Crazy dimensions in cooking: Movie Catering

My cow-orker Oren is quite the film maker. His first “real” movie was featured in a film festival next to movies with a budget more than a hundred bucks or so. It’s actually quite good.

This time around, he was kinda recruiting for the cast, so I offered to help out in any sort of capacity that he needed. It turns out that he needed catering.

Now, for those of you who haven’t heard me drone on obsessively about it, it should be said that I love cooking food almost as much as I love eating. So we worked out a deal. Oren would fund the food, I would give freely of my time, and the cast would all get food poisoning.

Just kidding about the last part. Nobody spends much time talking about catering for the stars, but the one thing I did find out, incidentally, is that there’s two types of food provided for a movie. First, there’s catering, who provides breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then, there’s craft services, who provide a table of munchies and drinks for everybody. Apparently, there’s some fun rules about who is actually entitled to the food and apparently some of the lesser compensated members of the cast make up for the low pay by stealing food. It’s also the case that if you aren’t going to actually pay people, you should probably feed them. So I go out of my way to make sure that people are properly fed. I must have been an Indian mother in a past life or something. I provided both types, although I had a little bit of help with the craft services.

So, Oren’s been running around like a post-ozzie chicken and hasn’t had time to really diary about the movie, so I’ll recount some stories myself.

It should be noted that there’s two Kens on the cast. There’s me and there’s Ken Furer. For the set-building day that I helped out with , we were just Ken and Other Ken, with that definition changing depending. After this, I was talking to Oren and I made reference to Evil Ken. Then I realized that I don’t have at least half of the Evil Overlord list memorized for nothing, so I decided that I wanted to be Evil Ken. Thus, we differentiated Kens by calling me Evil Ken and the other Ken, Good Ken.

Before we started shooting, I helped Oren build a wall because the architect of his apartment didn’t have the foresight to provide him with a proper wall in the right spot for filming. It looks like it’s always been there and is probably structurally sound, to boot. I’m proud of helping with the wall.

Day 1 of shooting:

We shot our first day at the Metrolinks Golf Course in Oakland. One of the things about the bay area is that if one area’s not helpful, another will be. The SF film folks weren’t helpful, but the Oakland area film folks found a golf course that was more than glad to let us film.

The agreement was, we’d use the 18th hole, come in at 5:30 in the morning, and film. it takes maybe 4.5 hours for people to get to the 18th hole, so we could basically have the run of it and they don’t get inconvenienced.. So I show up a smidge late at 5:45-ish with drinks and breakfast. The golf course people were absolutely wonderful. They let us have a table out on the course where we were shooting. They let us use 3 golf carts. They gave some of the crew free coffees in the morning. All of this, out of the goodness of their hearts.

Because I wasn’t doing much in terms of active cooking, I became part of the crew. I did dolly grip on a number of shots. For those of you don’t know, the dolly grip is the dude who moves the dolly (a wheeled platform) along the track to move the camera around in a controlled fashion. At some point, we ran out of battery power and two of the three batteries were giving us fits. George, who’s charity is matched only by his lunacy, got the bright idea of ripping the battery out of his car and picking up an inverter from Radio Shack so that we could use that to power the filming. So then I got pressed into duty as one of the assistant camerafolk, carrying around a car battery.

Sandy stole the show with her cookies, doing 1st Assistant Craft Services. Sandy makes good cookies of the Sandy-style, which I have made some use of in my own cookies as well.

So, about the shooting. It was interesting. This was obviously a movie that must be made because the weather cooperated with us perfectly. As a bonus, we had nice overcast weather, which gave us perfectly even lighting. The only problem is that our actors were cold, so if you look at the production photos for that day, you will notice various actors wearing my jacket.

We had the whole movie crew. Oren was directing, we had an assistant director, we had a (very professional and high-quality for her third film job) makeup and hair artisan, the person to click the movie slate, etc. Oren had recruited Dan Shimer (a.k.a. Dan the Man or Dan the Cameraman ) as the Director of Photography. We also had an interesting Oren and George (With random suggestions from me) creation to get a softer, more film-like look out of a 3-CCD prosumer DV camcorder (the duct-tape-and-cardboard thingie on the front of the camera with the lens sticking out, for those who are looking at the photos). We had a boom operator, too, filled in by Mr. Scott “I look Like Tom Cruse” Haynie.

Eleni Asimos was only called for one day. I was able to recognize her from her headshot. Apparently, a good number of the actors that answered to the casting call look nothing like their headshots. But, no, she looked very good, both on film, and in person at 5:30 in the morning with no makeup. I observed that she had very good chemistry with Sam, for two people who didn’t really know each other.

Her last shot was also her death scene, where she would cough up blood, which I viewed as kinda sad. We had one take because the blood capsule was a royal pain to work with, and also because it would probably make a mess. So she informed us that we had better get pictures of it. They practiced quite a bit.

Samuel Child was good, as always. He was in Oren’s last movie, and, as should be shown, can be quite goofy in person, while very serious in his role. There’s more stories about Sam to be told as the shooting goes on.

When we were about to shoot, everybody was crowded around behind the camera to watch. She plops, dribbles blood, and such. It got in her hair. And then after we cut, she realizes that she forgot to open her eyes (Dan the Man mentioned that she had really good ice-blue eyes and that she should open her eyes). So she was a real trooper, worried more about forgetting her lines than about the red goop in her hair. So they shoot that and hopefully will be able to edit around it. We all had a good laugh when we were done.

Also fun to have cast was John Jamieson as Max Feldman. In person, he’s a happy sort of guy, good-natured and very cooperative. He got to play an alcoholic jerk who is only looking out for himself. I really liked his more realistic portrayal of a drunkard (i.e. he wasn’t acting totally impaired the whole time, it was hidden). It was fun watching the transition happen. This was especially noticeable on the second day when he got meetier lines. He was good natured about being kept waiting for so long.

George did a bit part as an older Asian businessman who was golfing with Max Feldman. He went into Radio Shack with makeup on, which we made sure to tease him about.

I fed them all lunch — the secret family recipe for Mushroom soup, which I maintain that I know about half of the recipe and my wife knows the other half.

I was really tired. Towards the end of the location shoot, I was yawning a lot. After I served lunch, I kinda picked out a corner of the set and was sleeping on the carpet. Eventually, Oren tossed me a pillow so I could sleep. I think this was at least partially because he wanted to later film me snoring. I couldn’t sleep well Friday night and had to get up early on Saturday morning to drive over and provide food.

The one thing about the magic of movies is that there’s a lot of setting up shots, trying to get things going. We didn’t have a single person we didn’t need, but there was a lot of waiting and preparing shots. And you have to do the exact same part, flawlessley, over and over again.

Come back later for Day 2 of shooting, which had some great bloopers, some new cast and crew, and lots of fun.

You can also view all of the photos

Update: Apparently at least some of the crew were greatly amused, or at least greatful that somebody’s spending the time to document things. Rest assured, there will be more entries about this movie shoot. ;)