COVENT GARDEN SOUP

Production Design by Bruce Hill.

I was asked initially if I could create and finish a large land sculpture made of vegetables and other organic items in just three weeks. After an evening working it out I said the only thing that could delay us would be the weather (it was November). The answer was we’d shoot the ad in Capetown. Within 24hrs I was taking an overnight flight to recce some landscape and immediately upon arrival we were straight onto a helicopter looking at fields. One was picked, the deal was done and I was left in South Africa to finish the job. I did a sketched plan on the plane (right) and we started recruiting crew, thanks to the help of local production company Maximum Films and their local greens man “Spook”. He was tremendously helpful locating English looking vegetables together with other materials and boy did we need some quantity.

My plan was to divide the area into 2m squares, divide the artwork into squares and number them. We then made simple 2m square wooden frames clad in polythene sheet and recruited local labour to draw their own square according to the corresponding number and reference. This is a traditional scenic art technique for painting complicated backings. I could count the number of squares at the end of each day to work out the progress. After the recce, preparation and recruiting we were left with 14 days, on the field, till the shoot. The first turfs cut and laid were drying out fast, losing their colour and needed watering. It was difficult to get water to the site but bowsers were brought in together with green dye from Spook. The white stone was also a problem; there wasn’t enough, so we had to use a different type outside of the turf. Four twenty-ton trucks were needed to move it; in fact I think we used up all of South Africa’s stock! The centre of the soup bowl had large cauliflowers in and different coloured tree bark was used to do all the two-foot diameter nuts. Palm leaves were used for under the bowl and fake poppies for the red borders. There weren’t enough red poppies so we had to make our own with red material and wire. When completed the cherry picker wasn’t high enough to fully see the accuracy of our project so we were all very relieved when the director (Terence Stevens Prior) and producer (Tim Nunn) arrived by helicopter with beaming smiles to say it looked great, let’s shoot.

One of the most satisfying jobs I’ve been lucky enough to design, I was later told that had they done the whole thing on computer (CGI) in the UK it would have taken a week longer than us, “doing it for real”.