A week in the life of Shelley Craft is a cycle of kids, bed, flights, The Block, bed, flights, more kids and more bed.
So much so, that the Byron Bay-based mother of two admits she doesn’t have any time to actually watch TV.
“I will be blatantly honest with you. I have not watched Television in about 6 years,” she tells TV Tonight. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had control of the remote. My kids watch movies, basically.”
On flights she prefers movies, because there is no series commitment. Even after the kids switch off there’s no room for a little drama indulgence.
“I’m in bed. I’m done. I do not watch Television. But I watched a bit of Ninja on Sunday night and the girls loved that, ” she adds.
“I wish I had time.”
But TV has been good for Craft, who began her own craft whilst doing work experience with Seven in Brisbane, on a local movie show before Saturday Disney.
“I auditioned for the role and was lucky enough to get it. I think I was about 18 when that happened. And the rest is history, I suppose,” she recalls.
“I rolled onto The Great Outdoors during the time but I was moonlighting in Sport with the Australian Open, horseracing, Winter Olympics.
With Seven she covered the Sydney Olympics for Sunrise and hosted a short lived Perfect Match reprisal.
“I think we got a couple of marriages and a few kids out of that,” she says.
“Agro was better than Dexter, possibly!”
“You have to shut the door before another one can open.”
But after 5 years on The Great Outdoors she suddenly quit Seven.
“I decided I’d had enough of travelling and it was always one of those things where no matter what job I’ve ever done, when I feel it’s time to go
“I’d had my time, I’d had fun. I didn’t want to travel anymore, so I chose to leave. Seven had nothing else to offer me at the time except It Takes Two. ‘Would you like to sing on that?’ No thanks, very much.
“You have to shut the door before another one can open. That happens in every life.
“I loved Seven, I had a great time there and all my training was at Seven. I wasn’t a journalist, I never went to University, I didn’t study to be an actress. So I was a cadet, I guess.
“If they had offered me something else I would have stayed, but there was nothing else on offer.”
Within a week Nine’s David Gyngell met her at the Beach Hotel in Byron Bay, to offer a new role.
“He said ‘We might have something for you if you’re willing to take a look at it.’ And that was Domestic Blitz with Scottie (Cam) hosting.”
It proved to be a monster hit for Nine, blending renovation with ‘blue sky’ feelgood TV for families needing community spirit, and paired her with her on-air partner-in-crime, Scott Cam.
“It was all about the storytelling of the families who we were trying to lighten the load of. Even for a week, just to give them a bit of a lift,” she continues.
“That’s where Scottie and I probably defined our roles. He was coming from Backyard Blitz, as the host and tradesperson. My job was to tell the people’s story and get that heartfelt side.”
“It took a few years to recover from that, emotionally.”
Behind the scenes it was tough on those who worked on the show. Stories of families with cancer and social hardship were a challenge for Craft, getting to know people in intense, short spurts.
“It was draining. Each and every week you’re hearing another terrible tale, and wondering when it will strike your family? Why should I be immune to this when every other person you were coming into contact with was going through such a tough time. It took a few years to recover from that, emotionally.
“I was quite affected by it.
“It was hard, but it was beautiful and of course I was doing Funniest Home Videos at the same time. It was incredible light and shade, and I think being a Gemini it was good for me! Domestic Blitz kept me very grounded where as Funniest was a great opportunity to laugh things off.”
To this day Craft is still approached by families hoping Domestic Blitz can change their lives too.
“My Facebook is daily flooded with stories,” she reveals.
“You wish there was a vehicle to help. We didn’t cure anybody but hopefully we gave them a little bit of light in a dark time.”
But her focus is on the latest season of The Block, the 13th for Nine, which has just completed filming in Elsternwick, south east of Melbourne.
Craft has been with the show since Season 4 in Richmond. She views her role as fundamentally different to Cam’s as series driver and tradie.
“I like to think that I am here for the personalities and characters. Keeping the contestants a little bit fired at the end of each week. They know that when I arrive it’s another week that is ticking over, and when they do the challenges, obviously, to give them a break from The Block,” she explains.
“I like to think I lighten the mood a bit, when I come around.”
“My storytelling is ‘How are they going as humans, rather than renovators?’ And also from a buyer’s perspective, it’s what I think the houses should be, I’m as critical as the buyers will be, coming through. I’m a mum with a couple of kids and this is the kind of neighbourhood I would like to live in.
“So I try to give them a bit of a buyer’s perspective, as well as a bit of a lift. This is a great experience and although it is renovation, it’s also television. You did sign up for it, so remember to have some fun along the way, rather than just the weekly grind.
“I like to think I lighten the mood a bit, when I come around.
“Scottie is the good cop to Keith’s (Schleiger, foreman) bad cop, so I think we all work together as a nice little team and remind them, this is supposed to be a life experience.”
“I guess we do become their support network. Their family.”
The Elsternwick season sees 5 couples transforming relocated family homes on a massive 470 square metre site.
“These frames went up so quickly. The first day I was here it was just the houses and by the time I came back next week the back frames were in construction. So for me, the 12 weeks have been astronomical change, whereas when it was just 1 façade building it’s hidden inside.”
With her eye on how the personalities are faring, Craft says this season promises more of the show’s trademark drama, but she resists suggestions that requires her to become a pseudo-psychologist on set.
“You try to be there for them. I wouldn’t say I was a psychologist by any stretch, I’d never want to step in those shoes. But there are moments where you can see they are down, or particularly missing their children. That seems to be a theme that runs throughout. I could never leave my kids for 12 weeks.
“To realise how harder that is 2, 3, 6, 8 weeks in is the toughest challenge for any couple, any time in any series.
“So I guess we do become their support network. Their family. Their Stockholm Syndrome!
“I know they miss us when they’re gone. I think they miss being woken up every morning, having a camera crew following them around. I think they miss the attention.”
The Block returns to Nine on Sunday, July 30, at 7.00pm.