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In film, television or video production, craft service refers to the department which provides food service and beverages to other departments such as camera, sound, electricians, grips, props, art director, set decorator, special effects, hair and make-up, background. These other departments are simply referred to as crafts. In addition to policing the set for empty cans and trash, they provide buffet style snacks and drinks.
There is a difference between craft service and catering. Craft service refers to the food that is always available to the crew while they are working, and can range from a single table of cookies, candy, cereal and coffee (on a low-budget indie feature), to more elaborate meals. Catering, on the other hand, is ordered from a restaurant or outside company, and handles the true meals like lunch and a second meal if the day goes over 12 hours.
Craft service is a crew position and craft service workers are oftentimes represented by the union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). In Los Angeles craft service workers are represented by IATSE Local 80. In areas that have a large amount of production work, such as Atlanta, Georgia there are well over 400 union represented "crafty's". In smaller markets such as Minneapolis/St.Paul there are only 2. Certain productions will require that the worker be a union member, where others may not. Craft service is considered an entry-level position in film and television. In the mid-1960s, craft service employees still operated as general laborers. They had also been put in charge of answering the telephone and making coffee. At Universal Studios, they had huge roll-around carts where they would brew coffee. These carts could be shut during takes so that the bubbling machines would not spoil a sound take. Studios now anticipate the needs of craft services and oftentimes make a kitchen available to the crew to use.
Typically there is one main table where the snacks and coffee are set up (which is simply called, crafty or the crafty table) . Occasionally there are two craft service stations, with one being for cast and crew and another for non-union background actors. A "satellite" crafty may be set up next to the camera, as they may not reasonably be able to leave their workstations to grab a snack from the crafty table, which may be located in another room. This smaller, scaled-down set-up may be on a rolling cart or on top of an apple box. It could consist of a few small baskets containing granola bars, dark chocolate, gum, aspirin, bananas and bottled water. The food provided can vary widely, due to fluctuating budgets for example: pilots, low budget, often offering very limited food, while big budget productions often offer generous food and drinks. Aside from snacks and beverages, crafty can also be the go-to for bandaids, aspirin, gum, antacids, toothpicks, hand sanitizer, sunscreen and hand-warmers.
Crafty is the nickname given to the craft service workers. They are given radios to communicate with production and will respond to a call by saying "go for crafty". Craft service workers will bring the necessary equipment in order to prepare various snacks and beverages, such as skillets for quesadillas or a blender for smoothies. Any equipment brought with is part of a kit that the production rents for the duration of the shoot.
The craft kit may include :
• Tablecloths • Food nets • Serving trays, bowls, platters and utensils, Knives • Scissors, Tape, pens, clips, paper, labels, markers • Baskets • Markers, tape and paper for making signs • Cutting boards and knives • Crockpots/food warmers • Toasters • Blenders • Food storage containers/bags • Coolers • Ice packs • Extension cord • Coffee makers and thermal pots • Hot water kettles • Decaf coffee • Basic first aid kits • Basic medicines • Toiletries • Garbage cans • Recycling cans • Compost bins • Garbage/recycling bags • Hand sanitizer/wipes • Dish Soap • Hand soap • spray cleaner • Paper towels and cloths • Food service gloves • Wax paper, foil, plastic wrap • A Wide Variety of hot teas • Cocoa, apple cider, chai • Sugar/Sweeteners • Hot bag • Rolling cart • 6 foot table • 4 foot table
Craft service is usually the first to come to set and the last to leave. Although wage minimums are oftentimes set by the unions, the craft service worker is one of the lowest paid within any given production. Instead of hourly pay, most productions base wages on a day rate. This is oftentimes a set rate for 10 hours. Some productions may negotiate a 12 hour day, but this is circumstantial.