Monday Prescriptions – Why Filmmaking Is Like Cooking

Hello Film Doctor friends.

We hope you’re ready to take on a new working week, challenging yet rewarding. Got anything ‘cooking’?


Film Doctor cooking pot


And we’re not only speaking metaphorically of your forthcoming plans/projects – the Film Doctor team would like to suggest that there is a parallel between cooking and filmmaking.  


The Recipe

Any cookbook has its staple recipes – ones that are passed on from generation to generation, ones that make up the basis of the nation’s traditional cuisine and food legacy, ones that never get old. However, every cook adds their own little something to it.  By changing one ingredient or adding “that extra special something”, the dish takes on a new life.  Film ‘recipes’, (i.e. the so-called formulas) are also “the staples” of storytelling.  However, you are not obliged to follow them. In filmmaking, you can follow blindly the tried and tested formulas, hoping for a safe bet, but you can also try to reinvent ‘the recipe’, by adding or taking out a certain component.


The Ingredients vs The Chefs

If you use a stock cube or if a master chef uses the stock cube – do you think you’d get the same dish? Unlikely. Even following the same recipe and using the same ingredients, you will likely get different results – someone with years of experience, someone with a penchant for experimenting, someone who’s never boiled an egg before, etc. So, while it is true that exquisite dishes require exquisite ingredients, it is not entirely true that the quality of the ingredients makes the dish.  A skilful chef can put even simpler stuff to extraordinary use.  Speaking plainly, you can have bangers & mash or you can bangers & mash. 

Filmmakers sometimes excuse their work with the lack of certain amount of funds or equipment – however, these are all merely execution tools.  The tools can be better or worse, but it’s the ability to operate those tools that matters. Once you’re given the tools, how you use them, depends on your skills. And the lack of certain skills cannot be made up for by even the most high-end camera. It all comes back to YOU.


The Kitchen

This is, of course, where the magic happens.  But it doesn’t happen out of thin air – there is preparation and labour division, adhering to certain order, roles and hierarchy.  In the same way, a film set is where the movie is brought to life. Both scenarios involve orchestrated, collaborative work and recognition of each others’ roles.


The Restaurant Management

Chefs might create the wonders in the kitchen, but who runs the restaurant? If the management is not right, they won’t hire the right staff. They won’t hire the right chef. They won’t provide the chef with the best possible products and utensils – or in other words – tools, to create his/her signature dishes. Similarly, a Producer and Production Office team look after the ‘cooking pot’ of a film set. If you’re producing, you MUST take responsibility. If you’re directing, make sure you lock-in with a producer who can really run everything.


The Satisfied Customer

The hospitality industry exists for customer comfort and satisfaction – or so it should, at least. The number one goal of every masterful chef is a product of high standard, that also pleases the customer.  The number one goal for filmmakers? Find the audience for their film. Find it BEFORE you ‘open the restaurant’/make the film – because then you can manage your expectations and budget accordingly.


‘Monday Prescription’ No.99 – A recipe executed by different master chefs will always have a slightly different flavour. Any film formula/genre/idea executed by different filmmakers will always see a different realisation. Discover the ‘ingredients’ that work best for your ‘dishes’ and become a master chef of those.


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Any questions/thoughts/experiences of your own??? Leave a comment below!
Have a great week!
The Film Doctor Team
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