We went undercover to get the lowdown on what goes on behind the scenes at the MTV Base VJ auditions.
MTV Base is looking for a new VJ and has been holding auditions across the country. The music and lifestyle channel, which is one of the few channels that still has VJ’s, have made people like Sizwe Dhlomo and Nomuzi Mabena household names. The aim of the VJ search is to find the new face of MTV Base. The channel is on the hunt for a young South African who has personality, good looks and has never been on TV before.
After some discussion in the newsroom, it was suggested that I audition and write about my experience. I mean, I am young, good-looking and I have never presented a TV show before, so it made sense. Besides, how hard can auditioning be? I quickly learnt that it isn’t easy at all and takes a huge amount of bravery.
I made my way down to the Durban leg of the auditions with my best friend. We decided that we would audition together, you know, lean on each other for support and hype each other up. We arrived at the Olive Convention Centre at 7.40am on a Saturday. Auditions were meant to start at 8am, but there were already 230 people in front of me who had braved the freezing temperatures and were waiting in the queue before the sun showed itself.
There were all kinds of people: young and old, loud and shy, some were dressed to kill and others looked like they had just rolled out of bed. Some came along with suitcases of clothes to change into and some obviously did not read the brief.
After being handed our numbers, we were then given scripts for round one of the audition – a simple four-line script in which you introduce yourself to a producer from MTV Base. It’s very simple.
After waiting in the queue for exactly three hours, my bestie and I were given documents to sign before entering the convention centre itself.
Eventually, I was standing in front of a producer who honestly was the sweetest lady of the day. After delivering my lines, she asked me questions like: “Who is your favourite VJ and why?” and “What sets you apart from the other hopefuls?”. I had to think really quickly about my answers because they were something I had not thought about. After all, I was just doing this so I could write about it later, not because I actually wanted to be a VJ.
I was sure I messed up round one and so did my bestie. We were then taken to a different room to hear our fate. Five people from my group of 15 people did not make it to round two. To my surprise, I was not one of them.
I must admit that although I knew I was not genuinely auditioning, I started taking it seriously. That could be because of the determination I was surrounded by. I met a young girl who flew from Joburg to audition in Durban after she messed that audition up. People had travelled from far and wide and, for many, this audition was a make-or-break deal.
No one knew that I was a journalist on an assignment except one person from the MTV Base camp. So I found myself having to somehow get into character and pretend that I wanted to be a VJ just as badly as everyone else wanted it.
For round two I was handed a new script, a much longer one, one I would have to deliver on camera. There were hundreds of people who auditioned and made it through to round two, but there was just one camera room. This meant that I waited for at least seven hours until I got to the front of the queue. By the time I got into the camera room, I was ridiculously exhausted and hungry, too.
So there I stood, in front of the channel’s top producers, one of them being former Top Billing presenter Janez Vermeiren.
It’s funny because I knew my script, but I literally could not open my mouth to say a word when they shouted “action!”. Maybe it was the lights or all the eyes that are fixed on you, but within seconds I said: “No, it’s okay, I don’t want to do this. I am tired and want to go home and this is just for a story anyway.”
To which Vermeiren’s eyes shot wide open in disbelief and I said goodbye.