Sunday, 30 August 2015

Feeding a film crew

A quick zip around the globe and it brings us to Hong Kong.
I love Chinese food.
And HK is the MECCA.
I was there filming a TV movie in the “Cracker” series for UK TV.
The crew was a mixture of locals and some that were flown in from the UK.
The entire grip crew were Chinese and they were brilliant..every one of them.
At the end of the shoot the grip crew invited the Camera crew out for a meal..their choice of venue.. and menu..
The camera crew consisted of myself, the operator Mike Miller, the follow focus..Richard Brierley, the camera assistant /Loader..Mandy..she has since married and I don’t know her married name.
Mandy is a Lancastrian and lives in a beautifully restored barn on the heights overlooking Manchester. She likes to eat….anything..
Richard is from Manchester, lives in London and thinks eating is something to do with the mouth between pouring ale down it..
Mike is built like a bean pole..eats like a horse but always looks as though  he has just spent ten years in solitary in the meat on this fella at all.
The arrangement was that we should all meet up at the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon and the grip team would take us from there..
Kowloon is an old city and is full of dark and mysterious alleyways..places where most folk would not venture on their own..but here we were..diving deeper and deeper into smaller, darker, narrower alleys, getting some strange looks from the locals.
Eventually we stopped at the venue.
It looked OK..full of locals..which is always a good sign’
We were welcomed, seated and the booze began to flow..we ordered from the extensive menu..taking tips from our hosts.
The food was delicious.
And it kept on coming..and coming..Chinese can eat their weight in food it seems.
And all of it was demolished.
One feature if the presentation was that at the end of each large platter of food, the head of the main meat or fish component in the dish was displayed on a small flattened part of the plate..a little off putting at see the head of the chicken, fish, animal, peering at you as you consumed its body, but that seems to be the human way..we quickly got used to it…until..
One dish arrived ..and as it was placed on the table the Chinese crew started muttering among themselves..there was no head..What was it?.
The centre piece was completely unrecognizable to any one at the table, even the waiter had no idea what the creature was..
It sat in the middle of the isolated splendour..It was the size of a small was entirely dark grey in colour and had some short stubby tentacles sticking was seriously off putting and no one made a move to eat it.
Except Mike..
After waiting for what he obviously deemed to be a respectful period of waiting..for our hosts to begin..about one nanosecond..he stabbed the beast/alien with his fork and began chewing at it.
He ate it all…it took about twenty minutes..we all watched with open mouths as this creature was slowly one said anything until Mike had finished.
He picked up his napkin..wiped his mouth..noticed we were all watching him and said “Nice..what was it?”
To this day none of us know..or even want to
One other feature of that shoot was the lunch time catering…great food..lots of it..but nowhere to sit..after six weeks shooting we all became experts at standing up with a plate in one hand and a fork in the other..takes a little time to get used to it but you soon learn what to put on your plate that allows one hand eating..
And now with the flick of the magic wand we are miraculously transported to the desert town of Wittenoom in Western Australia..
Dateline 1970..
We had been filming in the area , making a documentary on the man who found a mountain of Iron Ore..and a vast fortune..Lang Hancock.
Wittenoom was a desert town and had been built around a huge deposit of asbestos..There was at that time a massive demand for this material..until it was discovered that nearly all of the work force were suffering from some form of chest disease through inhaling the fibres.
Asbestosis reared its ugly head and Wittenoom died. .it is rumoured that quite a number of the inhabitants died too..
Anyway here it is..a deserted ghost town..lots of empty properties, proper paved roads, traffic lights, boarded up shops. Not the sort of place one would choose to have a country estate..But Lang was an old time prospector and he was used to being out there in the wilderness, he invited us to join him one weekend, for a barbecue..
Australians enjoy one of the best diets in the world, like Americans, they serve up huge portions and so it was at Lang’s place..
No burgers at this barby..we had a full grown animal on a massive spit roast.
And lots to drink.
We all arranged ourselves around the rather sparse garden and watched the meat being slowly smelt great and we were hungry..
We were not the only ones attracted by the meal..
We all became aware of a noise coming from the unlit bush..lots of unlit bush..several thousand square miles of it..It was a sort of booming noise..we heard it every half minute or so and it was getting closer.
Some of Lang’s staff had rifles and they kept them close, casting wary eyes on the darkness.
Turns out it was a massive Python. Often seen in the area of the farm where it had taken some livestock on previous occasions…attracted by the sounds and smell it had decided to pop in for a snack..anything for a could have been one of us…
A few rounds of buckshot seemed to scare it away but nobody used the toilet facilities which were down a path away from the light
We huddled closer together and moved nearer to the large roasting pit.Then I noticed we were roasting something more than just a lamb or a calf.
Out of the dark night there were hundreds of winged critters screaming through the air to crash land on the slowly turning meat..they must have been hungry because they were instantly incinerated by the flames..and they stayed there..
The spit roast was slowly becoming encased in nighttime critters which were forming a crust. And some of them were about six inches long..
I lost my appetite rather quickly but it was no barrier to the farmhands/estate workers ..they sliced off huge slivers of the animal and wolfed them down..along with the newly arrived casing.
A word of warning..If you are ever in the vicinity of my operator,Mike, from the first tale..don't get too close..he might be hungry..