The secrets of feeding an entire film crew
PUBLISHED: 15:42 26 April 2017 | UPDATED: 15:42 26 April 2017
Bonnie May reveals the secrets of feeding hundreds of artists and crew on location, from sarnies 'like mum makes' to sticky toffee pudding
So, just as we were all in utter disbelief as the wrong Oscar winner was announced, the ‘how did that happen’; the ‘it can’t be true’ and the ‘that was a major faux pas went through everyone’s mind, please spare a thought for the hundreds, yes hundreds of people, behind the scenes who keeps the glitter ball of TV and film turning.
I’m talking producers, the editing guys, lighting and sound crew, the casting crew, the wardrobe and tons of others in between – and can I hear a big shout out for the catering crew, especially if it’s our Global Infusion Group, based in Chesham. We are first in and last out, often seen, but not heard, and rarely a public thank you for keeping this fab, glam army marching on.
Going to the movies is always a great night out, often laden with a huge bag of pick and mix and a glass of wine. But at the end of the movie you’ll find me with a screwed up face desperately looking for the thanks for the caterers on the credits. Rarely that happens, and I then “harrumph” my way out the cinema doors feeling that once again the fuel that feeds the fire has not been rewarded with the huge public ‘thank you’ that it deserves.
I guess it’s like a lot of things we, as consumers, don’t always see: the machine that sits behind the brand – the real worker bees that keep the fire burning. I therefore need to tip my hat and very publicly introduce you all…to the ‘location caterer’.
Sounds fancy doesn’t it, feeding the stars in all the most glamorous of places. You can just set the scene now, can’t you – that dreamy beach, leafy London, downtown LA, and the open scenery that those long, pregnant pause shots affords us. Oh, how far from the truth could you be?
Location catering has to be one of the toughest gigs in the TV and film world. It is a necessity in making sure that all the cogs and wheels work together… timing is everything on a set, every second counts. Filming is a movable feast and it is all about supporting the crew in making sure that there is no wasted time at all. A happy crew, I am convinced, marches on its stomach – and if we are able to knit in a few house favourites into the mix then we are always onto a winner.
Most recent assignments the team at Global Infusion Group have worked on include The Jump, Bake Off, Strictly Come Dancing, The Chase, Royal Variety Show and National Television Awards.
TV and film, as you can imagine, are two quite different beasts. Factor in going live with a show… this adds another layer of pressure for all concerned. TV and film are actually unionised, which is different from rock and roll, there are strict rules that need to be followed in crew welfare and when we travel across the Pond to the great USA, you have a whole new ball game of regulations to steer through.
With day shoots, night shoots, and all those in between, a TV world often falls into the category of two full meals and a ‘snack on wrap’! Often these meals are taken on the hoof, and the timings can change at the drop of a hat. This is where your culinary genius comes into play.
Often, for instance, we may need to produce a meal for 500, serve it in an hour and they might be an hour early or they might be an hour late! And oh yes, did I forget to mention you get just 10 minutes warning on either option.
Our guys who get this right are the ones who invest a little time into studying those around them, knowing which artist or crew members like milk in their tea, who prefers brown or red sauce, and those who will respond pretty well to a simple cheese and pickle sandwich when the timings have gone out the window. In our game you need to pick your currency, and a cup of tea and a sarnie often wins hands down. On a TV set it is all about looking after each other, and delivering a box of favourites to someone who missed dinner will score more points than serving up Lobster Thermidor!
The film world is different, it’s a much longer haul and you can often feel disjoined from the heart of it all. It can seem much more like a service than being part of something magical.
Very often the numbers we have to cater can be huge. Just think of what you are watching and sometimes it really is the cast of thousands. The deal normally is if you are on set for more than five hours then you get fed.
Well, consider all those big crowd scenes you have viewed in the movies… and the mind boggles. On a set of this scale we usually have two to four different ‘outlets’. We need to feed everyone really quickly as the time clock is well and truly ticking, and not everyone will break at the same time. ‘Quick Serve’ is the order of the day and the cast and crew will line up at one of our mobile kitchens to grab their meal. These kitchen trucks are simply amazing – a 7.5 ton truck, fully equipped with the tricks of the trade to feed over 500 people per meal, built in generators, water tanks, waste water tanks, gas and all the gear to literally roll up and serve. Very often the location will change from breakfast to lunch to dinner, so these trucks really do tick all the boxes.
This moving world of eating is a really tough regime for many; cast and crew can often spend hours upon hours and then days upon days on set, and to ensure that these guys are all up to scratch in the ‘looking after yourself’ department can be a big ask. Quite often you are away from home, the usual shout out for an order from your local is a far cry from what is being served – then balance that with tired, emotional luvvies, and if you are not careful you could be on to a loser!
Top tips usually involve great coffee and tea (not to be put out as a norm but to be rolled out when you need to save the day); bread to make a ‘how mum makes it sandwich’ or all the green stuff to do a ‘super smoothie’ (yuck!); various brands of chocolate that you just mention in passing that quite possibly will receive a rapturous applause; the trusty carrot cake; the sausage and mash and the religious roast dinner and sticky toffee pudding probably features on every TV and movie dinner world-wide. The ones that win hands down, however, are those that are served with a smile, and those who know that though they might not feature on a billboard across the nation, they will feature on the ‘have to have for the next big flick’.
I feel I am selling you the lower end of feeding the madding crowd, but far from it. These guys are well and truly looked after… yes, often on a disposable plate, yes, maybe on the side of a road and yes, it may even be midnight. But point me out a skinny camera man and I’ll eat my hat!
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