COVID protocols have affected everyone in the production business, but perhaps none more so than the craft services members of IATSE Local 80, the only department to see the entire cast and crew multiple times a day. They have had to reimagine their approach, from the way in which they distribute the food they serve to how it affects the production’s bottom line.
David Kasubowski and Jacoby Radcliff have each worked for decades on film and TV productions supervising craft teams, but the past few months have been among their most challenging. In L.A. County, the job has always required one person on the craft services crew to carry a county Health Department permit and food managers license and everyone who handles food to be certified. But current protocols for safe distancing mean big changes in the way the food is distributed.
Kasubowski, who has staffed shows including “Mad Men” and “The Santa Clarita Diet,” is working on Seth Macfarlane’s “The Orville.” A typical day still kicks off with a major breakfast rush and long lines of crew members waiting for food. “There are 150 people that want to eat, and they’re all within a good 30-45 minutes of having to go to work,” Kasubowski says.
Serving such large numbers of people can be an inherently slow process, but making things even harder is that crew cannot take food for themselves but must request it from the craft service personnel who queue it up for them.
“Coffee takes the longest,” notes Kasubowski, adding that the process involves getting the milk and sugar preferences for each crew member rather than just letting them make a cup themselves.
Adding to the degree of difficulty: Everything must be individually packaged. Jacoby Radcliff, who’s on the third season of ABC’s “The Rookie,” compares it to a busy coffee shop. “It’s almost like walking into a Starbucks,” he says. Everything is on display as much as possible, but no one can take anything on their own — not even napkins.
And anyone can walk up at any time looking for a bite. “One of the biggest challenges,” Radcliff explains, “is the fact that you have to stand inside the tent all day long, or you have to stay next to the cooler. Somebody has to be there to hand off food or drinks.”
After months without work, Radcliff notes that every paid hour is welcome. But with productions generally limited to 10-hour shooting days as necessitated by COVID protocols, it also means less pay for the hourly crew members who used to clock in regularly at 12 or more.
Still, productions have had to increase craft service budgets to account for new regulations. Gone are the days of giant fruit platters that Kasubowski could cut for $15; instead, prepackaged individual fruit cups at $5 a pop for about 40 people mean a massive increase in layout. Also eating up more of the budget: a wider availability of expensive specialty treats that used to get hidden away. Background actors are the beneficiaries. “They’re loving it,” says Kasubowski.
The new way of doing things has included a greater appreciation of the efforts of his team, Kasubowski notes. “Before, you’d hear ‘Thank you’ once in a while,” he says, but now that happens more frequently. “Now,” he adds, “people are relying on you.”