It’s all Dave Grohl’s fault.
I’m not in the habit of blaming rock stars, but Dr G’s recent SXSW keynote following the premier of his movie Sound City really inspired me. It inspired me to go back to basics, shoot something for fun, and respect the Gods of the table top arena.
Ok, it wasn’t just the legendary lead singer that got me started. I’d recently been talking to photographer Heather Wilkinson about combining food photography with Gusto’s tabletop offer, when Nicole Szabason called to discuss an upcoming pizza project, something clicked. When the Pizza job “went away” I was left with Dr G’s inspiration ringing in my ears, and I knew we had to “just shoot it”. In fact…
I’d been thinking about testing out digital’s Holy Grail for some time. Fascinated whether, as all DSLR enthusiasts would have you believe, you can shoot anything anywhere anyhow. So I Googled Philip Bloom, rejoiced in my film school past, and decided to rock out. I mean, how hard could it be?
Lesson no 1: Digital is the new Prince but production is King.
As experienced producers will tell you, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. And when you’re producing yourself, there aren’t enough minutes in the hour. Then there’s the schizophrenic relationship between your bank balance and your needs as a director. Believe me, when the shekels are on the line you’ll soon discover the wonders of natural bounce, LED panels and the power of family and friends.
Oh, and I forgot to say, my simple no-budget idea was to shoot children at a packed food festival, who then come home and make amazing dishes. As Robert Evans once said to Bob Townsend, run that by me again…
Lesson no 2: Never work with children, shoot in your own home and underestimate root vegetables.
As any of you who work in the tabletop arena know, there’s a big difference between cooking food that’s good to eat and cooking food that’s good not to eat. Take the simple boiled egg.
In an attempt to prepare for the hideous schedule of cooking, shooting and lighting eight separate dishes plus children in one day I thought it wise to rehearse in advantage to help Nicole with the already packed schedule. I enlisted the help of my sister in law and rapidly discovered that my sister’s point of view on the perfect yoke was more Fanny Craddock than Heston Blumenthal. Following hours of arguments, trial and error and a floor awash with yoke we produced a perfectly boiled egg. Maybe pimpin up an egg wasn’t so hard after all.
Lesson no 3: Don’t count your chickens…
As the hour of the yoke approached we proudly presented our egg to the great N.S. Ever the politician she smiled politely and proceeded to spend the next 2 hours pimping up 10 new perfectly boiled specimens that made our ovals look like something the hen had dragged in. Clearly not all yokes are born equal.
But our chocolate puddings were pure gold, unlike my rhubarb. Let me tell you, rhubarb is a bitch. It’s the Lady Macbeth of vegetables. To get that little beauty perfectly rosed into a mouth-watering pallor is a dark art unknown to mere mortals. Nicole, again we salute you, but for me it will always be the one that got away.
2am, the night before the shoot. As I scrubbed the kitchen floor within an inch of its life, knowing that within eight hours five seven year olds would bring it back to a Groundhog Day style cocoa disaster, I was starting to curse the day I pushed play on Dr G’s wise words.
Next month, for better or worse, I’ll show you the result, but in the meantime I have to give a big thanks to the micro-team whose ability shows that it doesn’t matter what you do, talent will out. Heather Wilkinson (check out her fabulous food blog and photography), Liam White, Jo Stobbs; the brilliant children of the Dharma School, and of course food styling’s own rock n’ roll messiah.
Dave Grohl, we salute you!