This was printed in our local paper the other day and I found it quite interesting. The guy now lives about a 3 1/2 hour drive from the city.
Survivor of the Fittest-----Island man makes sure life on hit reality-TV series is always a challenge
Monday, November 01, 2004
A 35-year-old man from our Island helped to determine who got voted off an island in the southern Pacific country of Vanuatu.
As you gather around the television Thursday evening to watch the ninth series of Survivor on CBS, you may be surprised to learn that one of the designers of the puzzle challenges grew up in Victoria and now lives with his family in Parksville.
Alan Bishop is back home following the completion of filming of Survivor on location in Vanuatu. Coming up with challenges for those vying to become the last Survivor and win $1 million US was a job perfectly suited to Bishop, who believes there's great value in playing for a purpose.
The days on location in Vanuatu were often 16 hours long and six days a week.
Life for the crew was awesome, said Bishop in a recent interview at his home.
"Why Survivor is successful is they have the best crew in the world. There's no one there who is an idiot, there isn't anyone there who doesn't do their job incredibly well and doesn't get along with others. It's a big travelling circus."
As the contestants go hungry and bicker among each other for supremacy, the crew enjoys great food in great living conditions. The money ain't bad either, added Bishop.
"Television is good money. The crew do well. You get room and board paid for, every aspect of travel paid for, you're getting paid every day of a six-day week."
Bishop grew up in Cordova Bay and Royal Oak areas of Victoria and attended "every high school in Victoria until age 15, when I decided that really wasn't working, so I took off across North America for three years."
Shortly after he returned, he walked into the Canadian Forces recruiting office and asked to join up.
"They said 'What do you want to do?' I said 'I want to roll around in the mud and shoot guns.'"
He became one of the "gung ho" kind of soldiers who trained as a sniper and pathfinder, finally ending up as a member of the military's elite special-forces paratroopers. But he became discouraged when his unit was not called up to handle a conflict with First Nations at Oka, neither were they called upon to sort out the strife in Bosnia.
Members of his unit instead plucked garbage from the Trans-Canada Highway.
"People were honking and laughing at us," he recalled.
He left the military in 1992, after serving four years and got "switched on" to education. He had always been active, and began exploring how games and play could mesh with rock climbing, hiking and other outdoor activities.
He would hide a cache of fresh vegetables and have hikers play a game to find it during a hike in the middle of nowhere.
"I was always trying to meet the needs of people to make it fun, so they'd have experiences throughout the day that would make them forget about the blisters on their feet."
Then Bishop started getting requests from corporate types asking if he could solve an exodus of managers. He picked up jobs in that area while he continued to help youth in outdoor leadership areas.
"Everything started to click," he said
Bishop met Survivor producer Mark Burnett during Burnett's earlier project, the Eco-Challenge which involved teams chasing each other over rough terrain in remote areas of the world.
"I just fell in love with the sport. It was so much who I was as an athlete and an outdoors person, I said 'I have to do this.'"
That led eventually to Bishop stepping in to take over the role of one of four designers of challenges on Survivor Vanuatu. The nature of each challenge is suited to the dynamics of the competing survivors, said Bishop.
"When we see a cast going in one direction, say they're getting along way too good, they're so focused we ask, what can we plan that isn't going to cannibalize those great relationships but will cause a lot of stress and will give us another look at these people?" Bishop said.
The producers draw on a pool of 100 to 200 different games "so we can just switch them all the time based upon where things are at."
Bishop played a key role in a recent challenge where survivors had to drag an outrigger canoe from the jungle and get it into the water to complete a task. "It was my favorite challenge ever."
Originally, the jungle trail the competitors used to reach the canoe was twice as long.
"That was the most work I had on one challenge because we had to cut this swath out of the jungle.
"But we couldn't do it because the teams weren't balanced. When they did the swap (of members between tribes), it just wasn't going to work so we had to shorten that challenge up. It was a drag because it was an epic, epic challenge -- it was so good."
All the challenges are tested first to make sure they'll work and give the eight camera crews used on challenges good angles to the action.
The suspense of the challenges is one of the things that keeps drawing viewers week after week, said Bishop.
"There are three elements why I think Survivor appeals to so many people -- it's got a location which people would feel good about going to, it's got a suspenseful dynamic and you can relate to these characters."
Bishop isn't above teaching his boys some hard lessons on survival. During a recent trip to Fiji, Bishop and his wife, Kathy, set up camp on a remote beach. Their boys, 12-year-old Cayce and Josh, nine, realized the importance of their dad's daily fishing excursions.
"They understood that if Dad didn't catch fish, they wouldn't eat dinner. It's a pretty big lesson for a kid."
As soon as their youngest is old enough, the family plans to spend a year and backpack around the world, said Bishop, "because we want them to see all their options at an early age."