Sunday, September 16, 2007

Feeding Your Crew

As often as I can, I try to tell y'all about the things that people don't really think to tell you when you start in this crazy film game. The following post is just such a tidbit. It's an article I wrote two years ago that was originally printed in Student Filmmaker Magazine and is also expanded with even more practical tips in my new book, The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide. Enjoy...

Food is one of the great secrets of the pros. It has a tremendous psychological effect on the crew. When the big studios and production companies do a shoot there is always a “spread” of delicious food and a continuous supply of snacks, drinks, and coffee. Crewmembers often speak of three things when describing a particular project they’ve worked on: 1) the quality of the project, 2) the organization of the shoot and 3) the food. Good food is a standard part of the deal for all professional film and tv crews. It is (and should be) expected. I wish I could lean into the ear of every student filmmaker and shout this through a bullhorn:


This is one of those critical “little details” that so many new filmmakers overlook or save as an afterthought. Feeding your crew good food is extremely important, especially when they are working for free. In the long run, you will not save a dime by being cheap when it comes to food for your crew. (Oh you’ll save on the food itself, but you will lose immeasurable amounts in crew morale, energy-level, momentum, and attitude towards the shoot.) As a general rule, the more hell you put your crew through, the better your meals and snacks should be. The crew is the machine that creates your project. Food is the fuel that runs the machine. The better the food, the better your machine will run, the better your project will turn out. It’s that simple.


Food Strategies

Because guerrilla crews tend to be so small, catering usually isn’t a practical (or affordable) option. You will mostly be dependent upon local restaurants for meals. It is a vital part of pre-production to scout out and have menus from all the local restaurants. Both Yahoo ( and Google ( have excellent tools that search and list local restaurants. All you need is a zip code or city name. You can get restaurant phone numbers, addresses, and maps with a few keystrokes. Also, many restaurants now make their menu available online or would be happy to fax it to you. You can let the crew pick from the menu setting a dollar amount per person. An even simpler option, is to just order a variety of different dishes and serve them up buffet style.

If you’re feeding a large number of people, make sure you place your order at least a few hours ahead of time and tell them when you need it delivered or will be picking it up. I recommend you pick it up whenever possible, because delivery times can be unpredictable and it’s much easier to check and fix the accuracy of the order at the restaurant. Try to get free plates, cups, ice, napkins, and utensils when possible to save a little cash. Also, don’t forget to get receipts for your records!

Craft Services

The term craft services is just a Hollywood name for the snacks and drinks department. (Yes, craft services is a department.) You should have a craft services table (or box if you’re on the road) stocked at all times with a variety of high-energy and sugary foods and snacks, spring water, and drinks. Try to find out your crew’s favorite snacks ahead of time and keep plenty on-hand.

I know it may be tempting to save a few bucks, but stay away from generic food items. Name brand snacks and drinks are always better, even if it’s only psychological. Instead of giving them the very best, a table full of Chumps Ahoy chocolate chips and Tropican’t orange juice tells your crew that you care about them enough to get the absolute cheapest thing you can get away with. And your crew may, in return, give you the absolute cheapest effort they can get away with.

Apart from snacks and cold drinks, it is absolutely essential that you keep a fresh pot of coffee and hot water for tea on-hand at all times, morning, noon, and night. If food is the fuel of the filmmaking machine, then caffeine is the lubricant that keeps the parts moving and extends the life of your crew. Keep your filmmaking machine gassed up and lubricated and you will get noticeable results in performance and morale and a reputation as someone who takes care of their crew people.

If you have a sizeable crew, try to find a dedicated craft services person. A good craft services person will often be the most popular person on set. This is a perfect position for those eager friends and relatives that want to help out, but have no filmmaking experience. Their job is simply to keep the food and snacks flowing, help coordinate meals, and help clean up the mess afterward. It’s a great low stress position for someone that just wants to be a fly on the wall and observe. (*craft services photo: courtesy of


Taking Care of the Vegetarians

Personally, I’m a carnivore, but these days I have rarely done a shoot that didn’t involve at least one vegetarian or vegan (vegan = no meat, dairy, or egg products) crewmember. Make sure you survey the crewmembers ahead of time for vegetarian or other special dietary needs, so you’ll know how many veggie or special meals you’ll need daily. To make life easier find out what types of common dishes they do like and which local restaurants they prefer.

Vegetarians, and especially vegans, are sometimes treated like second-class citizens when it comes to mealtime on a film crew. However, do not ignore these crewmember’s dietary needs. I can tell you from experience that vegetarians will not want a salad or a simple side dish for every meal. It’s definitely harder to find menus that accommodate vegetarians, but you’ve got to put in the legwork to make it happen or else you will have some miserable souls on your crew and it will be reflected in their energy and work. Take care of these people and they’ll take care of you.


Peace, Love, and Video

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am vegetarian for animal rights, and i'll start to work in a cruise ship next month, I agree tottally with you, anyway till i know in crew mess we will find buffet so i think i wont have any problem, but definitively i would love that I can find a decilious soya meat fried with gravis, it will be my first time, so many people thinks that vegetarians just eat green vegetables like full lettuce hehe, that is not true, we like the hot real food, and definitively if i feel more confortable about it , i will show the best disposition to make a happy and better work!!!