Craft services, better known as crafty, is truly the hub of the film set. It’s where producers hob-knob with the talent, where extras flock when not featured on screen, and where everyone can come together for a nice bagel and coffee in the morning. A good craft services table is certain to keep a crew happy.
Remember that, like all free food, just because it’s free doesn’t mean it has to be eaten. It isn’t a competition, though there definitely are winners and losers. At any one time, craft services will usually have an assortment of healthy food like vegetables and crackers as well as some junk food like Doritos and candy. Some of those selections tend to be stripped away quickly and it’s not hard to guess which ones.
I was on a set once where the craft services girl used to buy big bags of candy and set them out in bowls. On one particular day, I was standing next to the key grip who had just returned from the bathroom. Which brings me to my first point before I move on:
Crafty Tip #1: Plan routes around the craft services table
If you aren’t already doing this, I’m sorry but “you’re amateur” as Christian Bale would say. Going to the bathroom, checking on downloads, getting something from the truck/van, or going to speak to someone are all great excuses to make a trip near craft services. When possible, plan the route to wherever you’re going to loop near the craft services table. For bonus points and double dipping, make this happen on both ends of the round trip. Of course, if where you’re going is extremely time sensitive, this is a risky bet, but if you’ve scoped out the layout of the table beforehand, you might be able to swoop by and snag a goodie.
Anyways, back to my story: The key grip had just returned from his trip to wherever, which was probably an excuse to run by crafty anyway. In his hands he was holding solid gold a.k.a. sour skittles. After munching on a few, I saw him get on the radio and relay an important message, “Attention guys, there are sour skittles at crafty right now. I repeat, sour skittles.” He then switched channels to the electricians and sent out the warning call again. One by one I saw the G&E guys drop like flies and make their way to craft services. This is important to note because you should…
Crafty Tip #2: Always get there before the grips
Grips, by their nature, tend to be big, burly fellows (I do, however, want to appropriately give shout-outs to women grips who also do an excellent job). I think this comes about from the tasks the job demands — hauling heavy gear, lifting, rigging, etc. I could never be a grip because I’ve tried lugging those carts of sandbags around with disastrous results. So, more respect to the men and women who are able to move dirt better than I.
Because their job is so physical and because the positions are often filled by bigger lads, they tend to ransack the crafty table like Vikings storming a Medevil village. I remember after the sour skittle incident the crafty girl telling me she had to purchase almost two to three times as many bags of the candy to keep up with the consumption. As soon as she put them out and the call made it around set, the bowl was empty. It also doesn’t help that the grip department is often one of the largest on a set and they band together. Don’t get caught behind them or there might not be much left. There is a way around this, however, and that is to…
Crafty Tip #3: Keep a stash
At first keeping a stash sounds suspicious and I’ll admit, it is a bit like keeping candy bars in a trunk at fat camp (Heavyweights anyone?) But this is one of the smartest things that can be done on a set. As a camera assistant, I am not always able to duck away to crafty and there are times where I get hungry. So I will sometimes take a few goodies here and there and keep them tucked in my Cinebag, bottle buddy or pouch.
Now I don’t recommend transplanting all of the food craft services offers into your kit bag, just a few things here and there for the times when hunger is slowing down the pace of the job. Cereal bars, candy bars, and bags of chips are the best to keep around. They’re mobile, self-contained, and can be eaten quickly. But the stash is also something that can keep you popular among your department, meaning…
Crafty Tip #4: If your boss likes it, definitely keep a stash
Sometimes people joke that the way to a woman’s heart is through her belly. The idea is to send her chocolates or take her to a spectacularly delicious dinner. Well, the concept works the same on a film set with the heads of the departments. In the case of camera, that’s the director of photography (DP), but this works for almost any department head. If you whip out their favorite food in a time of extreme need (i.e. stress or the 16th hour), the department head will suddenly don rose colored glasses on your work.
The key is early on in the shoot to make a trip to crafty and ask them if they would like anything to eat or drink. Keep doing this until they reveal something that they particularly are fond of. Bonus tip here, if they say they aren’t sure what they want, always bring back options. It’s better than choosing for them unsuccessfully. I digress, however, and the point is that if they like something that crafty is keeping in stock, have it in stock for yourself too. I worked with one DP who always liked to have gum after lunch. So everyday, the camera PA and I made sure to have gum and volunteer it to him after lunch before he asked. Of course, it’s hard to predict what crafty will have and if the grips get to it first, well, you’re doomed, so do yourself a favor and…
Crafty Tip #5: Become friends with whoever is in charge of craft services
On low budget shoots, crafty is usually more low key and run by a production assistant who has never done it before. This makes it easier to get an “in” with them. On bigger budget shoots, the person is likely more experienced, busier and more likely to pick up on the nuanced approaches to get privileged access to the food table. If possible, however, make this friendship on set count. And when I mean become friends with craft services, I don’t mean friendly, I mean develop a relationship with them. This is good for two reasons: one, it’s simply nice to make friends and whatnot but also, two, you’ll get the hook up.
“The hook up” can include advance notification of food or it can let you place requests for certain foods on set. Now most sets will already let you place requests, but they don’t always come to fruition unless it’s an issue of health or allergies. This way, with a newly developed friendship, the foods that are wanted by your department head or yourself come to crafty and subsequently your kit bag. At this point, you can either be a selfish hoarder or do the more altruistic thing and…
Crafty Tip #6: Offer food to other members of the crew
Much like offering food to a boss will score high marks, offering food to the rest of the crew will ratchet yourself up a few notches on the respect ladder. Plus, it’s just plain kind. This doesn’t have to be food from a stash, but if you are making your way to crafty, offer up to bring stuff back for anyone. It’s polite and will get you in good graces with the rest of the crew. As a camera assistant, things like this have often resulted in grips making courtesy rigs on exterior dolly shots on scorching hot days. Interdepartmental snacking is great for fostering team chemistry and good will among the crew. This kind of team building can get a little out of hand though with everyone offering everyone else food when they go to crafty, which is why this last and final tip is so crucially important:
Crafty Tip #7: Beware of the ‘itis’
Otherwise known as “food coma,” the “itis” is that sinking feeling of tiredness and fullness that bestows itself upon the most gluttonous of us all. It is simultaneously satisfying and crushing and on a set, it can be stifling. It messes with efficiency, attitude and sometimes will unforgivably cause an emergency “10-2.” Beware of this killer of energy and the way it is brought on: by eating too much. Craft services is a wonderful thing on sets because it is free food, but it can be abused. Don’t forget that in addition to sour skittles, muffins and carrot sticks, the production will actually serve a meal too. The itis can strike swiftly with veritable force, so be cautious when moving onto bagel number three.
Craft services is a godsend for hungry crew members and it’s fruits of giving are often bountiful and delicious. I admire the people who run craft services for their ability to keep up with the high demand for scrumptious snacks in such a fast paced atmosphere. Remember that being talented at scoping out the craft services table is a skill that can take many productions to acquire. At first, you may find yourself lost in the choices, but eventually, after much practice, you can become an expert in the gastronomical art of crafty.