They say in TV “never work with kids and animals”. But maybe they need to add ice cream to the list. To the shopping list of shoot nightmares. It is difficult to shoot, uncooperative and melts down. The best version of lookalike ice cream you can film is actually mashed potatoes. Mashed potato ice cream isn’t temperamental. Mashed potato ice cream keeps its structure. Mashed potato ice cream doesn’t go all glossy and cry when it melts. I was shooting an ice cream commercial in the tropics. In a hundred degree heat. With kids. And this was the real deal. Not the mashed potato kind. The client wanted to use the real thing. The heat was on. The kids or the ice cream – who would melt down first?
But first let’s rewind. To set up a shoot you obviously arrive early with all the equipment. Ice cream in the freezer first. It takes time to set up the cameras and tripods, audio equipment, lighting and reflectors. To “stage” your set, the crew has to move furniture and equipment into place, so already we were a thousand degrees. Charming. Then the talent (in this case, kids) arrive early. One has a cold. Another has an attitude. A third has the wrong top on. They are happy to wait for 3 and a half minutes before becoming tetchy and bored. And vocal. Knowing they are there for ice cream, the kids are screaming for it immediately.
Long before the set is ready and all crew are in place.
We fill the ice cream bowls.
There are arguments about flavors.
When all equipment and stars finally align, we had the sum total of 90 seconds to get all shots correct and in the bag. And anyone who has worked in TV will tell you it is rare for even a professional to nail the line the first time. Get the wording correct, the gesture correct, the facial expression correct. Hold the product at the correct angle. And that’s assuming the crew nail the shot, the lighting and focus and framing and audio. So the kids are arguing about who gets the chocolate flavor, and stuffing their faces with ice cream. And missing the lines. And messing the gestures. And pulling faces. The cameramen have composed beautiful shots, the sound guy is on point, the lighting is gorgeous, but the kids have plowed through their bowls again and need a refill.
We take a break.
We refill the ice cream bowls.
The girl cast with the most difficult line practices her delivery and finally gets it right.
But she had already eaten a large amount of ice cream and did not want to eat anymore.
And the ice cream was melting and everything was perfect with the crew and the shots, but one child was crying because they did not want to eat any more ice cream.
We refill the ice cream bowls.
It’s difficult for an actor to keep their lines fresh and bright when they need to repeat themselves. Often an actor doing “multiple takes” (i.e. needing to repeat the same line over and over) becomes more stilted. Less natural. Forced. And this was exactly what happened to our poor over-stuffed, hot, frustrated child. By the time the girl got the words correct, the delivery was forced, the gestures were wooden and face contorted. And she was not the only thing having a melt down. The temperamental ice cream was slopping in the heat.
Should have used the mashed potatoes.