Got 30 seconds to spare? Our fast-paced online world means speed recipes and shareable videos are the hot new food trend…
If that short video caught your attention, keep reading. These bite sized films are fast, energetic and pretty addictive. Squeezing a recipe into a video under 30 seconds long creates drama, and cleverly crams in all the information you want. I don’t know about you, but I feel the urge to make a rhubarb meringue pudding and even if I don’t, my pudding addiction (don’t we all suffer from this?) has been satisfied by the immediately consumable nature of such a short video. Could this be the future for food filmography? It begs the question; who’s behind the lens?
This beautifully shot recipe was filmed and edited by Rob Wicks in front of a live food-film seminar audience at the Bristol Food Connections Festival 2015. Coming from a creative family of scientists, his passion for film-making and food is consolidated by the numerous ways in which both disciplines combine art and science at just about every level.
Wicks’ route into film making could hardly be described as conventional. He left university with a degree in physics, but initially turned his back on science and went into acting. After a whirlwind two years touring the country with a small-scale theatre group, Wicks made his way into radio, as a reporter and producer for the BBC. It was ten years after radio producing that we encounter the turning point; the pivotal fork in the road that would lead him to the beautiful food-film vignettes we see today. An opportunity to make the leap from radio to television, working on current affairs, presented itself and Wicks jumped at it. A vague love of photography was able to take flight and his talent for it flourished into video work. It wasn’t long before he was filming his own programmes and Wicks worked for six years as a self-shooting director for the BBC in Bristol.
Behind the scenes, Wicks nurtured a love of food. He made TV features about food whenever he could and started moonlighting as a food photographer during his spare evenings and weekends. So perhaps it was inevitable that this talent would eventually lead to something extraordinary.
Our designer, Holly, spotted Wicks’ site, Eat Pictures on Instagram and pretty soon all of us in the office were munching through these videos. We knew we had to seek out this film maker and get the full low down.
How does this story start?
I’ve always loved food – filming it, photographing it and eating it. My first photography job was paid in cheese (no bad thing). One of my earlier freelance jobs was for a series of the Hairy Bikers. I spent a whole crazy summer on the road, filming 15 short features about different food heroes – each of them upholding a different historic British food tradition. Think, Scotch eggs in Herefordshire; Scotch whisky in the Glens; venison in Cumbria; lobster on the royal yacht Britannia and Michelin-starred pub grub with Michael Parkinson in Berkshire. I’ve also worked with familiar names such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Phil Vickery cooking with everything from cider brandy to Somerset snails.
What is the most delicious dish you have ever tried on a shoot?
I have a rule when filming food that no matter how much we ‘style’ the dish to make it look as appetising as possible, we will do nothing to it that prevents us from eating the leftovers afterwards. The most delicious food I’ve ever filmed and then eaten was an Italian fritto misto cooked by Mary Contini at Valvona & Crolla in Edinburgh. Courgettes and langoustines in a light crisp batter served with sea salt and wedges of the most beautiful Amalfi lemons. It was unbelievably good.
What do you think it takes to make a great film?
A great film is one simple story, beautifully told. The story is the most essential element in my work.
A film without a storyline is just moving wallpaper.
The brilliant thing about food and food production is that it almost always has a strong narrative structure built in. Every meal starts with as a set of ingredients and a somebody who needs something to eat. Behind every dish is a farmer, or a fisherman, or a baker – someone who has invested their time effort and experience in the finished product –hoping for an outcome that pleases their customers and puts bread on the table.
Serving up a finished food film is, in a lot of ways, like serving up an ambitious main course. A huge amount of hard work behind the scenes will result in a delicious happily-ever-after end to the story.
Do you have a video that you are most proud of? Why is this?
Before I specialised in food and drink I directed two documentaries for the BBC about the last surviving soldier from the trenches of the First World War – Harry Patch. It was the most incredible privilege to travel with Harry back to the battlefields in Belgium where he served. He was 109 at the time. It turned out that our trip was the last time any soldier, British or German, from The Great War was there. And at every memorial Harry always insisted that we should remember the soldiers who fell on both sides of the line. He longed for the lessons of war to be learnt. And so do I.
Rob Wicks’ Top Tips for Food Vloggers
1. The most important ingredient for any film is a story. Something must happen. If nothing happens you don’t have a story.
2. Keep it simple. Film-making complicates itself enough without the director joining in.
3. Remember that audio is just as important as video.
4. Keep the camera still. A clean edit between two steady shots is almost always better than a camera move from one view to another.
5. Have a really clear plan before you shoot a frame.
6. Put half of your effort into the first ten per cent of your film. If you don’t get the opening right, the rest of the film will disappoint or your audience will just stop watching anyway.
7. Then make sure the end of your film delivers the answer to the question you raised at the start.
8. Keep it short!
Now for more of those beautiful films – feast your eyes on these…
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