“Come with me, right now!” our wrangler commands, one hand on her walkie-talkie, before she takes off into the auditorium.
A voice announces over loudspeakers that the show will resume taping in a few moments.
I try to keep the wrangler in my line of vision as I hurry after her over the uneven flooring — hastily-laid carpet covering clusters of wires and power cords, some sort of plywood functioning as speed bumps, and a very sharp incline. I am hyper-aware that if I trip over my six-inch heels and faceplant, I will be doing so directly in front of Channing Tatum.
I was a seat-filler for the 2014 MTV Movie Awards on April 13.
Seat-fillers exist to fill in gaps when a guest gets up to perform onstage, hang out at the bar, use the bathroom or go home because they’re bored, so there are no empty seats when the show is aired on TV. I am well-suited to this particularly glamorous Hollywood job because filling seats is basically my strongest talent. I’ve been training my entire life, and I was really excited for the opportunity to finally take sitting in chairs to the professional level.
Here’s how it went down:
My day as a seat-filler began at 10 a.m., when I had to assemble the red carpet look I was going to wear that day (by “red carpet,” I mean the Metro Red Line I would take from Hollywood to Downtown Los Angeles, where the event was taking place inside the Nokia Theatre).
Our meeting location was outside of a parking structure underneath the Santa Monica Freeway. There, they separated us into three groups: the “pit fans” (who stood for the duration of the event closest to the stage), the “red carpet fans” (who sat in bleachers to watch the procession) and the seat-fillers.
We weren’t allowed to bring our cellphones along, so we had no way to judge the passing of time. I can only estimate that we stood around approximately forever, and then we moved to another waiting area where we sat down forever.
Finally, we made the long trek across LA Live toward the venue in rows of four, passing Lakers fans and tourists shooting confused stares at the parade of weirdos looking ready for a long night of clubbing in our “hip and trendy” best in broad daylight. Once we passed through a security checkpoint and were finally inside the Nokia Theatre, we got to, well, stand around some more before they brought us to the holding areas on either side of the stage.
From there, we were moved around a lot. If someone returned to their seat, the seat-filler had to go back to the holding area for their next assignment. This resulted in a lot of sprinting across the room at a moment’s notice and, in one fantastic instance, a fellow seat-filler getting stuck crouching on the floor between two seats when someone came to sit down after the show had already resumed.
Here are the coolest parts:
When seat-fillers are not filling important celebrity seats, they fill significantly less important regular ol’ seats in a holding area at the very front of the auditorium. My holding area was in the path leading from the auditorium to the backstage area, where everyone was entering carrying popcorn and champagne. I didn’t get to partake — in fact, I didn’t get to eat or drink anything all day because I’d been busy with all that standing around I was doing. But I did get to watch a lot of people make their entrance: Max Joseph and Nev Schulman from “Catfish,” the entire cast of “Teen Wolf,” Snooki and JWoww, etc. And that is how I learned that Nicki Minaj is incredibly tiny – she’s apparently only 5’2”! Who knew!
Zac Efron took off his shirt onstage. Actually, Rita Ora forcibly removed his shirt onstage, but the result was achieved. And I was in the same room as that.
Being in the front row for the musical performances was not a bad time. Twenty One Pilots, an all-Christian kind of indie rock-rap group, started off with the song “Car Radio.” About two seconds before they began, lead singer Tyler Joseph passed masks into the audience and gave everyone an incredibly speedy rundown of the complicated choreography we were supposed to perform. It turned out alright, though, and the song and performance were both great. I also enjoyed being in the front row for Eminem and Rihanna’s “Monster” duet because that’s a situation I can’t imagine I would find myself in under any other circumstance.
Here are the worst parts:
I ended up sitting a short distance behind Grumpy Cat, who was slumped over in her chair (a front row seat) in what looked like a heavily-sedated stupor, living a pretty crummy life as a newly-minted feline celebrity. I disagree with cats-as-celebrities anyway because that’s ridiculous, but after seeing Grumpy Cat in action at one of her many public events, I just felt really bad for her.
She barely moved, aside from her head lolling lethargically as she was grabbed, petted and held up for photos with nearly every guest in attendance. Otherwise, she was kept in her seat and subjected to pyrotechnics, loud music, explosions, flashing lights and fog machines, which I’m sure she loved because cats love being famous. Everybody knows that.
Also, no one seemed to know what they were doing. Amanda Seyfried couldn’t read her lines. Chris Pratt didn’t get a microphone when he went onstage. Someone promoted the upcoming “Godzilla” movie (an actor, probably), but nobody could see him through the excessively thick fog from the fog machine. It was a bit of a mess, but, to be fair, it’s just the MTV Movie Awards. I don’t think anyone was watching anyway.
As the show ended, I awkwardly realized that I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with myself. I was lost in the crowd: Shailene Woodley was trying to squeeze past me toward the exit and Holland Roden was leaning onto my chair to take a selfie. I figured my job was complete. I sat like a pro. I was proud. I headed off into the night.
My feet hurt, and I deeply regret not trying harder to sneak into an after-party. But will I sit again professionally? I really, really hope so.