Herding Cats

Right, don’t eat the dessert until I say so. Got it? Good.  

We will come back to this…

In the course of our work we have to do quite a bit of direction of talent. Meals have to be eaten, coffee drunk, cakes scoffed, rooms enjoyed, views admired and so forth. Not arduous tasks by any means and they are usually tackled by the clients themselves, members of staff or their extended families. It isn’t difficult to rope someone in to eat a free meal or pretend to enjoy afternoon tea or coffee. Especially as this is the Scottish Highlands, home of  exceptionally good home baking.

However, there are times when it becomes a little difficult. The more people involved the more complicated it gets. When you have to create a bustling restaurant as a background to a shot that means you have to make sure that almost thirty people are behaving themselves when you press the button.

Getting 30 people to pretend to be enjoying themselves when you’ve just told them not to drink the wine, beer, tea or coffee in front of them and that, as mere background artistes, they will not be getting any of the food the foreground talent is so happily tucking into can be tricky. There are small moments of rebellion.lsp_1743

Not that the foreground talent are much better. On one shoot I was tasked to photograph a hotel’s restaurant, lounge and the very nice diner it had next door. Talent was to be provided by the owners friends.

On the day a group of enthusiastic volunteers gathered in the diner just before lunch ready to do my bidding. They happily complied to my directions and were rewarded with much drink and seafood. Everybody was happy. They were then herded into the restaurant for their second lunch. There was some good-natured complaining along the “where will I fit it/couldn’t eat another thing/absolutely stuffed” lines. Again things went smoothly…until we got to dessert.  One of the talent had a particularly tempting pudding in front of him and while I was imparting the “Right, don’t eat the dessert until I say so. Got it? Good.” line he was eyeing up the plate in front of him with some relish. By the time I had turned and walked back to the camera he had demolished half of it. I admonished him, his wife admonished him and the chef who had to make a replacement admonished him. He didn’t look very admonished. A few minutes later a replacement arrived. I repeated the “don’t eat the pudding” line.

My mistake was to turn my back on him. He tucked in again. I went back to the kitchen and asked for a third helping.

It arrived and the “Don’t.Eat. The. Dessert”  line was trotted out again. Very firmly. This time I walked back to the camera backwards, holding eye contact all the way. Once I had declared the shot got he fell upon his third pudding like a lioness on a three legged wildebeast.lsp_7783

After this we repaired to the lounge and a lovely afternoon tea was set up where  scones were served with lashings of jam and cream. Guess who ate his before I had my lights set up…

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