If you’ve ever been watching a Hollywood awards show and you didn’t recognize one of the guests sitting in the front few rows, chances are you were looking at a seat filler.
They’re normal, everyday people who get to rub shoulders with the world’s most glamorous stars during the biggest events on the showbiz calendar.
Monica Enriquez has been a seat filler for 15 years and has attended events including the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Emmy Awards, the Grammy Awards and the Critics Choice Awards.
Ms Enriquez spoke to news.com.au about how she first landed the unpaid position and which celebrities she has met over the years:
How did you first become a seat filler?
I had a friend who knew somebody who was a production assistant for the Screen Actors Guild Awards and she said that they needed people to be seat fillers
From then on, that awards show invited me every year to come back and that opened the door to other opportunities to be a seat filler at other events throughout the year.
Take us through a typical day as a seat filler, during the Screen Actors Guild Awards for example
I probably have to get there about three to four hours prior to the show starting.
We usually meet in the carpark and then we walk over to the venue. There’s a lot of standing around and waiting so I usually bring things to help pass the time, like a book or a magazine. Sometimes they’ll provide some snacks but not usually.
About an hour before the show starts they’ll take us into the actual venue and they’ll sit us where they want us in different seats. Then when the actual attendees start arriving we just keep moving around to different seats until every seat is filled.”
And when you’re not in a seat during the awards show, where do you have to wait? Sometimes there’s a designated area in the back of the theatre where they’ll use the last few rows of seats as a holding area.
Other times we just wait in a hallway, either backstage or in the lobby. And sometimes we’re just up against the wall inside the theatre out of the view of the cameras. It varies.
How do you know when you’re needed during the show?
They have production assistants that tell us where to sit.
Usually seat fillers are used for the first 10 rows. During the commercials, that’s when a lot of ticket holders will get up and go outside of the room so we’ll get told, ‘We need five people … Now!’ and we’ll go and fill the seats until the people come back.
If they’re not back before the commercial ends though they’ll close the doors and the attendees have to wait until the next commercial break to get back inside.
What are the golden rules of being a seat filler?
The number one rule is not to talk to the ticket holders unless they talk to you.
Also, when the camera’s in front of you, you’re not allowed to wave. You just have to try and blend in.
Have you ever seen a seat filler break the rules?
Over the years I’ve seen sneaky people try and bring in a camera and sometimes they’ve been caught.
They often confiscate the camera and sometimes those people have been escorted out.
Can you tell us about some of the stars you’ve sat next to?
A couple of years ago I sat next to Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, that was exciting. Meryl Streep actually said hello to me so that was cool.
A lot of the time they [the celebrities] just ignore you because they know you’re there just to fill in the seat but sometimes they’re nice.
Last year I sat next to Leonardo DiCaprio at the SAG Awards and he actually introduced himself and shook my hand and said, ‘Nice to meet you.’ He was really nice.
Do you have any souvenirs from your years as seat filler?
Usually I keep the programs and sometimes after the event, people will leave their ticket stubs behind so I’ll keep those as well.
Do you buy a new outfit for every awards show?
I try to buy new things but that gets pretty costly.
So I try to use the same outfit a couple of times and alternate different years. For each event they provide the dress code. Sometimes it’s formal and sometimes it’s a cocktail attire.
Have you ever made it on to TV?
Yeah, I’ve been on quite a few times.
Last year at the Critics Choice Awards, the host [T.J. Miller] shot a dress out of a cannon and I caught the dress and I ended up on TV and quite a few of my friends saw that. I got to keep the dress too!
You can see Ms Enriquez catching the gown in the clip below: