No one wants to constantly replace or get sick from spoiled food.
Films and TV shows will try to use real food on-screen whenever possible, but there are several reasons why food stylists create prop food to be used as stand-ins. For example, you don’t want the ice cream to melt between takes. Or what if you are shooting a long scene with food that could quickly spoil and start to make the actors nauseous, as it did during The Texas Chain Saw Massacre?
While you can easily purchase prop food, you might find yourself needing a specific type of food or not having the budget to hire a fake food specialist. Thankfully, Diana Jeffra (known as Culina_Creative on TikTok) creates videos breaking down how she creates realistic fake foods for film and TV. From ice cream to milk that won’t spoil, here are some recipes for you to try out.
To make this fake ice cream, you’ll need:
- One bag of powdered sugar
- Two containers of ready-made frosting
- A bowl
- An ice cream scooper
- Parchment paper
Start by mixing the powdered sugar and two containers of ready-made frosting in a bowl. You can add food coloring or different colors of frosting if you are wanting a specific color of fake ice cream for your shoot. Once the dough becomes a shag texture, dump the dough onto a clean counter and knead into a ball. It will take a bit of time, but just keep kneading until you form a smooth ball of dough.
Once your dough is made, you can drag your finger across the surface to see if you are happy with the texture of the dough. If you are satisfied with the texture of your fake ice cream, use the ice cream scoop to form your scoops. Tap each scoop in your hand before placing it on the parchment paper to release any air pockets from the dough.
Your fake ice cream dough should last for 24 hours. After that, your ice cream dough might be too dry to mimic the sweet dessert. To add another layer of realism to your fake ice cream, you can brush heavy cream over the fake ice cream scoops to make it appear as if it is melting.
Milk is a tricky thing to have on set. To keep yourself from crying over spilled milk, here is what you'll need:
- A bowl
- Instant mashed potatoes
- Plastic wrap
- Wildroot Hair Groom Original
- Baby oil
Start by making your instant mashed potatoes and placing them into the bowl. Once the potatoes are made, cover them with a piece of plastic wrap. Unlike Styrofoam, mashed potatoes will take the shape of the container it's placed in and acts as a great structure of support for anything placed on top of it.
Since real milk won’t work for the shoot since it will make the contents soggy quickly, Diana suggested using Wildroot Hair Groom Original. Unlike glue, Wildroot won’t develop a film over time and will maintain its naturalistic appearance. Since Wildroot is thick, you can dilute it with a little bit of baby oil.
Place your contents over the plastic wrap and start to fill in the gaps with your Wildroot mixture. Once all of the gaps are filled, wait five minutes for the fake milk to harden. Once it’s stiff, you have a perfect bowl with fake milk that will stay fresh throughout the shoot.
Prop foods will always be around as long as there is food in film. Creating realistic prop food is definitely a talent that many of us will leave to the food stylists out there in the world, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to make our own fake creations for our small projects.
Creating a safe environment for your cast and crew is essential to having a smooth production, and it helps to stay within your production budget. Being able to create your own fake foods for your project will save you time and help you develop an impressive skill to add to your resume.
Do you have any fake food recipes or tips you’d like to share? Let us know what they are in the comments below!