Riot on the Set!
Here at MyRecipes.com, we're always looking for great kitchens where we can film on location. Kim Cross, editor of CookingLight.com, kindly opened her Birmingham, Alabama ranch house for the filming of our Holiday How-To series. Here's her take on the fun behind the scenes.
Friday, 8:05 a.m.
All is quiet on the set. That's because the set is my kitchen, and the crew is late. I'm glad, because I'm still cleaning up from last night's dinner party.
One by one, 10 cars pull up, including a U-Haul crammed with gear. The neighbors think we're having a party. Like worker ants ferrying crumbs from a picnic, the crew unloads a steady stream of cameras, tripods, microphones, lights, props, cooking paraphernalia, and grocery bags full of ingredients. Within minutes, my kitchen is transformed into a film studio, my dining room table a staging area. It's a muggy fall day, but we're pretending it's Christmas, because this morning's segment is on holiday cookies.
The director is tossing a Frisbee to my dog in the backyard while the crew adjusts the lighting. He pokes his head in with an announcement: "Tattoos at 10!" Tattoos? "For crew morale," he explains. The crew is laughing, working hard, having fun. If they've got morale issues, I can't tell.
Quiet on the set!" the director says. The room falls silent. "Three, two, one–action!" The action is happening on my kitchen counter, where two cameras are trained on the hands of a food stylist mixing cookie dough. We watch it crumble on two monitors set up in my living room. "Oooh, we're going to get some nice, flaky dough audio!" the director says. (This stuff excites us.) The sound guy, wearing headphones, edges a hot-dog shaped microphone closer to the bowl.
The tattoo chicks set up shop on the deck with an airbrush machine and a catalog of designs we'll be glad to wash off in a couple of days. Between takes, we get airbrushed. A camera guy gets "BURY ME WITH MY MONEY" stenciled on his chest, while the stylists pick dainty patterns for their ankles. The director gets "Bad Girl" on his bicep. They convince me to tattoo my pregnant belly, and I concede after the tattoo chicks assure me the ink is non-toxic, organic, and otherwise fetus friendly. They don't do freehand, so turning my bump into a pumpkin is not an option. So I get a sun, because we're having a son. "I can't say I've ever done this before," the tattoo chick says.
The stars of the show are sugar cookies, cut into angels, Christmas trees, bells, and, well, stars. The cameras zoom in as the icing goes on. Our mouths water. "Cut!" the director says. We admire the finished products. Then we scarf them.
The termite guy is here, and he's wondering what's going on. When I tell him we're filming cooking videos, his face lights up. "Are you going to be the next Rachael Ray?" he says. When I tell him no, he looks crestfallen. "I love Rachael Ray," he says.
I walk the director next door to scout a kitchen at my friends' house. But they're not home, because they're at the hospital. Last night, the husband bought the Harley of his mid-life dreams. This morning, he barely got out of the driveway before crashing it into a neighbor's brick mailbox.
A producer arrives from MyHomeIdeas.com, carrying armfuls of miniature pumpkins and gourds. She hollows them out with a knife. Within minutes–voila!– cute holiday candle holders. Meanwhile, the set moves from the kitchen to the dining room, where the stylists are setting up an autumn tablescape.
My husband and I have to drive to Florida, so we leave our home in the hands of the crew. We ask them to lock up when they're through and secretly hope they'll "forget" some of the leftover cookie dough.
Returning home, we cringe with trepidation as we turn the doorknob. Will we find gobs of cake mix stuck to the ceiling fan? Will it still smell like cookies? We peek inside. Amazing–not a trace. The furniture is in place, the kitchen is clean, and (sadly) the scents of baking have dissipated over the weekend. The only sign of Friday's zoo is in the fridge: they left us some cookie dough after all.