Seeing Stars: Becoming a Star (for 15 Minutes)

Did you ever wish you could get into those exclusive Hollywoood award shows?

 Well, here's your chance.

Producers of these events don't like empty seats. They think they look bad on camera, especially if they are in in the first ten rows or so where the nominees sit, and which are often panned by the camera.

So when a celebrity guest gets out of their seat (to visit the restroom, schmooze with friends, or whatever) or if a guest is late to arrive, the producers quickly fill that empty seat with a warm body.

They call them "seat-fillers."

Basically, all seat-fillers do is sit in the seat until the celebrity returns, and then they get up and give him (or her) his seat back. The seat-filler then waits for another opening... Sort of like a game of celebrity musical chairs.

As you might expect, this arrangement appeals to a fair share of people (especially star-gazers), and there is rarely a shortage of warm bodies to fill those seats.

But there's a good chance you can be one of them.

How?

An organization called "Seatfillers & More" recruits volunteers and provides seat-fillers for various events.

All you have to do is go to their website (www.Seatfiller.com) and sign up. There are no guarantees you'll be accepted (they want you to send them a resume and a photo), but if you are, then all you have to do is watch their email list (or go to their website) to find out about upcoming events that need seat-fillers. (They usually only find out a few days ahead of the event.) When you see an event you like, sign up for it, and they will contact you if you are chosen to be a seat-filler for that event. You will be notified by phone or e-mail. At that time you will be given specific instructions including arrival times, directions, parking, etc.

Seatfiller.com handles over 40 events each year. Recently, they have handled the SAG Awards, the American Music Awards, the People's Choice Awards, the MTV Awards, the TV Guide Awards, the Blockbuster Awards, Soap Opera Digest Awards, the Soul Train Awards, the NAACP Image Awards, the Latin Billboard Awards and Rock & Jock baseball. They have done the Grammys in the past. (Alas, they don't handle the Oscars. They use ABC employees and Academy people as seat-fillers.)

Other than the general excitement of attending such an event, there are also three ways a seat-filler can get lucky. One, he (or she) can end up sitting next to some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Two, he can be seen on TV as the camera pans the crowd (set those VCR's in advance, folks.) And three, if they're really lucky, the person whose seat they're holding may not show up at all, letting them keep the seat for the entire show. (In fact, sometimes they want seat-fillers to stay for the entire event because they didn't sell all of the tickets to the event.)

And bear in mind that tickets to shows like the Grammys (if you can get them) often sell for hundreds, even thousands of dollars from scalpers. So getting in free as a seat-filler, even if it is a game of musical chairs, could be considered a bargain.

However, there are some downsides, as well.

Waits can be long, in small back rooms. They don't guarantee that you'll get a seat. And they don't pay you. You have to provide your own transportation and meet their dress code for each event. You must be over 18 (they ask for photo ID.) And you can't ask stars for autographs or take photos at the events.

Also, they encourage you to go to their smaller events to improve your chances of being selected to go to the big events. I read this as meaning that you probably won't get invited to the Grammys or SAG Awards unless you are willing to first work your way up through the ranks by attending lesser events like "Rock & Jock Baseball."

And of course, the assignment takes a certain attitude... It can be a humbling experience to have to give up a seat to another, even if it is a big star. It's a reminder that you are, after all, just keeping their seat warm. And you're not allowed to speak to "the talent" unless "the talent" speaks to you first. (Sort of sounds like the rules for a medieval royal court, doesn't it?)

But if that sort of thing doesn't bother you, you might want to try your hand at seat-filling.

One fan who contacted me about her trip to the 2000 SAG Awards (as a seat-filler) emailed me afterwards to tell me this:

    "It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I had a blast and they were right, it was just like a mini-Oscars. Everyone under the sun was there. From my favorite actress, Gwenyth Paltrow to James Cromwell, who I sat next to the entire night. Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, the whole cast of 'Friends', 'Green Mile', 'Magnolia', 'American Beauty', 'The Practice' and much much more...
    IT WAS TRULY AMAZING!!!"

Now, of course not all seat-filling assignments are going to turn out to be this much fun. But if you're interested, take a look at their website for more details.

A new face on the seat-filling scene is the "Dynamic People Club", run by the folks at Audiences Unlimited (the agency which distributes most of the tickets to TV tapings). They also provide seat-fillers for many award shows, including the Soul Train Music Awards, People's Choice Awards, the Soap Opera Awards, the American Music Awards and the Daytime Emmy Awards (that last one is in New York). You can find their web page about seatfiller at http://www.audiencesunlimited.com/seatfillers.htm, and an application at http://www.audiencesunlimited.com/dpc.htm.



[For more information, you can access the Seatfillers webpage at: http://www.seatfiller.com.]

[You can also check out the Audiences Unlimited program at:
http://www.audiencesunlimited.com/seatfillers.htm.]



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