Casting Calls at Terhune Orchards

by Gary Mount

There are some amusing moments in our life on the farm but none so much as when the photo/video/commercial production people come to call.

At this point you all should know that whenever anyone asks anything, wife Pam says yes. Not necessarily the same response they would get from me.  For instance, when Guinness Book of World Records asked if we would host a photo shoot of the world champion pumpkin carver–that’s 24.03 seconds to carve a pumpkin–the answer was yes. Of course, it was Halloween time when things are pretty busy but then who is going to say no to 50 carved pumpkins an hour?

world record pumpkins 2005I am sure there are good photographers in the US, but this group just had to have a photographer from England–with two assistants–but after all, a ton of pumpkins carved in 3 hours, 33 minutes and 49 seconds cannot have just any old photographer. One thing we didn’t know was that the carver did not clean out the inside of the pumpkins–that was our job! One Ton!

Another group that got to Pam first wanted to film a segment of the show “Kitchen Nightmares.” The producers wanted to re-make a restaurant in Cranbury. The idea was to serve everything fresh-Jersey Fresh-in February. The people that do these shows seem to come from New York where all of the food grows in the supermarkets. Out here on the farm, providing produce in February was a challenge.  But we were one of the few farm markets open in the winter, so one day was spent shooting the farm store. By this time the producers knew who to ask when they wanted someone to set up a farmers market on Main Street in Cranbury, right in front of the restaurant.  Pam loaded up our truck and set up right in the middle of town. It looked great! Unfortunately, it had not been mentioned that none of the produce could actually be sold–no permits. But the story had a happy ending. The star chef of the show turned out to be a really nice guy and as far as we could see, and was 100% right about everything in the restaurant-especially when it came to the value of using our local fresh produce.  The show ended with him taking a bite of one of our apples and saying, “That’s a really good apple.” Having the show run again and again has not hurt.

Our biggest, best, most interesting casting call was when a company asked if they could shoot a commercial on the farm. Again, they got to Pam first. No matter that is was to be in mid-September, just about as hectic as it gets on the farm or that one whole day would be shooting in the farm store.

I say company, but really although there were about 200 people here for three days, only 2 actually worked for the company–really they were the company. Everyone else was, as we say in the farming game, “day haul.” There was a person for every possible job and then a backup person for that one. Even the person to comb the actors’ hair in-between takes had a backup!

Two very large trucks came and unloaded enough equipment to fill our driveway and parking area. When the farm store was filmed, nothing could be moved all day. Every item had to stay in exactly the same position. The production company paid for the extra farm store staff to greet each customer (after they navigated their way past the mountain of equipment), explain what was happening and then go around to the back of the store to fill their order.

The scenes in our kitchen were the most fun. First pictures were taken of the whole room. Then all visible items were packed up and stored in the trucks. Following that, we got to see what the advertising people thought should be in a “real” farmer’s kitchen. We did have to laugh when not one of the kitchen chairs matched another. After the shoot, some of the 200 people got out the pictures and replaced all of our stuff exactly as it was!

Every single item of equipment was used and all 200 people had their task. We soon learned that the most important person was the cameraman. Sort of like 95% of the Army existing to support the 5% who are the infantry. His every request brought immediate response. We also learned the value of the backup. On the last day, the cameraman became ill–actually had to go to the hospital. The backup who had sat around for two days came into his own and finished the job.

We got paid for the use of our farm–although I am sure it was a small fraction of the total cost. We had three days with some very nice people and our eyes were opened to whole new world.

We never got to see our farm in a national ad campaign. The product being advertised was a drug called Vioxx which was taken off the market shortly after the commercial was filmed.

Did I mention that I also learned to say “no” less often?