Down on the farm…

Posted on by client

Waitrose has recently aired a new television advert which highlights the higher welfare standards of its outdoor bred pigs, whilst promoting Save 1/3 on Essential Shoulder Steaks.

The filming of the advert on farm was co-ordinated by a number of the team at BQP and here, Bill Playford BQP Project Fieldsperson takes us on the journey…

Following a wash out at the first attempt of filming, David Wright’s farm in Suffolk was chosen for the second attempt.

The brief was for the 40 second advert to be shot in one take showing the farm, farmer, Heston Blumenthal, and a sunset. This on its own would be simple enough providing the weather was favourable but throw into the equation the stars of the advert – live pigs that were required to act, and anything could happen!

Tuesday: the set up

  • Set designer and his construction team arrived to build the stage which was to be erected in a field of barley; the stage was 30’ long, 9’ wide and 9’ high at the back.
  • Four 90kg gilts were selected, split into two pairs and then pampered and preened so that they became used to human attention – apples are a great ice breaker.
  • Guide various production crews to and from the film site, ‘chatting’ to the pigs and generally keeping busy on the farm.

Wednesday: a military operation

  • The production company had their priorities right because the first vehicles to turn up were the dining bus and toilet truck (otherwise known as the honey wagon).
  • Then came an industrial size generator, cameras, lighting, a wind machine if needed, various 4 x 4 vehicles etc.
  • The morning was spent building the camera track and putting the finishing touches to the stage, setting up the lights and putting up gazebos to provide shade from the sun.
  • 10.30am – everybody stopped for breakfast, it was then that you realise how many people are involved. There were about 50 people on site each with a specific job to do.
  • After breakfast there was the main unit call where rehearsals took place to work out lighting, camera positions and timings.

The stars were treated to a shower and full body wash courtesy of Howard Revell, Helen Whitney and myself. By the time we had finished we had four of the cleanest, freshest smelling pigs in Suffolk, completing the spa treatment we bedded them on wood shavings to keep them clean and help exfoliate some of that dry, flaky skin, a film stars nightmare  – plus they were treated to more apples.

As it got near to the pigs big moment we moved them down to the film set. We penned two of them under a gazebo to keep them in the shade and the others were left in the pig barn.

The editor wanted to do close up shots of a pig on her own eating from a trough before the actual filming. One of the pigs had a small scratch under eye so unfortunately we couldn’t use her, but the other one stepped in for her big moment.

Getting her to the stage involved a 50 metre walk through a barley field, over the camera tracks, and a big step up onto the stage. Howard, Helen, myself and Liz Van Hee (a BQP vet), guided, coaxed and encouraged the pig to the stage.

She had to be turned round and was then given access to the food in the trough, she started to eat but was understandably was a bit wary until Howard tipped water onto the food, she immediately settled into eating, oblivious of anything else.

We stood back and various pictures were taken along with close up shots. She soon had her fill and decided to have a wander around the stage which was not a good idea as she must have eaten too much food because she put her foot through the floor, not once but twice! She was quickly ushered from the stage and guided back to the pen.

We decided to swap the pigs over for the key part of the filming which was not far off. While all this was going on the weather changed, it clouded over and poured with rain for about 30 minutes, it looked as though we would miss the crucial sunset scene.

We needn’t have worried as BQP fieldsman, Ray Last, assured us that it would clear out and we could carry on – sure enough he was right.

For the second time we guided the pig over to the stage, this time with the help of Ian Dennis (another BQP vet). All went well but this pig developed stage fright and was probably a bit shy about having an audience watch her while she ate. We swapped her, and for the third time we walked a pig through now a very wet crop of barley, the pig of course took her time which resulted in us getting very wet trousers. We were old hands at moving pigs by this time and quickly got her into position, put water on the food and stepped back.

It was at this point the cameraman decided to change film, so we had to stop her from eating while he replaced the film. This was a crucial time but it all went well with the pig eating while the camera rolled and filming took place – plus we also got the vital tractor driving off into the sunset shot.

Special thanks must go to Rob Mutimer, our Waitrose Supply Group producer, for standing in one spot on the stage for hours, being subjected to various costume changes and sweating under the lights.

Also big thanks to David Wright for allowing his farm to be taken over for three days and the extra work he put in to help the filming run smoothly.

Down on the farm