A film crew, like an army, marches on its stomachs.
I’m pretty sure most people outside of the industry, don’t know what that credit “Craft Service” means when they see it scroll by. This job done well makes a greater difference to day-to-day morale on the set and more greatly enhances everyone’s ability to work happily, than any other factor.
Craft Service is the provision of snacks and refreshments within easy distance from the set being used on any particular shoot day. The Craft Service people provide a range of snacks for all tastes as well as hot and cold drinks, all set up on a table, kept tidy and replenished. They make sure there is always fresh hot coffee all day long, bottled water, juice boxes and sodas, and wide selection of herbal tisanes.
The very best of them will even bring along a toaster oven or similar small appliance and periodically walk in with a tray of taquitos or avocado toast, or bring chopped fruit on a stick or popsicles for the middle of the afternoon in summer. It is so nice when the lovely aroma of grilling cheese wafts in to the set. It is six hours before anyone can stop for a meal, so these “mid-shift” refreshments are always very welcome, especially for people doing heavy physical labor and mind-bending creative thinking, all requiring extreme attention to detail and focus.
On low budget or amateur film projects, the Craft Service tends to be dumped on to the lowest PA or intern. The Craft Service table can end up being a lonely pallet of generic soda, water bottles and the container of off-brand licorice, with periodic replenishments handled between other more pressing responsibilities. I can hardly impress upon you enough the difference it makes to do two things – first, hire a specialist or at least allocate this job to one person entirely, and second, allocate a reasonable budget to the supplies. Even if people are working for free or being underpaid, they will feel so much better, and give you better work, if at least the Craft Service is decent. And believe me, when the Craft Service is sub-par, the crew will grumble about it like nothing else.
To become a stellar Craft Service person, have an interest in food and nutrition, and a mindset of being of service. Many of the pros have a van or small truck that they can load with their kit – coolers, coffee makers, toaster oven or small grill, hot water container, and juice/Gatorade big cooler keg. They will have table cloths, and their own folding tables, trash bins (and recycling bins), and bags, and paper goods – napkins, paper cups, all the coffee supplies, and something pretty. If you are going to be outdoors, have an EZ-Up. Be good at budgeting. A resale license will enable you to buy supplies at wholesale from restaurant grocers. All it takes to be better than most is care, and a bit of a personal touch, remembering what people say they like, and keeping the table clean and inviting all day long.
Start by being an assistant to other people to learn the ropes a bit, or transfer into “Crafty” from being a PA (so you know what it takes). Be willing and energetic. You will be one of the first people to arrive and set up, and won’t pack up and leave until wrap is called, just like everyone else. But it will only take a few movies of being excellent, and you will be hired again and again.
Film Caterers are a subset of the restaurant/catering industry. Generally, they are basically a mobile kitchen – a food truck – but with the ability to serve anywhere from 40 to 200+ people a hot lunch (including a vegetarian entrée choice), along with drinks, salad, a dessert of some kind, and often bread. The Caterers may have their own tents, tables and chairs, or work with another vendor to bring along the “dining room”. Then they have to do something different the next day, and the next. Sometimes Caterers are contracted to supply a breakfast as well (oh to be on a film with that kind of budget!), and rarely a Second Meal.
Movie catering is different from regular catering work because of the possible length of the contract, with the need to have a varied menu each day, and the odd locations you may find yourself working at. Sometimes these are distant places, and it is not like you can send someone down to the Smart and Final if you run out of rice. Caterers need to be outstanding planners, as well as excellent Chefs.
Catering on movies started when it was realized that it was a lot more efficient to keep people at the location for lunch, rather than letting them disperse. Time is the most expensive commodity on a set, and the days are at least 10 hours, if not 12 hours long. So, keeping people fed, alert and energetic is important for productivity and safety. These are exactly the same reasons why Craft Service is important.
And here is an awesome video from a true professional.