The food truck – Korean film's secret weapon
The food truck – Korean film's secret weapon
Food trucks are a regular feature on Korean film sets, keeping crews fed. When there are no lunchboxes or nearby restaurants available, along comes the food truck. It plays an important role, accommodating irregular mealtimes according to shooting schedules, feeding dozens of crew members and providing snacks during nighttime shoots.
Chinese actress Xu Jiao, star of recent film <Mr. Go>, revealed a love for food trucks, saying, “When I ate hot meals from the food truck on set, I felt I could overcome even the toughest experiences. I really like Korean cooking. I want to act in Korea again if I get the chance.” We caught up with Song Dae-chan, producer at ZIPCINEMA, and Lee Sung-hyeon of Hae O Rum Food Truck to hear what they had to say about Korean cinema's own meals-on-wheels service.
Song Dae-chan, producer at ZIPCINEMA;
producer of <Cold Eyes> and <Haunters>; production manager of <Jeon Woo Chi>
Over the last 10 years or so, the quality of Korean films has won recognition worldwide. This has happened thanks to a combination of award winning at various film festivals, overseas distribution and releases, and the emergence of the so-called “Korean Wave” as a broader cultural phenomenon. What, then, lies behind the strength of Korean films? Their diverse subject matter, their talented directors, the passionate performances of their actors. Above all, though, it must be the hard work put in by expert staff. And fuelling their Herculean effort and unparalleled concentration is the food truck.
Meal times are a matter of utmost concern on Korean film sets. There are basic set times, but the various events and irregularities of filming on location make it difficult to stick to them. The food truck was introduced around 15 years ago in order to seamlessly provide high quality meals for crews as and when needed.
In the case of <Jeon Woo Chi>, on which I worked as production manager, we used the food truck a lot because of the large amount of outdoor shooting for the historical parts. The truck generally comes into its own in places where getting a meal is otherwise difficult, like on set or in the mountains and fields that feature in historical dramas. When filming takes place on a set, a space is provided to set up the food truck and for crew to eat. If filming takes longer because of issues with the actors' schedules or inadequate preparation, meal times can be changed accordingly and with flexibility. The truck can usually whip up a meal with just 30 minutes' notice.
The food truck is also used in various other places in addition to sets and outdoor locations: the film <Cold Eyes>, on which I worked as a producer, was filmed almost entirely in central Seoul but we made good use of the food truck. We filmed for two days in old “office-tels” (small rooms for rent) in the inner city area around Cheonggyecheon Stream and Dongdaemun Market. We had both day shoots and night shoots. Since we were in the city center there were plenty of restaurants nearby, but they were all so busy that they had no free seats. It was hard for us to find a place for several dozen crew members to eat together at once. So the production team found a separate space to park the food truck and we ate our meals there. Effectively, we created a new restaurant in the centre of Seoul exclusively for the crew of <Cold Eyes>. They even made us snacks when we filmed through the night, so we were able to get on with our work without worrying about our food supply.
Food trucks can be hired to provide just one meal a day in the Seoul region, but outside Seoul the basic condition for a hire contract is at least two meals a day. Typical prices are 6,000 won for a meal, 5,000 for a snack and a demand that at least 60 orders must be made. If the price per meal is raised and higher quality meals arranged, contracts can be agreed for fewer than 60 people. Menus can be adjusted in advance and classier meals provided at extra cost. If filming takes place outside the capital, fuel and accommodation costs for the food truck and its staff must also be paid. When filming outside the capital for long periods of time, the food truck stays for the whole duration, just like other crew members, providing high quality meals.
Around 15 food trucks are currently in operation in the Korean film industry. They are diverse in character and include qualified Japanese cuisine specialists, chefs from renowned restaurants and former hotel cuisine directors. Popular trucks must be reserved in advance. They are considered an important part of the crew from the beginning of production onwards.
Food trucks can take orders for special types of food as well as regular menus. A wide variety of special dishes is available, including orders such as boyangsik, a variety of Korean “tonic foods” with health-boosting ingredients. When we were filming <Cold Eyes>, actor Jung Woo-sung's fan club even arranged another food truck to cook samgyetang, a traditional type of boyangsik made from chicken boiled with ginseng and other special ingredients, for the crew. At times like this, the food truck is an important presence at film shoots and a source of real pleasure to crews.
Interview: Lee Hyeon-seung, Hae O Rum Food Truck
*Hae O Rum is a Korean word meaning 'sunrise'
Q How long have you been providing food truck services, and on which films have you worked?
It's been seven years now. We've worked on lots of films, including <A Good Day to Have an Affair>, <White Night>, <My Father>, <Perfect Game>, <Battlefield Heroes>, <Blades of Blood>, <Masquerade>, <The Housemaid>, <War of the Arrows>, <The Grand Heist>, <Battle of Myeongnyang> and <The Face Reader>. We're currently working on the set of <To The Grave>.
Q Can you tell us about any particularly memorable film sets or episodes?
The cast and crew of <Masquerade> always had their meals exactly on time, which doesn't happen with other films. I remember it because we worked with all of the crew, every day, from start to finish.
Q What's the largest number of people you've ever cooked for?
On the set of <Battlefield Heroes>, we fed up to 410 people entirely by ourselves.
Q Have you every worked on a film set with foreign cast and crew? Did you have to cook them different food? Can you cook for foreign diners with religious dietary requirements?
There were Muslim actors on the set of <Haunters>, so we cooked vegetarian food for them. We've also cooked without certain ingredients for crew members with allergies to them. We sometimes cook separate dishes for those with religion or health-related dietary requirements.
Q What can you cook apart from Korean food?
We can cook just about anything – Western, Chinese, Korean, various snacks – as long as it doesn't require ingredients that are too expensive or hard to find.
Q It must be a hard job and sometimes you have to work through the night – what do you get out of it?
The best times are when the staff eat everything we serve them and then tell us how much they enjoyed it. I feel great when I see staff who had been cold, hungry and tired rubbing their bellies and smiling again after we've fed them.
Hae O Rum contact details:
Lee Hyeon-seung - email: firstname.lastname@example.org / cellphone: 010 2288 3656