Ever wonder what working crews eat on a film set? Well, the wait is over. Read about my first hand experience as I take a bite into the magnificent world of food, in the film and television industry.
Socrates once said that: “the best seasoning for food is hunger; for drink, thirst”. Yet, believe it or not, those are sensations I have not felt in quite some time. Whether you are employed behind the scenes or in front of the camera, food is provided for, accommodated and available throughout your shift. This is a luxury that I do not take for granted. Over the past few months, I have been actively surveying my fellow coworkers on their choice of cuisine on set. My goal is to understand why cast and crew members cannot resist continuously snacking. What I observed was overindulgence accompanied with a lot of justification, excuses and ultimately a lack of self-control – especially when the sweets came out. But we could absolutely take a firm stand if we wanted too though, right? Throughout this editorial, I hope to give those curious souls who do not work in entertainment, a realistic look into the film business’ eating habits. Having everyone on strict diets and seeing only stick thin people are purely clichés and stereotypes associated with the industry. When in fact, quite the contrary can be seen.
I have noticed less then a handful of people really care, or admit to making conscious healthy decisions about the portions they grab or what they eat while working. I am observing people consuming a lot more calories then they are burning. Yet, it is the typical scenario where everyone complains yet nothing is done about it. On top of that, I have noticed that no one holds back. Handfuls are taken and eaten in one or two gulps. At first I just watched. I was intrigued. Shaken. Curious. Now I cannot help but join right on in. So I ask myself, is that society’s extreme and idealistic pressures making me reach out for more? Is it boredom? Greed? A lack of self-control? Stress? Is it because it’s free? The questions keep piling and I am desperate to get some answers. It does not help that after a few too many bites, my inner conscience is now telling me to stop. This is not me! What’s going on here? The realization is alarming in itself and yet I am proud that I can acknowledge this fact. What a bittersweet moment.
So why is it that so many cast and crew members, including myself, keep reaching for more food even when we are not hungry? It is because all these delicious treats are either a few metres away or handed directly to you. There is minimal to no effort required on our behalf to get snacks to munch on. One whiff of the aroma and we all turn into zombies that must eat, and now! On set all of these snacks are provided by craft service, also known as crafty. Basically it’s a few individuals working on a fully equipped truck making us neat snacks all day. Are you curious to know what you can expect to see on a craft table? There will always be a veggie tray nearby, some soup, coffee/tea and your selections of pops and juices. Next to those you will notice stacks of sweets. From cereal to muffins, to chips and cookies, as well as crackers and fresh baked breads too! Plus, an unlimited supply of natural sugars in the form of fruit. Drooling yet? Working on a film set has made me reach for snacks that I would have never purchased or tried. Now if I were to play devils advocate that is half of the appeal and one of my leading justifications. At what point will I get to try this unique item again? Who wouldn’t take a warm sandwich from the oven, freshly baked banana bread, Portuguese custard cakes, nachos and dip, chocolate monkeys or homemade cookies? If someone took the time to personally caramelize onions or make Crème Brule from scratch… why not appreciate someone’s hard work? Am I right? I suppose we will always find a way to validate our excuses. Unfortunately, I am developing some bad habits and cravings have started forming.
It is ironic that eating is associated with pleasure and good sensations, yet I find myself reacting with guilt when quickly grabbing a muffin or a few cookies, let alone a treat from a food truck that we get as an extra bonus. The mentality I hear and use constantly is that if I have one, it is not going to kill me. But how is one to limit their portions when everyday feels like Christmas on set? Essentially we get spoiled rotten and take advantage of what is provided for us. Yet, the pain of overeating creeps up before you know it, accompanied with feeling bloated. It does not help that during my workdays my physical activity is limited. The euphoric sensations that make it all worth it only last a few bites too! Therefore, it comes as no surprise that food companies are spending millions of dollars on research in order to get the perfect ratio of ingredients. This is all done so one’s rations are presented in the most compact form to get you reaching for yet another bite. Worst of all, I realize that it is just a matter of time before I get an upset stomach. Yet to toss food away seems wrong. If it is not obvious by now, most of these snacks presented to us are not nutritious items, but instead are good fillers to keep us satisfied for as long as possible. Unfortunately, they also need to be eaten quickly with our schedules, so digestion is another concern to be dealt with. Yet, despite the obesity and health issues I see on set, many seem to complain that there are not enough healthy alternatives.
Let me stress that one always has the option to bring food from home. That is if you are willing to sacrifice a portion of your limited weekend purchasing groceries, spending your money, and prepping snacks for the week. Restaurants too, are always accessible for lunch, but similarly like packing your own belongings it will take time and cost you. The general consensus on set is that you are here to make money, not spend it. At that point, without realizing it, my decision was made. I eat what is provided whether or not it is the healthiest. My dilemma is that I end up splurging on the carbohydrates and sugars, and then beat myself up for not choosing more veggies. But how many vegetables can one person eat?!
If we took away craft service and catered lunches both cast and crew members would have to overcompensate and the flow of the day would be a lot rougher. Yes, it would be doable but that would be taking away a major component of a business that is built upon efficiency. Now you may be thinking, avoid the craft table and trays and you will be fine. Wrong. Even when I resist the infamous table, my friends see something I would like and bring it to me directly. Is this out of kindness, I am not sure anymore. From bowls of popcorn to slices of pizza- both big time weakness’ of mine… Who am I to say no thank-you after someone went out of their way to remember that these are my favorite snacks? As we grow older, we are not catered too or babied by our parents or guardians, so it is nice to be thought of. After all, I don’t know how long this unlimited supply of flowing food will last. That is why, for the time being I am enjoying all these delicious delicacies with those around me.
This specific lifestyle may seem glamorous from the outside but if you choose to be in the film and television industry you must truly love it with every ounce of your being. I say this because this job is demanding on many levels: you are always on the move, sleep hours are limited, more time is spent doing your job then at home, unusual work hours makes everyone feel jetlagged all the time, your social life takes a beating as you will only be available on weekends… Need I go on? To compensate for the inconveniencies, we are rewarded and distracted by tons of food. This is organized for union working crews as a courtesy due to the many hours we spend on set everyday. Essentially anything above a student production will provide an all you can eat table of free, fast and accessible food.
A day on set usually goes like this: You go grab an item needed for the scene or head to the bathroom, and naturally you stop by the craft table. Then you walk over to the trailers and viola, the craft truck is just a few meters away. Breakfast is commonly provided for but several of us arrive before our designated call time to be able to eat without rushing. Then there is lunch, served by a specialized catering service separate from craft service. It is also the one point in the day where we all get a break and can socialize without neglecting our work. This is typically a one-hour, hot lunch work break, when you can sit down. Lastly, if you are still working six hours after lunch, second meal is served, which is also known as some form of fast food. At that point, another break is typically not given so you grab it and eat when you get a moment to yourself. Consequently, if you happened to miss a meal rest assured the snacking from the craft table would more than suffice.
At the end of the day, I still do not know if it is possible to resist all the temptations of trays (upon more trays) of the elaborate cuisine available to shooting crews. I suppose it comes down to how conscious you are of your body and how important eating healthy is to you. Whichever set I am hired on, I feel like I am stepping into a war zone every time I approach a large sum of food. The cliché that everyone in Hollywood is watching their weight and counting calories is foreign to me. Or in my last couple of years, people have hid it really well. In such a body conscious industry, I imagined people taking more pride in their own personal appearance. At this rate, I have noticed it is unhealthy to be eating so much regardless of what body type you have. However, I have to admit it does give me a big sense of relief knowing that we are so heavily researched by scientists, chemists, neuroscientists and physicists. So it is almost impossible to resist. A lot of hard work went into making these food concoctions irresistible. Yet the reality of set life for many cast and crew members is eat now and quickly or you will have to wait until the scene is done, or while your moving to the next set, or when being processed in hair and makeup, all which could take hours. Finding a balance in an unpredictable field is tricky. Out of my four consistent years on a film set, I have only met one person who has been able to withstand all the salty snacks, sweets, carbohydrates and sugars. I believe it takes a certain type of individual who makes health their first priority all the time and they only take part time work. From the erratic energy to the captivating locations, there is never a dull day on set and that includes all the fancy meals that are available for us.
*It is to be noted that I am by no means a health expert; I am merely relaying and actively observing my experiences and those I work with. *
>>> From actors to grips to electricians to every position in between, you will see it is not just me struggling with all the snacking. All of these people working on set have surrendered to craft service, catered lunches, and second meals. You can see it in their sarcasm, humor and mannerisms. Check out my ‘JOBS IN SHOWBIZ: Food On Set Edition’ video as I ask my fellow peers and coworkers in the film and television industry what they really think about food on set. Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AX8eIbn4uWU <<<
© 2015 Olivia Gudaniec
Model: Olivia Gudaniec
Photographer: Sean William O’Neill
Hair: Maryanne Costa Hairstyling
Makeup: Tazeen Khan