Heimata Hall, 44, is the owner of Tahiti Food Tours, a touring agency in French Polynesia.
He worked on "Survivor" for two seasons as part of the show's "Dream Team," which tested challenges before they aired.
He said it felt like being a contestant — without the mosquitoes, hunger, or actual survival.
If you're looking for the most epic job, then you should join the "Dream Team" on "Survivor."
I've always been a massive fan, so when I got the opportunity to work on the show, my mind was blown. It was like being a contestant, except without the mosquitoes and hunger.
I got the job because my girlfriend was working in the art department for the show
In 2009, getting a "Survivor" job was more about who you knew. There wasn't much of an interview process. I've heard it's different now, but when I applied I just had to send in my résumé and photos. About two weeks later, I found out I got the gig!
Two months after I sent in my résumé, I left my job as a salesperson at Ron Hall Tahitian Pearls — a family business selling local pearls in Mo'orea, French Polynesia — and flew to Samoa. When I arrived, I saw that the Aggie Greys Resort Samoa, a hotel in the area, had been rented for the crew. After settling in, I started work the following day.
My job was to be one of the 20 members of the 'Dream Team'
We worked six days a week. A typical day started around 6 a.m., and after grabbing breakfast, we'd report to the art department at 7 a.m. Throughout the day, our primary job was to test all the challenges. It might take a couple of hours to drive out to the location, which could be a beach, jungle, or mountain. After testing a challenge — making sure the game was safe, not too easy, or impossible — we'd fill in on additional grunt work. There's a ton of material hauled to every location, and we were usually the ones to carry it out. Our days would end around 6 p.m.
We'd shoot a complete run-through every few days with all the cameras, crew, and producers watching. It was fun because everyone would make side bets on which "Dream Team" players would win. Our job was to play as hard as if we were actual contestants. Every third night or so, we'd stand in for the contestants to shoot Tribal Council. Work on these days would last until about 11 p.m. The "Dream Team" would stand in on set to help with camera angles and lighting.
The days were long and highly physical
We were on location for seven months, shooting two seasons back to back with only three weeks of break in between. The pay was decent, but when you factor in the experience and networking opportunities, the job was priceless. Everything is paid for — room and board — so you don't need to spend a dime while you're there.
My worst experience on the show was during a disgusting eating challenge. I helped prepare all the raw seafood, including sea cucumber, sea urchin, giant clam, squid, and more. The challenge required contestants to spin a wheel and whatever ingredients it landed on would go into a milkshake. It was nasty. I barely swallowed and was already throwing up. It scarred me the rest of the game.
The best part of the job was that we got front-row seats for a lot of the filming
I was rooting for Russell Hantz, who was on both seasons I worked on — "Survivor: Samoa" and "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains." Everyone hated him, but I thought he was the best villain ever. He was the epitome of the show's slogan: "Outwit. Outplay. Outlast."
I was also impressed by Jeff Probst. I couldn't believe he remembered all our names and would advise us about working in the industry. He wasn't like,"I'm Jeff Probst, don't talk to me." He was exactly the opposite of that.
Another perk was traveling to Samoa for the first time
What I loved most about watching "Survivor" were the exotic filming locations. At first, I was disappointed we were going to Samoa because it's so close to my hometown, but I was wrong. Samoa is magical; it felt like what it would have been like to visit Tahiti 100 years ago — most of the island is pristine and untouched.
I didn't return for Season 22 for personal reasons, but I would highly recommend working on "Survivor's Dream Team." It's a great place to step outside your comfort zone and discover yourself.
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