Survival, Filmmaking and Food

Food is on my mind… a lot. I am human. I will always remember my first time working on set. I remember walking into the old disused hospital, the smell of the dust burning on the lights, the PA’s running around with their walkie talkies, The 1st AD’s voice, the director pacing back and forth between the set and the video village, the food. Ah, the food. The breakfast, the mid-morning snacks, the lunch, the afternoon snacks, the evening ‘rewards’ and all the other goodies that were roaming around throughout the day. Early call time was not an issue anymore as I knew tasty freshly cooked nutrition food was awaiting to greet me with a cup of coffee.

Even though the film’s budget was relatively low, the catering service had nothing to envy to the more ‘luxurious’ productions (I am looking at you TV commercials). I quickly came to realise food is a line in the budget you do not want to underestimate or even compromise. Nobody wants a mutiny on their hands on the second day of production. Sadly, I also came to realise that not everyone seems to agree with that concept. The effect is noticeable. Even the toughest day can be made easier with good meals. Even the simplest shoot can become a nightmare with bad (or no) food.

Food is that clock that keeps everybody going and it has to cater for the muscles and the mind. It needs to be diverse and suit a variety of folks.

  • Consider dietary preferences. If an airline can do it, so should you.
  • Do not only serve cold food. Cold food is ok as a snack or for extremely short shoots. The cast and crew need hot meals.
  • Serve proteins, carbs and vegetables. Most importantly, keep them balanced. (some would argue for a low-carb, high protein. But do not underestimate the “comfort food effect”)
  • Avoid fast food, too much sugar or too much flour. It will make your cast and crew sleepy.
  • Keep fruit, nuts, yoghurt, sandwiches, etc around and serve food during short breaks. The best way to avoid overeating during lunch is to have heathy snacks when that little hunger starts to poke your stomach.
  • Ideally, hire a professional. You would not trust an amateur to light your scene. Why should you trust and amateur with food? Caterers and Craft Service providers are specialists. The good ones will know what your cast and crew need and they will know how to maximise your budget.

I did not get paid on my first shoot. It was an experience, it allowed me to learn and grow (and I am pretty sure I got healthier too). As a youngster it can be tolerable to work for little/no money for a short while, a very short while. It is not ok to work for no food. It is counterproductive. I used to always encourage my students to at least provide food and drinks on their productions. If Oscar Wilde is right,  “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.” Film shoots can be tough and that catering budget will be excellent value for money (and you will get to keep your head). And so, my fellow filmmakers “Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” That Orson Welles guy was a genius indeed.


Color Grading: Exploration, Temperature and Contrast

Colorists tend to approach the task of correction and grading through multiple passes. When mixing light, I start with the more surgical aspects of the correction before going through a series of artistic manipulations (color equalisation, relighting, isolations, looks,…) Every project brings a new set of challenges and a new set of directions and possibilities. I enjoy  the discovery stage the most. After understanding the emotions, story and motivations, I select a few keys shots from the various scenes and play; build a few versions before committing to a look. Continue reading

Emotions, Psychology and Evolution

According to Billy Wilder, if you want to be a director you must be a policeman, a midwife,  a sycophant, a bastard and a BjChFQOIUAEvdnj psychoanalyst. It took me some time to realize the importance of the last point and truly appreciate psychology. Continue reading

Is Cinema Dead? Cinema is Broken says Greenaway. 

386428_142132029220209_1520996886_n I was lucky/unlucky to attend Peter Greenaway’s lecture on Cinema in Pietrasanta, Italy. After a tumultuous (lack of) introduction the filmmaker’s dramatic voice quickly started provoking and capturing the audience. Cinema is dead. Who killed it? In Italy, was it Berlusconi? Or (as suggested by someone in the audience) was it simply Italian laziness? Greenaway is not the first nor the last to wonder about ‘the death of Cinema’. Recently, Tarantino’s now famous statement regarding celluloid rapidly bounced around the web gaining momentum and critiques. Greenaway’s reasoning appears to be different, as he accuses the likes of Tarantino to be suffering from the “Casablanca syndrome”.  He believes Cinema has been broken from within, incapable of adapting to a changing world. Continue reading

Film Editing Education: Rules (or Guidelines)

“I want to be an Editor!” I remember my young self saying those words proudly on my first day of Film School. It might have been because of the fascination I had towards the equipment (I had the unusual chance to experience tape-to-tape editing during my childhood and the rise of ‘affordable’ NLE’s created an entire new world for me to explore). It might have been the appeal of a quieter environment, when compared to the busy life on set.  Or, I’d like to believe, I was already aware that editing is an excellent directing school (but clearly, I was not). Continue reading

Anxiety and Boredom: Writers Block? Just type.

WHITE The blog has been quiet for the last couple of weeks. I could blame the summertime relocation to my homeland, the excessive availability of sunshine, tasty food and wine or the distraction of the FIFA World Cup. Truth is that the relocation was a piece of cake, sun did not shine every day and the World Cup only started a few days ago and has not become an obsession (the food and wine bit is true). I have been suffering the blank page syndrome and this has prompted me to browse the web in search of some insight on the phenomenon. What are the causes of writers block? Continue reading

Tarantino. Digital. Projection. Death. Cinema.


Recently, my reader was invaded by news from Cannes. All sources were posting headlines referring to Tarantino’s statement using some combination of the following words: Tarantino, Digital, Projection, Death and Cinema. I have respect and admiration for Tarantino’s work. But, when I read ”digital projection is the death of cinema,” I could not resist to feel somehow disappointed.

Then of course, when you add the words “As far as I’m concerned” in front of the same statement, one can more easily understand the difference between The Death of Cinema and the Death of Tarantino’s Cinema. Continue reading

Musical Muses: Music and the Filmmaking Process

I remember a dear friend of mine expressing his anger towards Ennio Morricone: ”I don’t understand why he always tells us when and how to feel. There is no free interpretation of the content, and the emotions are induced and manufactured”. I could understand his perspective, and I can also appreciate the kind of realist cinema he personally cherishes. What I could not understand is why be mad at one of the most powerful ‘formalist’ forces (to use a word dear to him) available in the filmmakers toolset?

In a way, I then knew I was not the only person having felt tricked and betrayed by the power of music, feeling strong emotions towards a narrative and visual content that would probably have left me indifferent if it was not for the score. Years ago, this obsession for music in film, and the filmmaking process, Continue reading

Film History Surfing

As part of an ongoing research I have spent some time exploring the history of film and cinema through the looking glass of influential, popular and celebrated films. As a method for mixing a bit of fun with procrastination, I have assembled the evolution of films in an edit running short of 100 minutes showcasing roughly 30 seconds of 221 films. Continue reading

Directing ‘School': the Edit Suite


Many Film and TV Directors could be tempted to agree: experience in the edit suite is an incredible tool to learn and grow as a Director. We have to admit, the suite will not teach you to work with your cast and crew and communicate your vision. It will, however, let you see what works and what does not, and how different Directors have different strategies to assemble the building blocks that will become the film. Continue reading