Backstage at The Ultimate Wingman

Imagine being on a night out with your friends and your chances of pulling lie solely in the way your best mate talks you up. No, we’re not back in a teenage disco where you get asked to, “shift my friend”. This is actually the premise behind dating show “Ultimate Wingman”, the brain child of a group of final year Communications students.

Described by the show’s co-director Breffni Banks as “an edgy dating show with a twist”, Ultimate Wingman aims to set up a couple based on how the guy’s best friend, or “wingman”, sells him. The lucky lady can choose from three bachelors based on their friend’s recommendations. The bachelors and their date won’t meet until she has made her final choice. The winning bachelor gets a date with the lady who chose him, while his mate is crowned “Ultimate Wingman”.

The wingmen must show off their knowledge about their best friend, as well as answer questions about some of the dodgy items found in their mate’s room. It is up to them to make the best pitch for their friend to help them land a date.

Originally intended as a project for their Video Production module, the ten students have had national interest in the show. The show was shown to national broadcasters by DCU lecturer and Screenworks producer Rob Cawley. While those who saw it asked for it to be produced on a higher scale, they were impressed with the idea of the show.

The challenge was then to find somewhere to film the pilot. “While the TV studio on campus is handy, it couldn’t hold the numbers,” says script writer Orla Healy. “We had forty cast and crew, not counting the audience. It was crucial that we had a bigger venue.”

With this in mind, the group took their project from the Henry Grattan to the Helix. With a higher set up standard, a larger number of cameras and a bigger backstage crew, the show was filmed in The Space last Tuesday in front of a live studio audience. A brand new cast was also brought in to avoid familiarity between the bachelorette and her potential suitors. “We wanted it to be different. It changed a lot so we wanted fresh responses and we didn’t want people to know what to expect,” says Orla. “While having the same cast as before would have been easier, but we just thought it would be a bit flat.”

Breffni agrees that having a different cast completely transformed the show. “Even just having a different presenter changed everything.” Her fellow producers agree that Al Porter, a comedian who hosted the pilot edition in the Helix, “really brought the show to life.”

The idea for the original project came, typically for students, minutes before an assignment deadline. Sarah, Orla Healy and Katie Kilbride came to their lecturer with an idea they had “literally five minutes before class.” Having seen the international success of dating shows like Take Me Out, they decided to mirror the format of dating shows, but with their own spin.

Orla explained how the students came together to form the show. “We were broken into groups of three and had to pitch an idea. Three of the ideas would be made, and ours was picked.”

Selecting participants was the next task for the production group. The ensemble was made up entirely of DCU students, while the pilot in the Helix needed a brand new, external presenter. Breffni recalls that replacing their presenter at the last minute got extremely stressful.

“We got a radio presenter from Q102, but unfortunately he dropped out the Friday before we were filming. To get Al, the presenter we had on the day, we Tweeted people and just went on an insane social media hunt. We were just trying to get anyone we could.”

“It was pretty devastating when Robbie (the original presenter) pulled out,” Sarah says. “But it turned out to be better for the show. It was a real blessing in disguise.”

Fiona Hughes, a Communications student, was the girl looking for a date. She admits that although it was a dating show, she didn’t go into it with expectations of finding “The One”. She also didn’t expect the show to turn out the way it did.

“I’d seen the other show; I was there when it was being filmed. I wasn’t sure how it would look on the stage in the Helix but it definitely exceeded my expectations.”

The winning wingman, Colly Horan, won the right for his friend Ian O’ Brien to take Fiona on a date. She remained tight-lipped about how the date went and is adamant that people who want to know how they fared will have to keep watching in the future. While Ian has added her on Facebook, they haven’t met in person since.

Jake Ryan, a Multimedia student, was one of the unsuccessful bachelors. As his friend signed him up for the show initially, he had no idea what to expect.

“I didn’t think it would be as good or as professional as it was. It was a great experience though.”

If he were to take part in the show again, Jake thinks he would possibly appear as a wingman. “I didn’t really get a choice this time, so maybe next time I can be a wingman and try and win the thing.”

The prize for the winning wingman was a crown, presented to him by the newly elected Students’ Union Welfare Officer Lorna Finnegan, as well as a voucher for him and his friends to attend a flight simulator course.

The future of Ultimate Wingman now completely depends on the distributors it was sent it to. However, Breffni isn’t discouraged saying that, “Even if doesn’t go anywhere, it’s been worth it.”

By Aoife Bennett

Image Credit: Ultimate Wingman Facebook Page

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