How I Made Money By Being a “Seat Filler” in the Audience of a TV Show

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You might not realize this, but the audiences you see on television for TV shows, sporting events, press conferences, and political rallies often include PAID audience members. These paid audience members work as “seat fillers” who help fill in empty seats and assist with the optics of the event when the organizers want the appearance of a full crowd.

While it can be a little off-putting when you first hear about this, realize that there are many reasons why someone might pay people to be in the audience. It DOES NOT necessarily mean that the general public doesn’t want to attend. There could be unforeseen circumstances that might prevent unpaid audience members from attending the event like weather or traffic, for instance, and paying audience members ensures they have a minimum number of people at the event.

The TV show I attended films outside after dark (they film after dark because it works best with their lighting setup) so to keep their schedule as tight as possible they film overnight. As a result of the schedule, audience members can sometimes trickle out in the wee hours of the morning so they compensate by hiring people to fill in the gaps in the bleachers if necessary.

I found out about this gig via Craigslist and will admit I was fully expecting to get to see the entire show. I was a little disappointed to discover that the audience wasn’t empty enough, so the other seat fillers and I ended up waiting outside the filming area on the sidewalk while they waited to see if enough people trickled out. Watching the stage managers and other crew run back and forth with walkie talkies, monitoring the audience to see if they could let more people in was an interesting glimpse into the behind-the-scenes world of TV shows that I hadn’t considered before.

The first night I was there during my entire scheduled time, which lasted several hours, but only got to see 45 minutes of the actual taping from the bleachers with the other audience members. The second night they cancelled because of rain so it ended up being a very small amount of time that I actually attended the show. The good news, however, is that I got paid for the entire time I was there, whether I was in the audience or not.

If you see an opportunity like this come up, it can be an interesting thing to try out if you want to pick up some extra money. Be aware that the pay isn’t extravagant (think $10-$12/hr), and also be aware that you will see little, if any, of the actual taping of the show. If you’re just looking to attend a show, it’s better to go for the real tickets where you are guaranteed a spot in the audience for the entire taping.

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