What's For Dinner Gerty?

One of the things we really had fun with in Moon was designing Sam’s' daily living routine on the Sarang facility. Originally we were going to have him eating all his meals in pill form like a proper space-man of the future, but we also wanted to do a shot where we showed a massive amount of stored food, and a cupboard full of pills just isn't that dramatic. We opted to put this into the "clone-room" shot, where. if you look closely, you'll see one side of the corridor is stored Sam clones in drawers and the other side of the corridor is full of stacked food containers stretching off into the distance.

At the start of the shoot we wasted a couple of hours one morning trying to get a shot with the practical Gerty small-robotic arm lifting a box out of the fridge but it looked rubbish as everything was wobbling. My biggest pet peeve in films is wobbly props, I hate them. I absolutely love the film "Starship Troopers" but there's one bit in it that annoys the shit out of me. During the funeral scene where they eject the casket into space, watch the conveyor belt. It's wobbling all over the place and it looks cheap and rubbish and shouldn't be in there. It's supposed to be a dramatic, sombre moment but the "Prisoner Cell-Block H" level of set-building totally ruins the whole scene for me. I really didn't want anything wobbling in Moon and puppeteering the practical Gerty Arms was the main area of risk for this. The arms weren't built to be moved, only positioned and then left alone. We got quite a bit of movement out of these using simple fishing-wire puppetry, but some of the things we tried simply didn't look good and we burnt through quite a bit of time trying to get extra shots out of these prop arms as we couldn't afford any more CG.

In the original script, all of Sam’s' food interactions and eating happened in the rec room. I designed in a pair of food dispensers into the original CG base concept design, which then evolved into the stacked food units which we see in the final film. You can see from this concept image that the kitchenette-area was also different and a bit more sleeker. Bits and pieces of the base were tweaked as we started physically building it but generally you can see the final set was very close to the CG designs.

Duncan and I had a take-away around the corner from where we were living in Chelsea called "Mexicali" which is up on the Fulham road about five minutes walk from the house. It's a little restaurant that does Mexican/Californian food with the idea being you can stuff your face like you're eating Mexican but feel healthy like you're living an "ideal" Californian lifestyle. When this place opened it was a great source of excitement and protein for us and we used to get take-away quesadillas and burritos probably three or four times a week. When we were shooting, we were getting back from the studio very late and as neither of us could be arsed cooking we'd just go to Mexicali. So it quickly turned into a routine where we'd rock up at half nine every night and order the same delicious and actually quite healthy food. Cheese is healthy right? It's full of vitamin C.

The Mexicali takeaway cartons were these nice, cardboard-segmented boxes and Duncan liked the look of them so we started saving them to use in the film. We started making a pile of them in the kitchen to use on the set. They ended up appearing in the two fridge units on the kitchenette area and also downstairs in the clone room. This is the photo I took of the first time I took the boxes we had from home and stacked them in the fridge unit to see what they'd look like.

As we started designing the clone-room set it became clear we were going to need a few hundred of them so we asked the Mexicali guys where we could get some and put in an order. So Sam’s' space food was served in our favourite take-away boxes. When the Mexicali guys asked us what we wanted the boxes for and we explained we were making a film and wanted to use them in it, they were really chuffed and started refusing our money when we went up for food. This was an unexpected turn of events and Duncan and I used to talk about how guilty this made us feel even though we'd just put the money we would have otherwise paid in the tip jar. Funny how people being really nice to you can make you feel a bit weird sometimes. If you find yourself in the area, pop in and say hello to Cesar from me. If you look at the credits at the end of the film you'll see him in there, and this is the reason why.

When I was designing the graphics for the food-modules and boxes, as usual, I was making it all up as I went along. I thought I'd have a bit of a play and put a couple of jokes in there and so these are the labels I designed for the fridge/food storage area. When I was designing the logos for the actual food containers I didn't have much time, and so I used outlines to describe the food. I was happy with the end result as the graphic design language and conventions that I had established around the base tended to use quite simple shapes and so I didn't want to go into too much detail on these little illustrations in case they started to look out-of-place.

I didn't think they'd be especially visible in camera and were mostly intended for background detail but a few things like this around the base got picked up and became easily readable which made me laugh when I see these references come up in trivia forums on the net. As you can see, Sam’s' food is supposed to come in six different flavours. Although if you actually watch him eating in the film you'll notice that he only ever eats beans and trifle. No wonder he's in such a shit state at the beginning of the film. Imagine eating only beans and trifle for three years. It'd be like being stranded at a three year olds birthday party in space and you're the only one that bothered to turn up. We wanted to hint at him being "stuck in a rut", and this is why when Sam 1 is recovering from the fight he's spoiling himself by eating all the trifle. When you're shooting with things like this you have to actually stop the crew from eating things you're going to need for shooting as if you don't keep an eye on them they'll simply vanish. I shouldn't admit this, but I actually had some of the trifle myself. Don't tell anybody. It was raspberry and cream and it was delicious. Space food totally rocks.

We had a brilliant little machine on-set that we used to seal all the food into little packages. It had a kind of transparent plastic pipe that sealed itself into segments with a heating element and we used that to make all the space-food portions. The plastic tubing was quite hard to come by and took a few weeks to get delivered so once we started shooting, if we ran out of it we had a problem as we wouldn't be able to bag any more space-food. We just managed to get the footage we needed, and we used up every last piece of this tubing on takes where we see Sam opening a packet on-camera. It might seem trivial, but this was actually quite stressful as every time Sam opened a packet it felt like another step closer to impending doom. When you make ambitious films on insanely low budgets you'll find that all sorts of seemingly trivial things will become a big deal and start stressing you out. But at least you can always just kick back and put your feet up on the moon base with some delicious beans and trifle.