August 18. 2010, NYC Posted by Glenn Lazzaro
For the past few years, I’ve directed most of the launch promos for Bravo’s “Top Chef.” Whenever we’d discuss creative for a new season, someone invariably suggested a food fight. We’d all get excited, but ultimately we never did one. It would be too time-consuming. Too messy. Too hard to coordinate.
Then last summer I got a call from Bravo. Amy Troiano, VP of On Air Promotion, Trez Thomas VP Brand Strategy, and Creative Director Justin Reichman said we were finally doing a food fight, for an upcoming season of “Top Chef All-Stars.”
I got really, really excited. For inspiration, I watched the famous food fight scene in “Animal House.” But I learned virtually nothing. The actual food fight in the film is only 3 seconds long, and none of the cast takes part. It seemed easy compared to our plan. In one day, we had to shoot enough footage for Bravo to use over a whole season: interviews, B-roll, web components, mobile content, and tease spots for 18 chefs, Padma Lakshmi, and Tom Colicchio. All this before the food fight even started Suddenly, we all remembered why we never attempted a food fight before!
We built a stylized kitchen set at SilverCup Studios in Long Island City, and started planning the battle royal. We paired up the 18 “chef-testants” and devised one-on-one fight scenarios. (My favorite would be when Tre and Jennifer threw 30 gallons of spaghetti sauce at each other.) The chefs would do battle, then head for the shower and wait for their next scene. The art department would clean the set and we’d do it again.
18 chef-testants and numerous wardrobe changes later, we prepped for the big battle.
The art department loaded the set with weapons: eggs, flour, spaghetti, seltzer, whipped cream, shish kabobs, tomatoes, carrots, ketchup and endless other messy stuff. The cast readied their weapons of choice and we rolled the camera. We had one chance to get the shot. There would be no “second take.”
We devised a shooting method we called “Fight Freeze” to ensure we got enough coverage. We rolled the camera at 60 frames a second and the chefs would wage war. After a while I would scream “Freeze,” and they would stop mid-fight, holding their poses. We’d quickly move the camera, re-frame, and I’d scream “Action!” to unfreeze the battle. We did this for about 10 minutes. In the footage, you can see the chefs are really having fun. They brought a lot to the fight. Using pots as helmets and pot covers as shields was their idea. At times when I called “Cut” they still wouldn’t stop, swept away by the messy momentum. I think they were waiting for this moment their whole careers.
Writer/Producer/Editor Jeff Edelstein and Han Yi, Senior Graphics Designer, did the finishing for Bravo in-house. Using opera music for the track gives the spots a sweeping, ominous feel I love.