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What is Craft Service?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Craft service refers to the catering done for the cast, crew, and extras working for film and television production companies. Cast, crew, and extras choose snacks and beverages from a specific table buffet-style.

Full meals are not usually provided on set as there are often many restaurants in the area and studios have at least a coffee shop. The lunch break is typically an hour, unlike the half hour usually given for on location shoots. Situation comedies, or sitcoms, do typically provide catered hot meals once a week, on live taping days. The cast, crew, and extras eat a few hours before the show starts taping.

Craft service items vary widely depending on the production firm's budget. Most craft service tables include a mixture of junk food such as chips and doughnuts as well as sandwiches, fruit or vegetable platters, cheeses, muffins, and pretzels or microwave popcorn. Usually hot water is available to prepare instant soup and hot chocolate mixes as well as tea. Most craft service areas include urns of coffee as well as sodas and juices. Breakfast offerings usually include fare such as bagels, toast, muffins, cereal, peanut butter and jelly, juices, and coffee.

Sometimes catering trucks are used for bigger productions with a lot of extras. The extras may or may not get sandwiches from a craft service table while the cast and crew receive hot meals. Screen Actors Guild (SAG) members wait in line before other extras, and cast and crew wait ahead of all extras. This is not purely a matter of ranking order, but also scene scheduling. Extras, unlike the cast, and especially the crew, are not needed on set all of the time.

Persons wanting to work in craft service should be cheerful, easy going, and well-organized. Creativity is helpful in thinking of new snack ideas that do not break the budget. Knowledge of food safety is important and many states have requirements for food safety certificates. The best caterers do their best to try and consider the needs of those they serve when planning the foods and beverages for their craft service tables. Many good craft service personnel keep a supply of extra items such as over the counter pain relievers, sunscreen, maxipads, birthday candles, and other such items just in case someone asks!

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Discussion Comments

By anon1005497 — On Sep 10, 2021

Craft service is not catering, and according to Union rules, can not be referred to as "catering". Catering is the cooking and serving of "sit down" meals which are required at least every 6 hours and during which the cast and crew perform no work, while craft service consists of making available snacks, beverages, and assorted candies and sundries (aspirin, Chapstick, hand wipes). Full meal catering is often provide on set because a catered meal only requires 30 minutes of down time versus the 1 hour required if cast and crew go elsewhere.

By anon294568 — On Oct 02, 2012

Unfortunately, most film companies believe that they have "cinematic license" and are above having to comply with principles like recycling and sustainable products. They're just too special for that and it all costs time and money so forget it. Fortunately, there are a few who demand compliance. Warner Bros. is one such responsible company.

By anon294567 — On Oct 02, 2012

Craft services involves supplying the crew with a wide range of products outside of the snacks. Anything the crew might need on location such as suntan oil, insect repellant and other sundries might be needed to "service" the "crafts people". And also, the junk food is there because the crew demands it, not because the production companies prefer to put it there. The healthiest options on the table are often the least touched.

By stolaf23 — On Jan 21, 2011

A few years ago, my college was actually used as a partial film set for A Serious Man, one of the more recent Coen Brothers films. I got a firsthand look, from the time they spent on campus, of a few different parts of movie production, including craft service. There seemed for awhile to be an inordinate amount of food trash and disposable containers. I find it unfortunate that people with as much money as film producers often have in their budgets cannot make more of an effort to provide for the cast and crew in more sustainable, not to mention healthy, ways. Admittedly, I imagine some do so, and I hope this number increases.

By sapphire12 — On Jan 19, 2011

@anon1434, I would imagine something as messy as ice cream might not be used in craft service, because they emphasize the ability to eat these foods quickly and/or in motion with little mess on things like costumes, sets, and props.

By anon1434 — On May 30, 2007

hi how would ice cream work on a movie set?

like cups or cones? or prepackaaged cups?

dixie cups? peace pops?

how would the movies find out about it without a production guide?

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