Brick Masters Amy and Jamie discuss filmingMASTERS USA Season 2 during a pandemic, and how the contestants made them question their own limits.
The second season ofMASTERS USA gets underway tomorrow, and designers Jamie Berard and Amy Corbett are back to judge a whole new batch of ambitious models from some of the most talented builders in North America.
Ahead of the first episode’s premiere on FOX at 8pm ET / 9pm PT June 1, bothMASTERS veterans spoke to Fan Media about coming back for a second season, filming amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and the one set they’d love to redesign.
Did you find judging the second season easier or more difficult than the first season?
Jamie: I found it easier. The first season was all new. So just being aware of all the cameras on you, and that you have these limited moments to be able to talk to people, it definitely took some adjustment. But I’d say by the second season, we knew each other better, we knew Will better. The actual builders knew us a bit better. So it already felt like we had a head start.
But of course, as much as it was easier, it also got harder later in the competition, when you realise the calibre of talent, which is really, really high. And then you’re starting to really be challenged on what kind of feedback you can give when they’re all really performing at such a high level.
Amy: Yeah, I think we felt a lot more relaxed this time around, because we’ve done it before. We’ve watched the show, we learned a little bit from it. But there’s some awesome builders on there, so judging is never easy. It was maybe easier, but it is never easy to judge because there’s so much incredible talent.
We’ve got into a little bit of a flow of how we work together, how we judge, how we can make decisions together as well, because obviously, we have to agree on things. We worked that out in Season 1. So that was a little bit easier for Season 2, but no-one ever makes it easy for us.
What are you taking away from the experience of filming the second season?
Amy: You’ve got a whole new team of people, so how do you very quickly teach someone? How do they take feedback? How can you help coach them? How can you push them in the best way? I think we’ve got even stronger in that for Season 2. But I also think that’s a great skill that we can bring back toHQ and use with our own teams. And I love the skills that we learn out there that we can use in everyday life.
Jamie: You just learn how to be more aware of how you get feedback, and using the right words, the right language.
Amy: You need to as well not give all the feedback, maybe just giving the key things that are going to actually help this person get even stronger.
Jamie: I also learned that being myself is good enough. I was asking for some stage direction [from Anthony Dominici, showrunner] and I said, ‘When that happens, what should I do?’ And he goes, ‘Just do it the Jamie way.’ And that’s the best feedback you can get, when somebody says to just be yourself and do it your way. I think that was liberating.
In Season 2 we got into our own sense of self. The first time there’s a little bit of intimidation and trying to find your way. Should I make sure I’m an official judge? Should I be a little bit cagey? You become aware, especially watching it back – I was constantly touching my face and sniffling. You just become hypersensitive to everything that you do. And then Season 2, we just let go. Let’s have a conversation, let’s just talk. And then it just came so much more naturally. And I love that, because it just made it a little bit more enjoyable to just be in the moments. And that’s where I think we gave our better feedback.
Amy: I hope that in this season, you get to see a little bit more of the real me and Jamie because we were a bit more relaxed, we were able to be ourselves. And we just felt a bit more comfortable with what we were doing and our role in general.
Were there any surprises for you in the second season?
Jamie: I was surprised at how much technical ability the builders brought to the Build Room. We may have done some testing that showed there’s a high likelihood that this will be a tough challenge, so models will go crashing – something that’s great for television. And then we’re realising actually, the builders are really capable of putting the bricks together in a way that’s very strong. So that was a nice surprise, because then we got to be a little bit more ambitious with what we were pushing them to do, because we already knew as a starting point that they had a strong skill set on how to put the bricks together in a strong way.
Did you ever see anything in a contestants’ build that you wanted to bring back to Denmark and put in aset?
Amy: We are always inspired by the incredible creations that we see onMASTERS. We always see brand new things we’ve never seen before; we see things we’ve seen a million times, but done in a completely different way. The whole season just inspires me and I take so much back from it. The passion of the builders always gives me so much energy at the end of the show.
Jamie: I’m just inspired by what they can accomplish in the amount of time they’re given. I bring that back to the team – I’m like, ‘What have you guys been doing for a week?’ But I also just think the things that they’re building are so inspiring. Like, we built adult models in my area, and we can do anything. And yet when I see some of these, I’m like, ‘Oh man, are we dreaming big enough? Could we actually do some of these really impressive models?’ So for me, it’s extremely inspiring, but also a little bit intimidating when you see the calibre of talent and what these builders can do.
How did life change for you after Season 1 and the episodes started airing?
Amy: One of the interesting things is we flew back to Denmark, and the pandemic hit, actually, and people in Denmark didn’t have the show and didn’t see it. So we were just normal Amy and Jamie. Whereas maybe if we’d been in the US we would have been more recognised. The show is currently airing in Denmark, [so] we’re getting spotted a little bit, but we’re kind of kept away from that side of it actually being here.
Jamie: And I’m a bit of a social media hermit, so I’ve also not seen the online buzz. I come and go on occasion. But it really is very strange that we came back to again, another bubble where, in many ways, it wasn’t much different. You’re in a town where, oh, who isn’t adesigner? We don’t get any special treatment here. Everyone just assumes that you are amazing and do crazy stuff, and they’ll continue their grocery shopping.
Amy: I have to say I have really embraced the social media side. And I’ve loved being able to connect with fans and seeing how many people have been so inspired by the show and enjoyed it so much, of all ages, of all backgrounds. And I think for me, that’s actually been a real positive from this, was hearing everyone’sstory after watching the show or before seeing the show.
What was it like filming during the pandemic?
Amy: It was a little bit different for us to be travelling over to the US for starters, because we had to quarantine when we arrived there. And we were obviously taking COVID very seriously every day. So we were very cautious during filming, and didn’t go out a lot, didn’t spend a lot of time socialising.
We were very careful because we didn’t want to be the ones who were making any disruptions to filming. So I think just in the background it was quite a different atmosphere for us rather than last time in LA, when we could go out and see things on the weekend. This time, we’re being a little more cautious.
Jamie: Everything was available to us in Georgia, so to speak. And yet we didn’t partake in it. We don’t know anything about Georgia, except we went for a hike at the end of the trip to the mountains. But we did actually focus quite a bit on the show, and we had not so much time to ourselves.
When you’re in quarantine, you’re in this environment where you can’t really do anything naturally, here in Denmark. And then we go to this little safe bubble, that once we’re on set in front of all the cameras, you get to act normally again, you can actually be around people and talk to them. And there was just something so special about that.
The amount of effort that it took to create that bubble was tremendous, and we really appreciate all that the production did to really make that happen. But it was just so liberating. As soon as you stepped on that set, all that colourful set, it was like this special space. It was almost like we’re in a space station.
Amy: We certainly felt very safe. And I think the amazing thing, as you said was we had a chance to kind of forget about everything that was happening in the outside world, and totally be in this creative bubble ofMASTERS and almost forget that these challenges are happening in the outside world, and just focus on the fun, creative side and helping the builders to make incredible creations.
Jamie: It was actually hard to get off the set. We just wanted to stay there. But I thought that was really special.
In the years of experience that you have as professionals who oversee teams ofproduct designers, what were the skills that you brought to your roles on MASTERS?
Jamie: I have a team of designers, so I always feel guilty being a visual representation of everything that we do when there’s so many talented people that have done those things. What I grew to appreciate is that what I do day to day is give feedback to really talented builders and designers. But then I also have to make tough decisions.
That skillset is totally relevant for what we did on the show. It was so important to be able to acknowledge that everybody in that room is amazing. They’re all great builders. And it’s a little bit intimidating for the average person to know how to then make them better or to give feedback or to challenge them, when everybody there is just amazing. And luckily, that’s what we do every day. You have to take a bit of humble pie, and just say, ‘Everybody in this room is probably more talented than I am to do these certain things.’ But I need to bring that talent out of them or inspire them to put it into something that they didn’t even know they could accomplish.
Amy: Wow, that was such a good answer. I don’t even think I can add to it. But communication is probably the biggest thing. That’s something that we have really honed and really thought about: what’s the best way to communicate?
What would you say to someone considering trying out for a futureMASTERS season?
Amy: First of all, believe in yourself, because you probably are good enough. I think believing in yourself is the first step. But I also think taking feedback and learning where you’re not strong is great, or where you think your weaknesses are, and actually working on them and challenging yourself and trying to grow, because we can all be better builders, we can all be better creatives. So have confidence in yourself, but also find the places that you can grow so that you can find the confidence you need.
Jamie: A lot of times people just look at what they don’t have to offer and what they don’t realise is this isMASTERS. It’s a team. There’s always a complementary skill set that you can balance. So if you know that you don’t feel comfortable in certain areas, balance yourself and find that team member that brings out the best in you and complements you. Approach it with a team mentality, because that’s ultimately how you progress, when you’re actually aware of your abilities, and maximising what you’re good at, and then allowing somebody else to take the other.
Amy: I think we even have teams in the show, and in both seasons, who didn’t have a lot of confidence in themselves, and Jamie and I really try to be like, ‘You guys are good! You need the confidence, you need to believe in yourself.’ And when they’ve found the confidence in themselves, then you get much better builds and much better results.
A devious sorcerer traps you in a magic room where you’re forced to spend eternity refining just one of your past product designs. Which one would you choose?
Jamie: 10194 Emerald Night. As soon as it launched, everybody hadon how it could have been better. And I agreed. So I learned a lot. But that’s one that I have no issues with saying that I could go back and revisit.
Amy: I think there’s so many I could do, but probably Stephanie’s house from. If I went back to it, I probably would bring more colour. I think that thing could just get bigger and bigger, and I could expand it and make it much more exciting. But I love the dollhouse play of it, so I would also like to play with it a little bit.
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