What Makes an Ideal ‘Alone Australia’ Contestant?

Many TV viewers watch a reality show and think 'I could do that' - but what does it really take to make it on one of the toughest productions out there?

Alone Australia
Courtesy of SBS

“Alone Australia” is currently putting 10 survivalists to the ultimate test on the remote west coast of Tasmania in brutal conditions.

With most reality competition formats – whether it’s “Survivor” or “The Amazing Race” – a large portion of viewers smugly watch the screen and think they could thrive, or at least survive, in the experience, but “Alone Australia” is different.

The whole time they’re out there, anything could kill them, stresses Riima Daher, executive producer from ITV Studios Australia. And while there is a 24/7 production and emergency team, ready to intervene in cases of distress or disaster, there are certain qualities and capabilities which make an ideal “Alone Australia” contestant.

The starting point, says Daher, is competency. The production team has to have some base level of base-level confidence that the person can keep themselves alive.

Then, it evolves into less instinctual territory.

“From there, it was really important to us that they were ethical operators and they had a genuine respect for the land and a love of the experiment,” Daher tells Variety Australia.

Plus, in the cut-throat world of television, you also need to be entertaining to survive.

“We’re still making a television show, as much as this is a documentary series about an experiment, we still need the television element to be there. So we needed people who were engaging, who caught our attention somehow. Good communicators was really important, obviously, that they’re happy to speak and can speak and tell us what they’re doing.

The current crop of ‘Alone Australia’ contestants Courtesy of SBS

“But we needed people who know themselves and are comfortable being vulnerable, because this series is just as much about learning about the failures as it is about the successes. So a willingness to be raw and honest are vital in the people that we are speaking to. And a sense of humour. You really needed that resilience to get through this experience.”

Plus, there’s the practical and technical elements.

Contestants on “Alone Australia” have to not only tell their own stories, but also essentially film and produce those narratives themselves.

This involves lugging around approximately 70 kilograms of tech and camera equipment to ensure they capture their experiences and emotions.

The “Alone Australia” Season 1 contestants were trained by documentary maker and storyteller Tim Noonan (“Boy to Man”) who has self-shot documentaries in remote conditions.

“We know we’ve cast people who can talk,” Daher says. “And who can explain what they’re doing as they’re doing it and can story tell and understand and respect documentary as an art form.

“But then teaching them how to do it, you have like a compression session inside a pressure cooker. Four days of the one-week boot camp… was spent on storytelling and how to use the tech.

“So, really, you just… throw the best possible resources at it and then you cross your fingers. The rest is luck, and thankfully, we got some content back.”

Season 1 of “Alone Australia” is currently screening on SBS and SBS on Demand.