There's no better way to get behind the scenes in Hollywood than to be in a studio audience. The once-popular "studio audience" for television sitcoms has fallen out of favor these days, but you can still find productions that use it.
No matter what your tastes, you'll probably find something you'd enjoy watching as it's created, especially during peak production season (August through March). Talk shows, game shows, and late-night shows also need people in their audience.
There are several ways you can manage to watch something being filmed and to recognize if you've stumbled onto a Los Angeles film site.
Studio Audience Ticket Sources
You'll often find people on Hollywood Boulevard giving away tickets to be in the studio audience to watch something being taped. If you're not picky and just want to see how it's all done (or get bragging rights), it's an easy option. It's also a great choice when you're looking for things to do for free in Hollywood.
If you've got something more specific in mind, it's a good idea to get tickets ahead of time. The more popular the show, the faster it will fill up.
While they have some overlaps, it's worth checking all of these sources:
- TV Studio Audiences: Sitcoms and Other Shows: Audiences Unlimited manages the audiences for most of the major networks' sitcoms filmed in LA. Expect to spend three to four hours watching a 30-minute show being filmed. They also offer after-filming parties for shows like The Walking Dead.
- Game Shows and Talk Shows: TV Tix provides tickets for several game shows, reality shows and talk shows filmed in the Los Angeles area.
- Talk and Reality Shows: Get tickets to The Voice and the Late Late Show as well as mini-musical concerts and some television specials through One Iota.
- Reality Shows: On-Camera Audiences recruits participants for a host of reality shows and some game shows.
- Other Filming: Onset Productions can get you studio audience tickets to shows on ESPN or MTV, comedy show tapings, and others.
- Be a Movie Extra: This one is better than just watching. Movies need lots of extras, and while they don't pay you in cash, the opportunity is priceless, and they sometimes offer door prizes. You can choose a date in advance so that you can plan your travel.
Before you go, know how long the filming is expected to last, bring a photo ID (you won't get in without it), and know the age limits. Most sets allow anyone more than 18 years old, but a few have lower limits, and you'll need an ID to prove your age. Check your tickets to find out if there are any dress code restrictions.
No matter which shows you want to watch being filmed, expect to spend a lot of time waiting while things get set up. Be enthusiastic, it helps the performers. Leave your cell phones somewhere else, so you don't disturb everyone or embarrass yourself on national television.
Tickets to Specific Shows
Many shows use the general audience services, but these take care of that themselves:
- Ellen Degeneres Show: The only way to get reserved tickets for Ellen's studio audience is directly through its website. For last-minute seats, call 818-954-5929 the day of the show, before noon.
- Jeopardy, Sports Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune: You can order up to 8 tickets from this site or get them for larger groups if you call the telephone number they list.
- The Talk: See The Talk live with these tips on how to score tickets. Best of all, they're free. You can get your tickets by checking for availability online.
Other Ways to Find a Film Shoot
Visitors in the know can spot a shoot in a second because they know what to look for. Here's the scoop so you'll know, too:
At street intersections, look for a single, 8.5 x 11-inch sign, usually brightly colored, taped to a sign or post. Typically, it has one word representing the show printed in large letters, both right side up and upside down with an arrow in between. Back in the days when Malcolm in the Middle was filming, it would just say "Middle."
The signs are put up to help the crew find the location, but you can follow them, too. But just so you know, it takes hours on end to set up for a very short filming session, and the stars won't appear until everything is ready. We once sat on the balcony at the Langham Huntington in Pasadena, watching two hours of preparation to film a one-minute scene on the stairway below.
Another easy clue that something's going on nearby is trucks. Lots of them, the size of a U-Haul moving truck but plain white. For bigger productions, you may also see white trailers. If you find half a parking lot full of them, or even 2 or 3 parked close to each other on the street, something is probably going to be filmed in the vicinity. It might be a commercial, an independent film or almost anything else. It's easy enough to stop and see what's going on. As long as you stay out of the way, crews will generally let you watch.
Filming Schedules: The "Shoot Sheet"
Once upon a time, you could stop by the LA permit office and pick up a list of everything being filmed in town, complete with street addresses. Those lists are no longer available to the general public, and we mention them here only to tell you that, in case you read about it in an outdated guide somewhere else.