Filming, Fooding, and Living to Eat Another Day


Here at Gorilla we have some experience being responsible for other people – we often have to keep the intern’s blood-sugar up by pumping him full of life-giving wine and spirits. But what do you do if you’re responsible for lots of people? Like, a whole film crew? Jeremy Osbern tells us the answer isn’t all that different, but you should use something called ‘food’. We got him to talk to some of his production buddies and give us the Three Food Rules of Film-making…

Rule One: Feed Your Crew!

A well fed crew is a happy crew, and even if it’s low budget, even if everyone came out as a favour to you, they will still stick around into the wee hours of the night if you give them a full belly and enough calories to keep energy levels up.

As producer Chris Blunk told me

Doesn’t even have to be fancy. We once did a music video for the Italian rock band Lacuna Coil and had the local grocery store cater a baked chicken, mashed potato and green bean lunch. During lunch they told us that it was the best they’d ever been fed on a shoot. Raved about it for the rest of the day. They were pretty high, and that may have helped, but I think sometimes it’s just effort to get something warm that’s not completely made of carbs.

massive turkey dinner

Whip one of these up between takes. Go on. David Lynch probably does it.

Rule Two: Feed Your Crew Well!

Just providing something on a table that technically can go in one’s mouth does not mean that it counts as food. Sundance-veteran cinematographer and film professor Matt Jacobson related to me the following stories:

There was this one project, filming in the High Desert outside LA, where they ran out of funds to provide decent meals. Towards the end of the shoot, they tried to serve a lunch of “tomato soup” with crackers, made from watered-down ketchup packets and saltines stolen from a Wendy’s down the road. Needless to say, the crew revolted and took a nice, long leisurely lunch on their own.

Another shoot with memorable ‘crafty’ was a student project, where the only food on-set was what the producer could get donated… which turned out to be an entire case of peach nectar, and some hard salami. And that was what they provided, for a summer day shoot in the country, without even crackers (I guess Wendy’s was closed) or water.

My favourite story about bad crafty has to be the project where a foreign producer was trying to shoot an early HD project on the cheap. The lesson I learned from that was, “Never work on a show where the producers and the crew have different catering.” It turned out the crew was being catered leftovers from a company that also provided food for a retirement home. Worse, they kept recycling the food: Monday’s baked chicken became Tuesday’s chicken and noodles casserole became Wednesday’s chicken soup. Half-jokingly, one of the grips suggested taking a Sharpie and initialing a piece of chicken, to see if it would show up the next day. By Thursday, half the crew had food poisoning – I was originally the gaffer, but took over for the DP for a morning, when he couldn’t keep any food down.

Rule Three: Feed Your Crew Again!

The most annoying mascot in the world. Eat him out of spite.

You should provide some sort of snacks throughout the day. Energy levels fluctuate. Some M&Ms might be just the thing to get your through to the next setup, or sometimes you just need to eat all of the M&Ms. I asked Key Grip Michael Stoecker to remind me of food stories and he replied that, “Um, George Clooney, upon finding us devouring handfuls of candy, scolded both of us for our junk food selection at craft service.” So, yeah, try some apples and oranges to balance out that bowl of M&Ms.

Finally, six hours after lunch, you should provide a “Second Meal” – and yes, that is the official film term for what civilians refer to as “dinner.” Half the time the crew won’t eat it, or they might just take it home, but you should still offer it to those that didn’t gorge themselves on M&Ms and want to sit down to have one more meal.

What film food horror stories do you have? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.


About Author

Jeremy Osbern is a cinematographer, writer, and director. His work has been viewed by over a hundred million people, and you can join them over at his website.

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