Next time you’re watching an award show on TV -- like the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday -- pay super close attention to the panning shots of the crowd. Amidst the sea of A-list celebs, you may spot a couple random “nobodies” looking stoic, silent and slightly out-of-place.
Chances are, those people are seat fillers.
Their job is exactly what it sounds like: To be a warm body in an empty seat. See, since most award shows are televised, producers don’t want random, empty seats on display for everyone at home to see -- that’d just look sad. That’s where a seat filler comes in. When a celeb gets up to go to the restroom, grab a drink at the bar, schmooze with their peers or discreetly make out in a coat closet, a seat filler is there to pull up and park it. Essentially, their job is like playing a game of musical chairs: They see an empty seat, they hop to it.
Here’s the best thing about being a seat filler: Pretty much anyone can do it. Just follow these simple steps, and you’ll be warming Brad Pitt’s chair in no time.
Find an event
Some big events might only use employees or their friends for seat fillers. But if you don’t know any industry insiders who can give you the hookup, a simple Google search will bring up a few sites you can use. One of the most tried and true is seatfiller.com, which has recruited fillers for high-profile shows like the Oscars, the Grammys and the VMAs. Registration is free, but you’ll need to provide a photo, a resume and a cover letter. Who knew sitting would take so much work?
Wait and pray
Next, you sit around and wait for your big shot at (adjacent) stardom. If you’ve been selected, you’ll usually only get notified a couple days before an event.
Plan your outfit
How you dress could make or break your night. Producers want young, svelte people who are camera-ready, but won’t pull attention from the celebs. Basically, you have to look hot but not TOO hot. Kristina Sison, a 25-year-old seat filler from Los Angeles, says the dress code is usually “upscale club/casual.”
“You can’t wear white, logos or bold patterns and prints,” she explains. “Very bright, fun colors were suggested. You can’t bring a purse -- only a clutch -- and they didn't want you to have a jacket, coat or hats.”
Be ready to wait...a lot
The hours are long and you’ll basically be on your feet all day. “It seems way more glamorous than it is,” Sison admits. “My friends and I did the People's Choice Awards and it was 50 degrees outside and we were in dressy tank tops and skirts. We were freezing for six hours in heels. It's physically exhausting standing in line. You can pee, but you have to ask. You're there for over four hours and can't eat while you're there.” But once you finally make it inside, the fun starts.
Hustle, hustle, hustle
Your seat-filling duty could go a few different ways. You may be asked to man a seat until a guest arrives, if they do arrive at all (in which case, you get to stay there the whole night -- sweet deal!). Most likely, though, you’ll be waiting in the wings and shuffling around from seat to seat all night long, to fill whatever vacancies pop up. Or, you could simply be waiting in a back room and never get your “fill.” It all depends on luck.
Understand your role
It takes a certain kind of humble person to be a seat filler. You have to be low-maintenance enough to follow orders, but you also have to be enthusiastic enough to put on a happy face for the cameras, even if you’re just sitting awkwardly next to a celeb’s spouse.
Also, talking to the talent is a big no-no. You’re not allowed to speak to them -- much less ask for autographs or selfies -- unless they initiate conversation. Holding your tongue while Ryan Gosling is sitting right in front of you might be the hardest part of this job, so only the strong-willed need apply.
Last but not least, revel in your newfound “fame” by telling all your friends that you rubbed elbows with the stars. “The award shows are fun and it’s one of those things that you suffer through just so you can say you were there,” Sison said. “It’s fun to see celebs, though, so I guess to some people it’s worth it!” Sure, you probably didn’t make a cent -- most seat filling jobs are strictly volunteer-based -- but hopefully you managed to weasel your way into a couple camera shots. If nothing else, you’ll at least get a solid profile pic out of the deal.
So, there you have it, all the tips and tricks to becoming an A+ seat warmer. And in case you need a reminder about what NOT to do as a filler, just watch this "Seinfeld" clip of a fill gone horribly wrong: