On every film shoot, set off from all the activity, there’s a table with food and drink for the crew, cast and clients. It’s called the Craft Services table.
In the mornings, you would usually find coffee, juices, sweet rolls, sometimes lox and bagels and so on. It is kept supplied the entire day with cold drinks and all kinds of snacks and munchies.
If a full breakfast, lunch or dinner were required, a catering company would be called in and they would set up their tables next to the Craft Services table.
I remember filming a commercial for Mervyns at one of their stores in the Los Angeles area. Since Mervyns would not close the store for an entire day, we were required to shoot while customers were shopping. The Craft Services and catering tables were set up on the sidewalk next to a side entrance to the store. Along with the coffee and sweet rolls, there were scrabbled eggs, bacon, sausage and toast for breakfast and later, hot dishes, sandwiches, tossed salads, coleslaw, potato salad and so on for lunch.
We ate well.
Some Mervyns’ customers who used that side entrance thought the store was giving away free samples of food, so they just went up to the tables and helped themselves. I watched as a mother fed breakfast to her two children. She sat on the curb with two plates of food and fed the kids as they sat in their double stroller. One woman asked me the brand name of the product she was sampling. I even noticed a couple of Mervyns’ sales personnel helping themselves during their break.
Rob Thomas, a Foote Cone & Belding producer, told me that on some of his shoots in Los Angeles, homeless people would come up and ask what they could do to earn a breakfast from the Craft Services table. Usually, they would be given a menial cleanup task and then allowed to eat as much as they wanted. Unfortunately, if the studio happened to be shooting at that same location the next day, there could be a line of homeless people looking for a meal.
Another time, while shooting a commercial with New York director Murray Bruce at a three-story walkup in Hoboken, New Jersey, I experienced an entirely different help-yourself-to-the-Craft-Services-table experience.
Normally, when shooting on location, you are required to hire the local police for traffic control and basic security. Usually these are off-duty cops who can earn some extra pay. On this shoot, however, we had none other than the Hoboken Chief of Police providing security.
The Craft Services table was set up on the parkway at the corner, a couple buildings down from where we were filming. It was easily accessible, yet out of way. While taking a break between scenes, I noticed the Chief loading up a paper plate with bagels and sweet rolls and fruit slices. He placed another paper plate on top with napkins as a squad car pulled up. He handed the plate through the window to the cop inside, along with a steaming cup of coffee.
I didn’t think much of it, until I watched him load another plate with food and hand it through the window of another squad car that pulled up along the curb.
It finally dawned on me when I saw the same thing happening with lunch: the Chief was spending the day feeding the entire Hoboken Police Department.
As I continued to shoot commercials in different locations and with different film studios over the years, I learned a couple valuable lessons about the Craft Services table. First, if there was a 7 a.m. crew call, make sure you showed up at least by 8 a.m.; any later and the crew would have already polished off the lox, bagels and cream cheese. And second, the film crew and cast were not the only ones eating the food at the table.
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