photo credit: Lori Greig
A large part of the unhealthiness pervasive on sets is the diet of crew members. When you have sour skittles and twizzlers constantly in supply at the craft services table and keep yourself awake by chugging Red Bulls every hour, you aren’t treating your body kindly.
And it can catch up to you — you get tired, sluggish, irritable and even, well, fatter.
There are definite advantages to eating healthy, but it’s hard to make that adjustment when you’re in the fast-paced production world. Still, even the smallest steps towards eating healthier on set are better than no steps at all.
So let’s take a look at some tactics to help yourself be healthy the next time you swing by crafty.
10 Tips for Healthy Eating as Below-the-Line Crew
Healthy eating and the concepts that define it are nothing new to us, but applying them within the context of filmmaking is a whole different challenge. These are ten tips I’ve drummed up from my experience (and struggles) with the temptations of junk food on the film set.
1. Don’t Make Crafty Your Hangout Spot
As tempting as it is, don’t let craft services become the de facto hangout for your department. Meet in a staging area, at a truck, or somewhere else off-set. There’s only so long you can stand by the crafty table before your stomach starts to control your hands.
2. Portion Food to Control Your Appetite
Modest portions spaced throughout a day are much healthier than huge meals once or twice a day.
While production only breaks for lunch halfway through the day, you can still munch on food every few hours or so to curb your appetite. This will help you avoid a massive pile of food on your plate during the traditional lunch break after 6 hours.
3. Fill No More Than Two Plates at Lunch
While modest portions throughout the day is ideal, sometimes it’s not practical or you still end up hungrier than a hippo.
If you do want to have a big lunch, limit the trips you take through the catering line to two. Anything more than that will make you feel sluggish and is likely to be overeating.
4. Lay Off the Late Night Snacks/Drinks
On a feature film I worked on, the camera crew and I had a bad habit of going to Sonic at the end of every day. As a result, I must have gained closed to 15 lbs. — no joke.
Eating before you go to bed is a big health no-no and though a long day can leave you hungry, it’s better to go to bed on an empty stomach and eat a healthier breakfast in the morning so you have all day to digest it.
5. Speak Up for Healthier Food
Many craft services crew are willing to take requests — their goal is to keep the crew fed and happy.
If there is a particular healthy snack you like, don’t be afraid to ask them for it. It’s likely other crew who are hesitant to ask would also like healthier alternatives to the usual candy and trail mix faire.
As a follow-up, don’t be intimidated when production tries to order the same thing for everyone. For instance, if they’re ordering pizzas and ask if that’s OK, politely ask if you can have a salad or pasta instead. Most productions are willing to accomodate.
6. Drink Lots of Water
Besides the obvious benefit of preventing dehydration, water is incredibly beneficial to the amount of energy you have and your ability to exert maximum amount of effort.
And in the film industry, every little bit of extra effort makes a big difference.
7. Eat Lots of Water
By this I don’t mean eat the water bottles, I mean eat foods that contain a lot of water. Why? Because foods with high H2O content are more filling, so you will consume less calories while feeling more full.
Here is a list of foods with high water content shown as a percentage:
- Lettuce (95%)
- Watermelon (92%)
- Broccoli (91%)
- Grapefruit (91%)
- Milk (89%)
- Orange Juice (88%)
- Carrot (87%)
- Yogurt (85%)
- Apple (84%)
Based on these figures, you can already implement some choices to have a profound effect on your healthy filmmaking lifestyle: trade coffee for orange juice, load up on any salads offered for lunch, and make your crafty snack of choice a fruit or yogurt (if not available, see tip 5).
8. Drink Coffee, But Not All At Once
The film industry might as well be sponsored by Starbucks. It seems no set operates without crew ingesting a few gallons of black gold every morning.
While I’m no coffee drinker (Diet Coke, please), WebMD seems to think a cup of joe has benefits:
Coffee may be one of the world’s most popular pick-me-ups, and evidence suggests it works — at least in the short-term. Caffeine steps up the body’s metabolism, temporarily improving mental focus and energy. Frequent mini-servings will keep you alert and focused longer than a single large dose.
So you’re safe to have that cup of coffee first thing in the morning when you arrive on location, but try to keep it a Short instead of a Venti.
9. Always Eat Breakfast
It may seem counterintuitive to eat more to be healthy, but it’s a well-known fact that breakfast is the most important meal of the day (didn’t you ever listen to your Mother?)
Eating a well-portioned breakfast will boost your energy (for lifting that camera gear) and boost your mood (for dealing with upset DPs). It will also help your appetite stay reasonable and keep your stomach from growling during those early-morning room-tone recordings.
10. Stand Up for a 30-Minute Lunch
Far too often on film sets we as crew are stripped of the precious 30-minutes during the day when we get to eat lunch. Whether it’s because a producer says to “work while you eat” or a 1st AD encourages a shorter meal time to stay on schedule, you have to stand up for the full 30 minutes.
There are numerous health benefits to a full mealtime: less stress while eating = less weight gain, a longer meal allows you to eat slower which causes you to eat less, and you will be happier being able to relax and savor the food you eat rather than gorge on it.
At the very least if you can’t get a full 30 minutes for lunch, demand a moments time to sit down and eat. Nobody should have to schlep cable while eating pizza at the same time if they don’t want to.
Healthy Eating Will Help Your Film Career
It’s not easy to stay healthy in the middle of a shoot. The stress, pressure, and chaos of a production can sometimes lead to overeating, undereating, or just eating junk food in general.
But if you give yourself a few moments pause before each trip by crafty and each meal on set, you can exponentially increase your healthiness and benefit from more energy, a more positive attitude, and a greater work ethic — all things that will help you love your job and get hired for more gigs.
I know it’s tough — trust me, I’ve been guilty many times of gorging on whatever candy crafty puts out at 2 AM on night shoots — but you can’t deny the tangible benefits of eating healthier. Even if you only take one piece of advice from this article, you will be better off than you were before.
And, if all else fails, well, maybe you should transition to a film job that doesn’t require heavy lifting and is conducive to sitting down a lot — like a producer :P