Hello, Ellen Paterson

The Block is one of New Zealand’s most beloved reality television shows. From renovation innovations to team dramas and shocking twists, kiwis can’t seem to get enough of this show. One of the greatest parts of each episode is the outrageous and hilarious challenges put before the contestants, giving them some sweet opportunities to win big.

Fennec and Friends got the chance to sit down with Ellen Paterson, the Challenge Producer for The Block NZ, to pick her brain and find out all best-untold stories from the previous season.

What has been your favourite challenge during your time with The Block?

“I really enjoyed our charity challenge last year for the Ronald MacDonald House Charities. Our teams renovated four rooms for families whose children were staying at Starship Hospital. It was nice to see the teams put aside their differences and do something for people who were in need, rather than to win prize money – it was a really feel-good challenge.”

What are some of the main things you consider when designing new challenges?

“Obviously, a challenge must be achievable, but at the same time we have to make it hard enough that it’s interesting to watch.”

“It’s important to design challenges that allow for different strengths to shine. If we had all physical challenges, then the same teams would win over and over again, which is super boring to watch and not fair to the other teams. We need an even spread of physical, design and intellect related challenges.”

“Of course, there are some logistical factors that come into play as well. Things like, where do we do it, how do we do it – which sometimes means making changes to the original idea, so it’s feasible within our budget!”

Which contestants have you seen that have interacted the best with your challenges?

“I think that Chlo and Em from last year’s Team Purple were some of the best to watch. They were always so enthusiastic and would give anything a go, even if they were out of their comfort zone. They persevered with a smile on their faces which was super nice to see!”

What individual or team would you call the reigning challenge champions?

“That’s a tricky question. As I mentioned before, we try to make challenges as varied as possible, so one team didn’t have an unfair advantage, so we had a good variety of winners every week. But if I had to pick, I think Ben and Tom from Team Blue were last year’s standouts. They won a lot of the challenges pretty easily just through amazing communication and sheer brute strength! Any physical or building related challenge they were usually able to smash out of the park. The boys would go in all guns blazing and always had solid communication, which I think was the key to their success.”

How have The Block’s challenges changed over the seasons?

“I think they’ve become more creative. Every season that goes by we have to think more and more outside the box, so we don’t end up repeating ideas. We want to keep both the audience and contestants on their toes.”

“In saying that, we also have repeat challenges that we do every season which is nice. These are things like Plank Walk, Block Stars and Dinner Wars. They are the classics challenges that Block fans look forward to every season, and we would hate to disappoint!”

What would you say was the hardest challenge you have had on The Block?

“We did a challenge at Sheep World last year, which in theory was going to be a really awesome challenge but in reality, it was the longest challenge we have ever had! Our teams were challenged to herd sheep into a DIY pen, but no one managed to herd their sheep in as they were just too fast and ended up running all over the place. I think most teams gave up pretty early on when they realised they couldn’t outrun a sheep – we’ll probably just leave that to the dogs from now on.”

“Logistically, the hardest challenge I’ve organised was the Suzuki Block Rally, where our teams had to drive all around Auckland and complete a selection of challenges at four different locations. That one was just plain stressful! We had four teams stationed all over Auckland, four challenges to run at once and it was pouring with rain! But despite the crazy conditions and a hefty amount of stress, it all worked out well in the end, which was the main thing.”

Have there been any crazy challenge ideas that haven’t made it onto screens?

“If you remember the Animal Antics challenge from last year, where teams shot a tennis ball from a machine at wooden animal cut-outs, that was one challenge that from concept to execution changed a great deal. Originally there was going to be a giant catapult with bean bags being hurdled at the cutouts. However, building or buying a catapult at the last minute proved to be a bit too difficult, so the tennis ball machine was the next best thing we could get our hands on.”

“We have had a few more crazy ideas throughout the years that for one reason or another couldn’t happen, but I won’t say what they are in case we do them this year. You never know when an idea that once seemed totally out of the box could resurface and be made possible…”

Are there any future challenges you would like to see on The Block?

“There are some pretty outrageous ideas for the upcoming season, but you’ll have to watch the show to see them come to life!”


Casting is now open for the next season of The Block NZ! Do you think you have what it takes? 
Apply here:https://www.threenow.co.nz/tv/the-block-nz/home.html