch up after a Room Reveal?

If the judging is in a room close to their bedroom obviously that's not practical because they can't hear what the judges are saying prior to the winner announcement.

Sometimes they sleep in their car. There's been a couple of occasions where we've said "We're putting you up in a hotel. Go have a nice shower and sleep and we will see you in 5 hours." We have things like that in place so we make sure no one really cracks. It's not the nature of our show to push people until they break.

Do you think the show is also life changing for the tradies?

Certainly for some of them they start to get a bit of a profile. Someone like Dave Franklin, our landscaper, his business has probably quadrupled since he was first on the show. It's been really great for him, and for Tony Tesch the electrician. Many have built a very strong business and a big profile around it.

Was the introduction of Keith in 2011 meant to bring more drama to The Block or was it simply luck his personality has created a new dynamic?

I think in the initial instance it was not intentional. The executive producers employed a construction company to be our builders and Keith was the foreman - that was his actual job. 

We were all surprised by how well he came across. I specifically remember on the Open for Inspection day in Richmond when the contestants came out of their houses, they were like rock stars, with crowds screaming.

Then Keith turns up and the crowd went berserk! I was looking at one of my colleagues saying "Oh my God, Keith's a megastar!". It's grown from there.

There's always a risk contestants won't make much money (eg. the 2011 series) - is this an expectation that has to be managed?

Absolutely, especially with results like we had last series.

I think we need to manage those expectations because if we don't the disappointment and resentment would be massive. 

The executive producers are already having a chat with the contestants - Prahran is a very different area to Albert Park (where Fans versus Faves was filmed). The properties we were selling there were relatively unique whereas the properties we are selling in Prahran are beautiful, big and very groovy but there are similar properties.

In Albert Park everyone who bought one of those was already living in Albert Park. They knew exactly what the apartments were worth so they were prepared to pay the big dollars.

It's quite a different demographic that will be buying these apartments.

I certainly think some come in and think "we will just tough it out for 12 weeks of work and we'll make $400-500,000" but there is absolutely no guarantee. We all remember Richmond...

When the apartments are sold, does it include all the styling items and furniture?

Absolutely everything, down to the last knife and fork in the draw! They're filled with some great electronics, computer gear, sounds systems, multiple TVs, beautiful furniture, bed linen; everything is included.

Even the sheets the contestants sleep in? Are they clean?

Last series there was a competition on one of the radio stations and the prize was to stay a night at The Block. We washed all the linen and then after they'd stayed we washed it again. So yes in that series they were sold with clean linen but I'm not actually sure about previous years. You'd like to think so!

What has been your most memorable moment working on The Block?

Being at the auction last year was something absolutely phenomenal. None of us could believe it was happening!

It's also the friendships you make with the contestants. There's one or two couples from each series we still are in touch with and see socially.

You spend so much time with them and it's such an intense period of time as well so you really do form some great friendships.

Finally, what would be your best advice for anyone thinking about applying for The Block?

It's a bit like childbirth - you can't really convey to anyone what it's like unless they've done it.

My advice would be go into with the attitude inevitably you are going to have a life changing experience.

You obviously need to work hard but you need to be yourself.  You can't put on a facade and be this squeaky clean happy person; it will crumble inevitably.

There is still a lot of fun, despite the hard work. And hopefully they do make some good money as well!

The Block Glasshouse series airs on Channel Nine - check your local guides for times.