How to be a Good Production Assistant; Part 9

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a tip on How to be a Good Production Assistant, but if you remember from last time, I gave a long list of useful set terms. This next section is all about the very necessary function of Craft Services.  I’ve always said that a well fed crew is a happy crew, and it continues to be true.  Learn more in Part 9.

As a Production Assistant, you will often have the job of not only buying, but setting up and maintaining the craft services for the duration of the shoot.  Many times, you’ll have a table that you’ll set up and tend to periodically throughout the day, although I’ve seen craft services being toted around in coolers, in plastic drawered towers, and even just in plastic bags. Although that last scenario isn’t ideal, there are some things you can do to ensure everyone’s happy with the crafty.

But first let me tell you a story. I was on a month long shoot as a Production Manager, where my Production Assistants were apparently incapable of setting up a craft service table. I mean it was one of the first things we did every single day, and yet every single day after I would remind them once again that it needed to be done, 45 minutes later I’d be lucky if they had even set up a table already.  If they did have a table up, it would only contain about half of the items it was supposed to have with no coffee brewing yet, no hot water, nothing.  And what was set up was very shabby indeed. 

So with that in mind, I urge you to learn how to set up a craft service table.  And quickly.  Unless you’ve been hired as the dedicated Craft Service person, you’ve got other jobs to get onto.  Every craft service table will be different, but what never changes, is the importance of keeping it organized and clean.  That means individual snacks are in baskets or lined up neatly.  Keep snacks fairly segregated.  You can have a variety of chips and granola bars, but generally speaking keep the chips with the chips, the fruit with the fruit and the granola bars with the granola bars.  Coffee should be located directly next to the coffee cups, sweeteners, creamers and stirrers, not halfway across the table. The cooler(s) should be stocked and filled with ice.  A trash can is near by.  There are napkins and they are weighted down if you’re outside.  Also, if you’re outside, be sure any open items are covered, yet still accessible.  Make sure you check back periodically to see if anything needs to be restocked, any trash needs to be thrown away and to just tidy up.

Once in a while, you may be given the unhappy duty of buying craft services for the cast and crew without a shopping list.  Such pressure!  You want to do a good job and stay within budget but you may have no idea where to start.  Let me give you a sample shopping list.  This list is not comprehensive and every crew and set is different, so remember that this is just a starting point for those without a clue.

First, see if you can find out any dietary restrictions or preferences.  I’ve had such specific requests as gluten free diets, non-sugar-free gum (harder to find than you might think), lots of Diet Dr. Pepper, no yogurt with refined sugars, Starbucks coffee only, and the list goes on.  Also, determine what kind of set you’ll be on.  Inside or outside?  One location or multiple?  Constantly on the move or not?  Grocery stores nearby?  After that, here’s where you should start.  Remember that unless otherwise stated, everything should be individually wrapped.  Nobody wants to reach into a chip bag that every other person on set has reached into with their dirty fingers.

Your Basics

Fruit (something that doesn’t need to be refrigerated and easy to eat like bananas, apples and oranges)

Chips

Granola bars 

Cookies

Trail Mix

Gum and/or Mints

Sodas (Regular, Diet and Caffeine Free)

Bottled water

Sports drinks

Hand sanitizer

Napkins

Trash bags

If you want to get a little fancy

Veggie tray with dip

Grapes

Bagels and cream cheese

Yogurt

Plasticware

Small plates

Sliced bread (for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches)

Peanut butter

Jelly

Fruit Tray

I could go on and on about this subject, but I’ll leave it with saying that you really don’t want to ignore the craft service table.  Even if you’re not asked to take care of it, it’s always a good idea to tidy up around it any time you make a visit.  There is one positive, however, to doing a bad job at Craft Services.  You’ll probably never get asked to do it again.  Well that’s all for now.  Stay tuned for Part 10, coming soon!

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About Karen Gill-Pennington

Karen Gill-Pennington is the Production Director, Social Media Manager, Editor, and Blogger for DUO Media Productions. When she's not working you might find her practicing her flute, flying like a dragon with her son, or training for another Tough Mudder event. She finds it strange to write about herself in the third person.

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