Set designers and culinary artists spend countless hours creating food scenes. Filmmakers may spend several thousand dollars on culinary props and professional chefs for large productions. Although much of the food on screen is real, some of it is unsuitable for human consumption.
Dining scenes in films can accelerate hunger like the Italian meals in "Big Night" or leave you appalled by their sight. But did you know that shooting an actor eating can take several hours or even all day if several people are eating?
Production companies rely heavily on restaurant supply companies to give their kitchen and dining rooms a realistic look. Actors eat real food in the scenes, but they’re not swallowing every bite. Since multiple takes are required to get the scene just right, actors spit the food into a bucket between takes.
When shooting short scenes that don’t require several takes, the actor eats and swallows the meal and sometimes shares the leftovers with the crew. It may seem strange that film crews spend so much time filming something that shouldn’t be complicated, but filmmakers are obsessed with perfection. If an actor’s eating habits aren’t convincing, another take is ordered and the scene is repeated.
In accordance with federal and state laws, the food consumed by actors and staff members must be real. However, the food in the background that isn’t eaten is often fake.
Food props are inedible but look delicious and inviting on film. Props hold up better and look more appealing than real food because they’re not affected by the temperature and bright lights in the studio. Perishable food takes on a less appetizing look when it’s sitting under intense floodlights in a steamy Hollywood set.
When real food is used in the background, the crew must replace it frequently to maintain its appearance. For instance, a scene with ice cream in the background requires several replacements to prevent the food from melting during a long shoot.
Although filmmakers use chefs and culinary experts to develop and film an eating scene, they also employ food artists to highlight the food and improve its film appearance. Artists use photographs or videos of authentic dishes to recreate the food on film. Most imitation food is constructed with foam or rubber, and later, it’s painted to bring out the details. Foam is similar to bread and cake dough because it rises, and artists frequently make cakes and bread from the inedible substance.
The food shown in movies can produce strong reactions by the audience, and sometimes, the fake food becomes so popular that it becomes real. If you liked the unusual Pepsi bottles in Back to the Future Part II, you could buy a bottle of Pepsi Perfect in 2015 to celebrate a scene when Marty travels to the same year.
Which movie food would you like to try out?