Feeding your Film Crew
I learned from shooting two independent features Consignment & In With Thieves that craft services is important. I can not stress enough the point of feeding your hardworking crew well as your budget can afford. Good food will go a long way to keeping your crew busting ass for the 12 hours or more a day it will take to get your indie film done. I always dedicate a nice bit of my production budget to quality craft services. It’s not the fare you’ll find on a Hollywood set, but everyone that has eaten on one of my film sets has never complained about the food. i know some filmmakers that say screw wasting any money over what is the bare minimum needed to keep the crew fed. I can put the money saved into another area of the movie more important. In my opinion their is no more important area than your film crew. It doesn’t matter if they are paid or volunteering their valuable time. The crew is the lifeblood of your production. i am in no way discounting the major importance of the cast, but the crew is their an hour or more before the first shot goes off and an hour or more after the last breaking down the equipment for that days shoot. Talents times vary from a couple of hours to an entire day depending on what’s on the days shooting schedule. Crew is always there working. Setting out good food shows that you respect your crew as people and appreciate their efforts. When days run long they’re much more likely to keep working past the 12 hours to make the day if they have been well fed.
I was on a shoot in Northern California that helped lead me down the road of discovery to realize feeding your film crew well is always a good thing. It was a well funded short being shot on 35mm. Production had sprung for a fully loaded 4 Ton Grip Truck, John Deere E & E Movie Quiet Generator, the rental of an incredible farm as the primary location, and hired a rock & roll German camera crew. The producer and director, who were married, gave a pretty damn good speech to the troops about how important the crew was to the production. Call times the next morning were 5:00 AM for crew and 6:30 AM for the cast working that day. I get to the set to find a lot of the crew is ticked off. The crew craft service table was set up with generic brand decaffeinated coffee, generic store bran powdered donuts, and gallons of an orange colored punch. Even though I don’t drink coffee I know it’s the eye opener for many a film crew. This was not the best start for production. We broke for lunch 2 hours late. Craft services was worse than the morning. You have a hungry crew that busted ass 2 hours past lunch to try the make days shot list and their shown to a table with a completely generic make your own sandwich set up. Production set out the exact same thing 3 days in row. This must have loaded up on generic stuff at a discount warehouse store.
That night at a local bar a lot the crew decided to let off some steam with a healthy session of drinking, pissing and moaning about the crap the crew was being fed. People were already spending money out of their own pockets to buy their lunch when anyone would go on a food run. I felt that was bad, but it worse when college kids working for free as grunt production assistants had to buy their own lunches or be stuck with the cold sandwich routine. We had a late call time the next day, so we stayed out drinking until the bar closed down. i kept listening to the rest of the crew vent about how much bullshit it was to expect us to work long days without showing the respect of putting out some decent food. On day 4 it all came to ahead. Crew pulled a 15 hour day. Production offered to buy everyone a dinner for their efforts. Dinner was pizza, which is cool if you haven’t been given a steady dose of cold sandwiches three days in a row. The German DP went ballistic and walked off the job with the entire camera crew. I had much respect for what they did. Production was shut down on day 5. It wasn’t a problem for cast because there were only four actors on set at any one time, plus they were given a per diem for lunch. Crew had to, for the lack of better term, eat shit sandwiches. Production finally woke up, put out real coffee, juice, and a mix of pasteries, and ordered take out to be delivered for lunch the rest of the production. Cutting corners on the craft service budget caused a wasted day of shooting that cost them extra on rental time. If you spare no expense on equipment make sure you’re taking care of your crew too.
I was hired by a low budget indie movie to shoot behind-the-scenes footage for the making of featurette they were going to add as a bonus to the DVD. Even though this was a indie flick with an unknown cast production felt it necessary to have separate craft services for cast and crew. I was by the the craft service table for cast when a dolly grip cruised by taking a cookie from the table on his way to grab some gear. The lead who at one time was a semi-regular on a popular daytime soap told the producer one of ‘carnies’ took cookies that he had brought for cast only. I could not believe how f@#cking petty this guy was. I see everyone from the production assistant to the lead in an independent film as a part of the team. I believe everyone should eat from the craft service spread. I learned a valuable lesson about the politics of craft services.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to put out decent craft services to keep your crew and cast relatively happy. I’ve learned you won’t please everyone with the food and beverages you put out each day, but if you show a genuine effort you’re trying to take care of the people on your film set it will go a long way in getting the most out of everyone. I have done my best on my movies CONSIGNMENT and IN WITH THIEVES to fed everyone well as my budget will allow. If I’m calling the shots on a film shoot I will never have different craft services for crew and cast. i feel the people that have been on set the longest hours should go to the head of line. I can’t say enough about the members of the crew on both film shoots. Everyday they gave their all. I’ve also been fortunate to have worked with a tremendous casts that brought no primadonna attitudes or egos to the set. i felt the least i could do is put out the best craft services I could afford. Always feed your crew and cast as well as you can.
I don’t want to go into specifics and plan a menu for your film shoot, but I do have some things to share that can help you with your craft services that I did on my two independent features CONSIGNMENT & IN WITH THIEVES.
1) Send an email out to crew and cast asking if anyone is vegetarian or allergic to anything?
2) Always serve quality coffee (regular & decaf) that is fresh and hot. If the coffee has been sitting change it out.
3) Don’t just offer sugary foods (candy, donuts etc.). Mix in whole wheat bagels, a veggie platter, and some fruit.
4) An industrial coffee maker is a must!
5) Always have more water than soft drinks.
6) Splurge for hot lunches as much as possible.
7) Do not buy expensive energy drinks, most of them end going home with people.
8) It’s always better to have too much than not enough
9) Don’t believe the hype that if you stuff your crew at lunch they won’t be worth a shit the rest of the day. That’s bull. On my shoots that one meal has to keep people going long hours.
10) If you can get someone willing to cook homemade meals do it.
A Sid Kali film is known for it’s provocative characters, authentic dialogue, and conflict filled plots. Sid Kali’s goal is to produce four in-house films a year while exploring joint efforts with producers and production companies that do not shy away from creating films that are intense and entertaining.
Sid Kali website
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