Behind the Scenes of a Bhg.com Food Video
By Amy Palanjian
We recently caught up with Culinary Specialist and Food Stylist, Sammy Mila, and Associate Digital Food Editor, Karla Walsh, on set at the Meredith Photo Studio in Des Moines while they were filming recipe videos for Bhg.com. Here, we chat about life behind the camera, the best parts of their job, and the surprising place they send any uneaten food at the end of the day.
BHG Insider: Sammy, what exactly does a food stylist do?
Sammy: A food stylist is someone who gets food camera ready! A hair stylist is to hair what a food stylist is to food. A little brush of oil here to get things looking hot, or a spritz of water to keep greens looking fresh—I've definitely gained a few tips and tricks up my sleeve throughout the years of prepping recipes to appear in print and online!
BHG Insider: And Karla, what's your role when it comes to creating videos for Bhg.com?
Karla: I help brainstorm the ideas that we think will resonate with followers and hit on current trends. We share these concepts with Sammy—then she runs with the ideas and brings them to reality. For example, I recently asked her for a unique twist on pigs in a blanket. She came up with a savory monkey bread-like creation, with cheese and hot dog-stuffed crescent rolls baked in a bundt pan and drizzled with ketchup and mustard!
Then, after the videos are filmed, we review and edit the produced version—determining when it needs to be sped up, slowed down, or have text captions altered.
BHG Insider: What does prepping for a video day look like?
Sammy: On a prep day, I will do a majority of the shopping in the morning (with major help from online grocery ordering!). I head back to the studio and meet my assistant around lunch. They will then follow the schedule and to-do list I've created—ranging from mise en place to cookie swaps—while I pull props and make note of any special shots.
BHG Insider: Wait—what's a "cookie swap"?
Sammy: If the shoot has a lot of necessary prep, I will get all the dry ingredients in a day early and have my assistant come in the morning of the prep day and start working. These will become "swaps", which are finished batches of the recipe that I can "swap" in during the shoot in place of the raw ones.
For example, my assistant will bake a batch of cookies the day before so they're cooled and ready on shoot day. During the shoot, I go through the motions of making the recipe and when it comes time to bake, I "swap" in the baked ones! It saves a lot time by not having to wait for the cookies to bake and cool.
BHG Insider: Karla, what do you do when you're on set watching the videos come together?
Karla: I keep an eye on the scripts for each video to ensure we're on track and have the correct copy ready to be added to the screen with each step. I also share ideas about surfaces, props, and beauty shots so we're sticking to our overall brand aesthetic.
BHG Insider: How many videos do you typically shoot in one day?
Sammy: On average we shoot about 6 to 8 "hands-and-pans" videos a day. It takes about an hour per video plus time to transition between recipes and beauty shots.
BHG Insider: And, important question, what happens to the food after you're done shooting it?
Sammy: We eat it!! In most cases we will share with the rest of the studio and have people package it up to take home! Everything we shoot is 100% edible! Rarely, will we throw food away—though we do if it's been sitting out too long.
And if there's food that we don't finish, it gets donated to a local farm to feed the chickens. (Well, everything except for chicken and eggs…we dispose of those separately.)
BHG Insider: What's the best part of your job?
Sammy: People say you eat with your eyes first, making people hungry through photos and videos is a daily challenge I happily accept! I love being able to play with food, make it look absolutely mouth-watering, and, of course, sneaking a bite or two after the shoot is over. And the "mmm" moments are the moments I look forward to the most. Bring on the cheese-pulls and caramel drizzles!