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Pro Video Tips is designed for busy videographers like you. This series brings you a new tip every week, on everything from controlling reflections to hiding mics. Host Anthony Q. Artis covers shooting techniques for particular video challenges like portraits, tools to help you control light and judge exposure, and advice for the traveling videographer, such as putting together a great lens kit or packing a truck. Come back every Tuesday for a new round of tips.
Food is one of the great secrets of the pros. It has a tremendous psychological effect on the crew. When the big budget studios and production companies do a show, there's always a spread of delicious food and a continuous supply of snacks, drinks, and coffee. Crew members often speak of three things when describing a particular project they've worked on. The quality of the project, the organization of the shoot, and the food. Good food is a standard part of the deal for all professional film and TV crews.
It is and should be expected at every level from pro to amateur. I wish I could lean into the ear of every new filmmaker and shout this through a bullhorn. Do not skimp on food for your crew. This is one of those critical little details that so many new filmmakers overlook or save as an afterthought. Feeding your crew good food is extremely important, especially if they're working for free. In the long run, you will not save a dime by being cheap when it comes to food for your crew.
Oh, you'll save on the food itself, but you will lose immeasurable amounts in crew morale, energy level, pacing, and attitude towards the shoot. As the general rule, the more trouble you put your crew through, the better your meals and snacks should be. The crew is a machine that creates your project. Food is a fuel that runs a machine. The better the food, the better your machine will run, the better your project will turn out. It's that simple. Because documentary and indie crews tend to be so small, catering usually isn't a practical or affordable option.
You will most likely be dependent upon local restaurants for meals. It's a vital part of pre-production to scout out and have menus from all the local restaurants. The Yelp phone app and website is an excellent tool to research local restaurants. You can get restaurant phone numbers, addresses, maps, customer reviews and menus, all with a few key strokes. Also, most restaurants now make their menu available online or would be happy to email it or fax it to you if not. You can let the crew pick from the menu by setting a dollar amount per person.
Or a more simple solution is to just order a variety of different dishes and serve them up family buffet style. If you're feeding a large number of people, make sure you place your order a few hours or a day or two ahead of time, and tell them when you need it delivered or be picking it up. Whenever possible, picking up your order is the best option because delivery will always take longer and it's easier to check and correct the accuracy of the order at the restaurant. Always try to get plates, cups, ice, napkins, and utensils when possible to save a little cash.
Also, don't forget to get receipts for your records. The term craft services is just a Hollywood name for the snacks and drinks department. Yes, craft services is a department. You should have a craft services table, or a box if you're on the road, stocked at all times with a variety of high energy and sugary foods, spring water, and drinks. Try to find out your crew's favorite snacks ahead of time and have plenty on hand. I know you may be tempted to save a few bucks, but stay away from generic food items.
Name brand snacks and drinks are always better, even if it's only psychological. Instead of giving them the very best, a table full of Chumps Ahoy chocolate chips and Tropican orange juice tells your crew that you care about them enough to get the absolute cheapest thing you can get away with, and they may in turn give you the absolute cheapest effort they can get away with. Apart from snacks and cold drinks, it's absolutely essential that you try to make coffee available on set at all times, morning, noon, and night.
If food is the fuel of the filmmaking machine, then caffeine is the lubricant that keeps the parts moving. Keep your filmmaking machine gassed up and lubricated and you will get noticeable results and performance and moral, and a reputation of someone who takes care of their crew people. If you have a sizeable crew, really try to find a dedicated craft services person. This is a perfect position for those eager friends and relatives that want to help out, but have no real filmmaking experience. Their job is simply to keep the food and snacks flowing, help coordinate meals, and help clean up the mess afterwards.
It's a great position for someone who just wants to be a fly on the wall and observe. If the job's done well, the craft services person is often the most popular person on set. Personally, I'm a carnivore, but these days, I've rarely done a shoot that didn't involve at least one vegetarian or vegan, that's no meat, dairy, or egg products, crew member. Make sure you survey the crew members ahead of time for vegetarians or other special dietary needs so you'll know exactly how many veggie or special meals you'll need each day.
To make life even easier, find out what types of common dishes they like to eat and which local restaurants they prefer. Vegetarians, and especially vegans, are sometimes treated like second class citizens when it comes to meal time on a film crew. However, do not ignore these crew members' dietary needs. I can tell you from personal experience that vegetarians will not want to eat a salad or a simple side dish for every meal. It's definitely harder to find menus that accommodate vegetarians, but you gotta put in the leg work to make it happen, or else you will have some miserable souls on your crew and it will be reflected on the shoot.
The bottom line when it comes to food or anything else on set is to take care of your crew people and they'll take care of you.
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