Survival, Filmmaking and Food

Food is on my mind… a lot. I am human. I will always remember my first time working on set; the memories of 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 nutritious 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.  If Oscar Wilde is right,  “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.” Film shoots can be tough and the 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.


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