My name is Melissa Malone. I’m the creator (among other things) of the web series, “Or So the Story Goes,”- an anthology series that takes classic children’s literature and adapts it with a modern, horror twist. The series began as a project to teach teens about filmmaking and has grown into a full-fledged award-winning web series.
My bi-monthly column ''Or So the Web Series Go(es)" will discuss all the things that we “work” with throughout the web series world and my experience/advice in each. Obviously, take it with a grain of salt but… I’m happy to offer some insight (and take any questions along the way)!
If you prefer a lengthier look into who we are, check out my previous post It Better Make Your Heart Sing (aka If Not, Don’t Bother).
WORKING WITH CRAFT SERVICES
Albert Einstein once said, “An empty stomach is not a good political advisor.” It’s also not a great film set advisor, but you don’t have to be Einstein to know the simple fact that everything seems harder on an empty stomach. In my life, this has never been truer than on a film set. As an actor, I have had the full array of experiences with craft services on set. From ample breaks with way too much food, sets with no snacks and pizza every shoot day and sets with a few pretzels and water (if you’re lucky). I (and probably every actor) know it’s best to always bring your owns snacks, water bottle, etc just in case. However, I also know that (just like in normal life) hunger affects my work, focus, and mood. This, combined with the fact that our co-producer/director is a full-fledged Italian has made a huge impact on how we deal with craft services on our sets. A hungry cast/crew isn’t good for anyone. So I thought I would share with you what works for us when it comes to making craft service magic on a very small budget.
Hydration should be a top priority. Water should always be available. We also love to keep a Sharpie nearby for initials to be written on lids of water bottles. This prevents too much waste from lost bottles that always seem to find a way to litter the set behind the scenes. Bring along a cooler and refill as needed.
We usually also have a fair share of sodas. Not necessary but an added bonus that can go a long way (especially when caffeine or a sugar boost is needed). Speaking of caffeine- COFFEE. On small sets, we’ve brought out a Keurig for easy access and clean up. Larger sets we usually purchase a Box O’ Joe from Dunkin Donuts or something similar.
Snacks are a great way to keep people happy while standing around on set, as well as a great way to keep stomachs from grumbling into mics and moods shifting toward cranky. Simple, not messy items are best for this. Things that don’t need to be refrigerated and won’t leave stains on anyone’s hands or faces (NO CHEETOS!). Chips, pretzels, veggies, Twizzlers, and cookies are great for this. They’re simple and easy to buy in bulk for the duration of your shoot. Tortilla chips are fantastic for cast/crew members with gluten intolerances and you can always throw in a hummus or salsa if wanted.
Meals can be complicated. It’s often hard to stop momentum for the break but don’t let that get the best of you. The break is much needed for everyone (including yourself- even though I almost always have to be reminded to eat on set). Recharging can make all the difference. While it isn’t necessary, we have fallen in love with the tradition of a “family dinner” on long grueling shoot days. We’ve found it an amazing way to do that much-needed recharging as well as bond a bit with each other.
Here are a few easy (and cheap) meals that have worked out for us-
Another way to cover most food allergies and make everyone happy. Put out all the ingredients and let people create their own sandwiches. Add some chips and call it a day.
Pasta is easy and inexpensive to make a large amount of (and you can grab some gluten-free if needed). Toss a few different sauces on the side and some precooked meatballs (buy frozen in bulk at Sam’s or Costco).
This is an inexpensive way to feed a lot of people. Make the fixins and let people create their own plates buffet style. It’s an easy way to cover most food allergies and intolerances as well. Whip up some rice and beans on the side.
Salad & Nuggets.
Buy pre-mixed salad mix and put out a few different bowls of veggie add-ins and various dressings. Some frozen chicken nuggets or something similar (bought frozen in bulk at Sam’s or Costco) for the side.
Everyone loves pizza. Especially if it isn’t the only food on set each day. You don’t have to order from a fancy pizzeria or Dominos either- your local grocery store probably is having a sale on frozen pizzas, if you’ve got the oven for them.
Bagels & Fruit.
A great idea if you are starting bright and early and ending earlier in the day.
Another great idea for the morning. A couple bulk containers of yogurt and a few various bowls of fruit to toss in along with granola. Let people create their own yogurt.
Don’t forget to have food on supply for your people with allergies and intolerances. Send out a questionnaire before you ever begin filming so you can be prepared.
We generally just shop around and go for sales the day before a shoot week begins and buy things on a weekly basis. It helps with knowing what works and doesn’t work on your set. The best deals are usually found at bulk stores (Sam’s, Costco, BJs) where we can buy enough to feed the whole team but we also check our local grocery store and Walmart/Target for deals.
If you’re aren’t filming on a set with a working kitchen that you have access to, most of this can be brought in and kept warm with Sternos, or cool with ice, etc.
Bottom line, feed people like you’d expect to be fed. We are often working with people that are volunteering their time to film and working their butts off to pull it all together. Feeding them well is one way we can show them our thanks. In return, it helps create a much happier set.