Craft Service Workers Do More Than Just Provide Food for Production Crews

Food makes people happy. Nowhere is this more evident than on movie sets, where craft services — or “crafty,” as it’s called — is an inevitable first stop for crew members.

Crafties, the unsung heroes who keep both blood sugar and morale high during long days of production, are often represented by IATSE Local 80. While the culinary contributions are much appreciated, many people are not aware of the range of other kinds of work crafties perform.

Craig Conover, assistant business agent for Local 80, explains the purpose of the local is to service the other crafts. “The title of the job has always been crafts service,” he says, though somewhere along the way the “s” was dropped from “crafts.” The union’s members are among the few employees who cross jurisdictional lines to assist other departments.

Conover recounts an example from “The Perfect Storm” — the 2000 film starring George Clooney — when Local 80 members helped set dressers with an underwater shoot. Mesh bags of decor were dropped into the water, and a craft service member delivered them to the underwater set. There, the set dressers took over. In effect, craft service assisted the department without actually doing its work.

It may seem, then, that Local 80 members perform functions similar to those of production assistants, but there’s a key difference. Craft service members may do union-specified labor, whereas PAs cannot.

Special-effects technician Kirk Barton (“Westworld,” “Interstellar”) has spent decades in craft service — always as part of the special-effects department. “When people hear craft service [they] assume it’s food,” says Barton. “I love food, but I don’t like to do food service. I’d rather do something physical, and there’s a lot of physical work involved in the special-effects department.” Barton does everything from maintaining shop equipment to unloading trucks and driving forklifts.

Since jobs like Barton’s become local hires when productions leave Los Angeles, the jump in television and film production in and around the city as a result of the increased incentives put into effect in 2014 and recently extended to 2025 has resulted in more regular work for him. “I can work steady without much time off, which gets me closer to retirement,” he says.

Like Barton, layout board technician Kat Grace (“The Good Place,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) is part of Local 80, and her specialty has nothing to do with food. “I’ll put mats on the floor; I’ll put corner guards on the wall and bubble wrap any kind of delicate furniture,” she says. Grace calls her work an insurance policy for the production, noting that her position is typically hired and paid through locations, not a specific budget set aside for her union.

But while Local 80 maintains a list of members with specific skill sets like Barton’s and Grace’s, there’s no doubt that the union is best known for comestibles.

A common misconception is that feeding the crew means a quick trip to Costco and setting out a fruit platter. Nothing could be further from the truth. Working in production craft service requires a health certification for food handling; the job involves extensive budgeting and planning.

Craft service worker David Kasubowski (“Santa Clarita Diet,” “Mad Men”) has spent nearly 20 years feeding cast and crew and considers his work as being somewhat like “a crew bartender with no alcohol. People come to us and want to get away from their reality.”

Kasubowski takes the morale component seriously and works hard to keep a crew of 100 to 150 happy; that means offering a variety of food that’s presented well and tastes good. He provides options for every palette and reaches out to
various sources like to delight crew
members with favorite childhood treats — for instance, Portillos Italian beef sandwiches from Chicago, Utz Potato Chips from Baltimore, Tastykakes from Philadephia and beignet mix from New Orleans’ Café du Monde.

At times, craft service can involve meeting some unique challenges, such as when a production abruptly decides around lunchtime that a second meal will be necessary that day. In such cases, Kasubowski may find himself with only a handful of hours to rush out and get food for more than 100 people.

Also, if the crew is shooting in a difficult-to-reach location like downtown Los Angeles during rush hour, traffic itself can present a complication. And while pizza may be easy, “no one wants it every day,” he admonishes.

Regardless of which skill set Local 80 members use on a regular basis, their contributions help ensure that productions run smoothly. “We all pick and choose our poison,” says Grace of her career. “This is my poison, and I love it.”

More Artisans

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    How 'Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood' Turned the Clock Back for Its Shoot

    Crossing the street took months for the crew that turned back the clock 50 years on Hollywood Boulevard for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” Production designer Barbara Ling created false fronts for buildings that were constructed off-site and installed by crane just ahead of the shoot. Set decorator Nancy Haigh described [...]

  • Just Roll With It Disney Channel

    Disney Channel's Scripted-Improv Comedy Crew Shares How They 'Just Roll With It'

    The title of the new Disney Channel series “Just Roll With It” appears to be as much a directive for its cast and crew as it is a description of the multi-camera hybrid sitcom, which is part scripted and part improv. The plot revolves around the blended Bennett-Blatt family — strict mom Rachel (Suzi Barrett), [...]

  • "SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout" cast

    'SpongeBob' Voice Cast on Acting Together in Live-Action for 20th Anniversary Special

    On a brisk morning in February, the members of the voice cast of Nickelodeon’s flagship animated series “SpongeBob SquarePants” gathered to work on a new episode, like they’ve done most weeks over the past 20 years. But instead of being in a recording booth, this time they’ve assembled at a diner in Castaic, Calif., shooting [...]

  • Motion Picture Editors Guild to Honor

    Motion Picture Editors Guild to Honor Veteran Executive Martin Cohen

    The Motion Picture Editors Guild will honor veteran post-production executive and producer Martin Cohen with its Fellowship and Service Award. Cohen worked at Amblin, DreamWorks and Paramount. He was a co-producer on “The Hunger Games” and supervised the restoration Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” trilogy and “Jaws.” The award recognizes an individual who embodies the values set [...]

  • Game of Thrones Iceland TV Incentives

    Iceland Offers Productions Majestic Landscapes, Stunning Architecture and a 25% Rebate

    Few places on Earth contain the natural majesty of Iceland. The Nordic island, nestled between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, holds some of the most breathtaking natural wonders on the planet: the fiery pyrotechnics of live volcanoes, steam curling up from natural hot springs, vertiginous drops from oceanside cliffs and waterfalls cascading into [...]

  • Schitt's Creek Wigs

    'Schitt's Creek': Inside Moira Rose's Iconic Wig Collection

    Moira Rose, the family matriarch of cult classic “Schitt’s Creek,” is known for several things: her pronunciation of the word “bebe,” her love for her TV family (and sometimes Alexis) and her countless vibrant wigs. Played by the always delightful Catherine O’Hara, each episode (and wig) is a joy to witness on screen. “I think [...]

  • Kira Kelly Cinematographer Queen Sugar

    'Queen Sugar' DP on How Ava DuVernay Encourages Creativity on the OWN Series

    Cinematographer Kira Kelly, who earned an Emmy nomination for her work on Ava DuVernay’s “13th,” feels that her time spent on nonfiction projects over the past two decades has improved her ability to cope with the demands of shooting narrative fare.  The scaled-down resources — often just Kelly and maybe a focus puller or a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content