Food in Film

Q&A from Yuki Sugiura – unearthed® food in film 2014 winner

Back in April we announced that Yuki Sugiura was the winner of the unearthed® food in film winner with her beautiful animation ‘Florentines’- see it below. Well she has taken some time out of her busy schedule to have a chat to us about her inspiration for making the film and how she got started in film-making.

Tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m originally from Tokyo, but have been based in London for more than 12 years. I did a BA Joint Honours in Visual Arts, specialising in Ceramics and Graphic Design. I didn’t actually study photography, although got really into B&W photography in the dark room they had in the basement.

How long have you been working in the industry, what is your background?
After graduating college in 2000 I did a couple of months assisting a food photographer. I then returned to Japan where I worked in various industries, eventually getting some photographic commissions. Two years later I came back to London and freelanced as an assistant for nearly 5 years working for a number of top photographers in the food industry and other areas. I was even lucky enough to work with Tessa Treager (winner of the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the year 2014 lifetime award) on an advertising project ten years ago. I now mainly shoot food, interior and travel for UK, Japanese and American clients. But I love and am obsessed with food and cooking.

When did you first get into film?
Three years ago, making a series of cooking demo videos for a cookbook I shot with a TV chef Johnnie Mountain. It was my first time ever to film something so i had to learn and guess things as we went but with the help of a technical guy we managed well. This animation is the third film I’ve ever made and the second stop-motion. The first stop-motion was also for the Guardian, similar but simpler piece, showing a salad recipe. We learnt a lot from it.

You can do a lot with the simplest idea, but the concept/story is the most important part. And for me, it’s got to be fun and almost bit silly. A good sense of humour is essential.

Is film your main job or a hobby?
I’m a full-time still photographer but with a big interest in moving images. I would like to direct/make more films in the future, that’s for sure! About the entry How did the film come about? Rachel Vere, the picture editor of the Guardian wanted to make an animation to promote Cook and Ruby Tando’s baking column so they obtained funding from the Guardian Media.

How long did the film take to make?
Originally we booked 2 days to shoot (which is still short for the amount of work), but due to other commitments we only had 1 free day so we had to shoot in just that. We started at 8am and finished at 2am next morning (a solid 18 hours) with very few breaks. There was a a lot of prepping before filming, plus editing and music to be added. All in all, more than 4 weeks from the start to the finish, which is still quite quick!

Who was on the team? Yuki Sugiura and the team accept their food in film award from Jay Rayner and unearthed's Simon Day

  • Me, the photographer – setting the scene, shooting the cover, doing lighting and moving props
  • Lee, the animator – he made the original story board and edited the film
  • Rachel, the stylist and art direction – she came up with the feel of the story and got the props to go with it
  • Valerie the food stylist – she tested the recipe and prepared the food for each steps
  • Evan, sound designer – he put the music afterwards once the film was edited

We were all new to this so it was sometimes trial and error but we had such a great spirit of collaboration between us all. We had a storyboard to keep us on track but every single shot was discussed and spontaneously animated reflecting our opinions and suggestions. What was the hardest/most difficult part about making the film? Lack of time? If we had more time and money we could have paid more attention to details and add more cool moves to the Florentine – which were not the most visually easy thing to animate. Stop motion picture is a very slow process, but we did it super-fast because we were forced to

Do you need any special equipment to make animation films?
A camera, lights, computer, animation and editing programs. And a lot of patience, if doing stop motion pictures especially!

Any top tips for making animations?
You can do a lot with the simplest idea, but the concept/story is the most important part. And for me, it’s got to be fun and almost bit silly. A good sense of humour is essential.

What gadget can you not do without when you’re photographing/filming?
A camera of course!!

Where did you hear about the competition and the unearthed food in film award? How has winning the competition helped your career?
I saw it online. I don’t really know yet but definitely a great thing to have an award. I’m in talks with a food producer at the moment that is really keen to make an animation with me so that’s really exciting.

And now for some foodie questions

What is your favourite dish?
Unagi – a very special grilled Eel on rice you can only eat in specialised Unagi restaurants in Japan. It’s expensive so is a treat for us but not a pretentious meal ever, and unbelievably delicious when done nicely.

What’s your most memorable meal?
That’s a tough question to answer and to pick one!! My mums’ cooking is pretty memorable though. Always tasty, healthy and full of her thoughts and love for us.

Where in the world would you most like to eat?
I don’t like to admit this, but Japan. To me it’s the best cuisine and we have so much versatility. There’s a lot of regional food I’ve only read about and one day I’d like to travel more in Japan to taste it and get to know the culture around it.

For more details about Yuki, visit Jane Patick’s (her agent) site

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