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#1 Mark Bonnington

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 06:47 PM

Apparently food is extremely important for low/no budget productions. Everything I've read about the subject says you *must* feed the crew, no exceptions allowed!

But, if I'm making a "no budget" movie, it's because I have "no budget". As in, I have no money for craft services. So, how exactly can I go about feeding the crew? Are there secret methods to doing it cheaply?

This also brings up the question, should the movie industry join every other industry on the planet and simply ask people to be responsible for their own lunch needs?

Edited by Mark Bonnington, 12 September 2009 - 06:49 PM.

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#2 Chris Keth

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 07:27 PM

If you're not paying people, I think it would be very rude not to feed your crew. Why should they do good work for you if you're actually costing them money to work on your film?

Some shows, BTW, do just release the crews for lunch like every other job. Those shows pay their crew, though.
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#3 Steve McBride

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 07:52 PM

Ask around town for people who can donate a sub platter or a pizza for a credit in the project. You might get some crafty that way. A sheet pizza costs $20-30 and can feed probably 8-10 people. Sub platters come in different sizes and can feed different amounts of people. I wouldn't go for the pizza unless you have to as it just shows how low budget you really are. Sub platters might be a bit more expensive but since it kinda comes with veggies and it's a bit healthier it's the way to go.

Also try to have a veggie platter, fruit platter, some cheese and crackers and a bag of candy on set.

For low budget productions I usually do around $75-100 for crafty which really isn't a lot. This is what I usually do for around 10 people...

Breakfast: a dozen assorted bagels, cream cheese, a kuchen, fruit basket
Lunch: sub platter, chips, fruit basket, veggie platter
Savory (mid-afternoon): cheese and crackers, candy, fruit basket, veggie platter

Then have lots of water, coffee (caffeinated), Gatorade (if you can afford it), and soda in coolers throughout the day.

All of the professional producers that I've worked for say if you're not paying your crew and/or talent or you're not paying a lot you NEED to have good food.
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#4 Mark Bonnington

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 08:12 PM

If you're not paying people, I think it would be very rude not to feed your crew. Why should they do good work for you if you're actually costing them money to work on your film?

Some shows, BTW, do just release the crews for lunch like every other job. Those shows pay their crew, though.

It's rude not to feed the crew, but it's also rude for the crew to expect a poor person to buy them lunch. So, the two rudenesses cancel each other out.

I'm hoping that people who get involved with "no budget" productions will do good work because they want to build a quality product for their resume, or because they enjoy the creative process.

Edited by Mark Bonnington, 12 September 2009 - 08:13 PM.

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#5 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 08:17 PM

Apparently food is extremely important for low/no budget productions. Everything I've read about the subject says you *must* feed the crew, no exceptions allowed!

But, if I'm making a "no budget" movie, it's because I have "no budget". As in, I have no money for craft services. So, how exactly can I go about feeding the crew? Are there secret methods to doing it cheaply?

This also brings up the question, should the movie industry join every other industry on the planet and simply ask people to be responsible for their own lunch needs?



Well, the rationale for feeding a crew is two-fold. One, we don't have regular 9-5 hours or (usually) just one "office" or building to go to every day of the year. Our call-times in the morning are almost always changing and our out-times are "open," meaning when we leave the house, we typically have NO idea how many hours we'll end up working that day or when we'll get back home.

Long standing union rules state that a "lunch" break must occur six-hours after call-time (a HOT lunch must be provided). That's six hours later no matter what time call was. Most of the business world goes to work around 8am or 9am then takes their lunch around noon or 1pm for around an hour, then back to work until just 5pm or 6pm. On a typical movie set, if a call-time is 7am on Monday, the first break (for lunch) isn't til 1pm and goes for 30 minutes*, then the crew goes back to work until the work for the day is done... that could go another six to nine hours without an official break.

Because of all of that, a Craft's Service Department, that is separate from the Catering, works all day. A crew doesn't have the luxury of leaving "the office" whenever it wants to. Everyone on set has a specific function to perform and they are expected to be there every time they are needed. The Craft's Service "table" (and truck) often has a steady supply of healthy (and some not so healthy) snacks and drinks available all day long.

So, this begs the question: why? Couldn't a crew just be expected to bring it's own food and snacks and drinks? Sure, a Producer (who isn't required by a contract) could make that choice. An independent Producer also isn't required to break a crew for a meal break EVER. He could choose to work the crew for 20 hours or more straight for a flat rate six days a week (as long as he was skirting State labor laws and got away with it, that is).

But the point is, what kind of insane crew would agree to those conditions in the first place and more importantly, what's in it for the Producer to "abuse" a crew like that? An energized crew is far more efficient crew. By providing a healthy meal on-set and a steady supply of "snacks" throughout the long days, the Producer is buying a more efficient and happy crew which generally translates into better work and a better project. A tired hungry crew becomes less efficient and less safe. Feeding them during the day is less-expensive that paying for a longer schedule or paying for accidents that might happen otherwise.

For projects where someone is asking others for the favor of helping to make a movie for no payment, what you're really asking them to do is to help YOU build YOUR career while all they'll get out of it is an experience that hopefully will be fun while it lasts. IF your epic is noticed by a studio (or someone else who is powerful), the chances are that YOUR career will move on quickly but all those people who helped you will be left behind. The very least you can do is feed them while they volunteer their time to help YOU become the famous Director you want to be. Naturally, saying "Thank you!" every day to each and every person who is there to help you is the least you can do, but having meals, snacks, and drinks there during the long days will keep them happy and hopefully coming back to help you finish the movie.



*(the official lunch break is thirty minutes AFTER the last person through the catered lunch line, so the ACTUAL break may be 45 to 60 minutes depending upon the size of the crew.

Some episodic productions on studio lots do NOT provide a catered lunch so they break the crew for one-hour only. The crew then can do whatever it wants which means packing their own lunch, visiting the studio commissary, or leaving the lot for a nearby restaurant. Because of logistics, it can be inconvenient and impossible to leave the lot for a meal and get back within an hour so most crew stay on the lot and eat at the commissary or get something from the Crafts Service truck.

This idea of breaking the crew for one-hour does NOT work well on locations because the "lunch" break does not always happen in the daytime when restaurants are open and because there may not be any eateries nearby anyway.

Also, it is FAR more efficient for production if the crew is kept nearby instead of having everyone trail off and agree to meet later on. Some office situations also provide "in house" meals for cubicle workers for this reason. Providing meals on site proves to provide a more efficient and productive day.

There is also a contract variable called "French Hours" wherein a crew votes yeah or nay to accept to work this way. What happens is that the company does NOT break at all during the day for a meal BUT the tradeoff is that there is a definitive OUT at ten hours, no questions asked. A meal break under the contract means that the crew has no idea when it's going home while French Hours guarantees an out time. BUT, a Producer also agrees to provide a hot meal ALL DAY LONG which is accessible whenever someone on the crew has a minute or two to get it and eat it. As described in "What I Really Want to Do: On Set in Hollywood," some crew have a little down-time during or after a "Setup" so they have a chance to get over to the Caterer and grab a plate to take back to set so they can remain close for when they are needed. Mostly, French Hours screw the Camera Department as they are almost ALWAYS busy so they have the least amount of time to sneak in a bite of food. French Hours can also be difficult for Grip and Electric on Day Exteriors when controlling sunlight is a constant job. Ironically (or not), Day Exteriors are the most typical situation for a Producer to ask a crew to agree to French Hours. This is because daylight limits the hours of the working day so the Producer has an express interest in utilizing every possible moment for actually filming instead of "wasting" an hour in the middle of the day while the crew takes a break.

"Lunch" is in parenthesis because the meal break isn't always around noon. Because of the variable call-times, "lunch" could easily be at 3am or any other time of the day.)
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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 08:19 PM

If you're poor, write scripts. That's free and doesn't ask other people to work hard for you for no money, and no food. Hate to be the "a-hole" saying this, but in honesty, you can't expect people to work on your project without some form of compensation. The PA holding up traffic, for your shot; what "creative process" are they really involved in? The creative way of keeping drivers from running them over?
And people who are going to agree to shoot for/with you not only for no money, but also no food, probably won't get you a nice, or even marginally acceptable product; unless you're a film god.....

did you ever hear the expression TINSTAAFL? There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch--- for you or for the crew. You can't get labor for free, and they can't get lunch for free. You pay for their labor, they labor for your pay, be that food, a case of beer, a carton of cigarettes.
Now I've done plenty of shoots for cheap, and for friends, for free. But even the free shoots had tangible forms of compensation. Else, you're just out to take advantage of people for your own gain, while investing nothing of your own into your project.
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#7 Chris Keth

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 08:20 PM

It's rude not to feed the crew, but it's also rude for the crew to expect a poor person to buy them lunch. So, the two rudenesses cancel each other out.

I'm hoping that people who get involved with "no budget" productions will do good work because they want to build a quality product for their resume, or because they enjoy the creative process.


I don't find it rude at all. You're asking people to donate their time and skills for nothing. My way (i.e. the usual way) at least everyone gets lunch out of it.
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#8 Mark Bonnington

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 08:26 PM

Ask around town for people who can donate a sub platter or a pizza for a credit in the project. You might get some crafty that way. A sheet pizza costs $20-30 and can feed probably 8-10 people. Sub platters come in different sizes and can feed different amounts of people. I wouldn't go for the pizza unless you have to as it just shows how low budget you really are. Sub platters might be a bit more expensive but since it kinda comes with veggies and it's a bit healthier it's the way to go.

Also try to have a veggie platter, fruit platter, some cheese and crackers and a bag of candy on set.

For low budget productions I usually do around $75-100 for crafty which really isn't a lot. This is what I usually do for around 10 people...

Breakfast: a dozen assorted bagels, cream cheese, a kuchen, fruit basket
Lunch: sub platter, chips, fruit basket, veggie platter
Savory (mid-afternoon): cheese and crackers, candy, fruit basket, veggie platter

Then have lots of water, coffee (caffeinated), Gatorade (if you can afford it), and soda in coolers throughout the day.

All of the professional producers that I've worked for say if you're not paying your crew and/or talent or you're not paying a lot you NEED to have good food.

I'll keep those items in mind. Having bagels on set makes sense if only to keep stomachs from growling and ruining the audio. I'd have to stay away from pizza and other greasy foods, because it's going to weight down the actors performance. The sandwich solution sounds like a good option.
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#9 Mark Bonnington

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 08:39 PM

I don't find it rude at all. You're asking people to donate their time and skills for nothing. My way (i.e. the usual way) at least everyone gets lunch out of it.

Well, personally I was going to offer deferred payment, but for practicalities sake that isn't much better than working for free. Even so, the people involved would be getting experience from the project, and building their resume. If they were getting absolutely nothing from the project, then they wouldn't bother to show up. And if that happens, where people simply don't show up, then it will become painfully obvious that lunch is in order.
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#10 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 08:42 PM

Getting past the "nonsense" that a low-budget Producer shouldn't feed the crew, the real question is how to do it on little money? First, if you're making a movie in the first place, you're proving to others that you actually DO have money to spend. If you're not paying anyone and not providing meals, it only shows that you're CHOOSING to not allocate some of your funds to that line-item. There are certain costs to make any movie and providing meals should always be considered one of them so your overall budget estimates should include food and drinks. If you can't afford meals/snacks, particularly for a movie where you're asking for volunteers, you shouldn't be making the movie until you do have the financing to do it right.

What should be provided? Some great examples and advice have already been given above. :) There is no "rule" or expectation that you provide "breakfast" at call-time (no matter what time that happens to be), BUT at the very least, having hot coffee and water waiting for the crew when they arrive should be a non-starter. It's also a nice touch to have something like bagels with cream cheese and/or butter and/or jam standing by.

A good "lunch" provides a choice for the crew too as not everyone has the same idea of what is good and/or acceptable. So some kind of healthy protein (like grilled chicken breasts) and a fresh salad bar is almost always standard on any movie set.

A dessert of some kind is a nice way to send the crew back to work. Something like ice cream or brownies or cookies.

If you plan on shooting far past 12 hours, a "Second Walking Meal" is generally provided also, usually by the Craft's Service Department. It can be as simple as a variety of Chinese food items or burgers. Something "portable" is always the goal since the crew isn't sitting down for this "meal," but they will get hungry as you push them to work long hours until the work on the callsheet is completed for the day.

I've been on low-budget sets where the Producer/Director's Mom/Family cooked the meals which means they saved money by buying the supplies themselves (try bulk stores like Costco) and preparing and delivering it and serving it. Ordering out almost always is more expensive.


Try to avoid things like doughnuts and pizza and cookies, which may be easy, but aren't the best. The idea is to provide meals/snacks to keep your crew energized and efficient and safe, not to load them up with sugar and carbs which usually results in lower energy and less productivity for your day. Those things tend to be more pricey anyway, so it's not out of the question to provide healthier lower cost choices like fresh veggies, NutraGrain bars, fruit, water, and coffee.
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#11 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 08:50 PM

Well, personally I was going to offer deferred payment, but for practicalities sake that isn't much better than working for free. Even so, the people involved would be getting experience from the project, and building their resume. If they were getting absolutely nothing from the project, then they wouldn't bother to show up. And if that happens, where people simply don't show up, then it will become painfully obvious that lunch is in order.



Hmmm, an interesting concept. You'd work a crew who has chosen to volunteer their time until the conditions become unacceptable enough that they choose to not return. What that does to YOU and your production is the possibility that one or many simply don't show up on any given day which means that you can't complete your work and your entire project is in jeopardy. What you're suggesting is a permanent state of "racing to the bottom" by driving away potentially qualified skilled crew so that all you end up with are the true bottom-feeders who are the least experienced. While they may be the most ambitious, just hungry to show up and work in the "movie business," isn't it worth the extra money to simply do what is necessary to attract and keep the more qualified crew who will be assets to you instead of liabilities? And if someone does choose to leave on any given day, what guarantee do you have that you can find someone else who is willing to show up at a moment's notice to work under those conditions? And what if a crew does start to complain about not having meals and then you magically start to provide food to keep them from leaving? That tells the crew that you DO have the money but were choosing to not spend it on them before!

Basically, you're kinda asking to get screwed or gain a bad reputation either way.

In other words, do you just want someone with a pulse to show up on set to "help," or do you want someone who knows what he's doing so that the money you ARE spending on everything else will be worth it in the end?
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#12 Brandon Whiteside

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 08:54 PM

You're ignorant and arrogant. Don't make films

Edited by Brandon Whiteside, 12 September 2009 - 08:59 PM.

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#13 Mark Bonnington

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 09:48 PM

Hmmm, an interesting concept. You'd work a crew who has chosen to volunteer their time until the conditions become unacceptable enough that they choose to not return.

No, what I was getting at is that a crew who is working for free should be getting something out of a project. If for some reason they aren't getting enough from the project, for example if they don't find the work is improving their skills, then they might decide to leave the project. Or, perhaps people will leave a voluntary project if they later find paying work. Whatever the reason, if somehow providing free food can magically work wonders for a project, which is what people are saying is the case, then it's worth bringing food into the project to see if it quells a disappearing crew. If a crew is truly being put into deplorable conditions, then free food wouldn't do anything for the situation. Frankly, I'm surprised that some people are driving people on 12 hour days. 8 hour days seem long enough to me.
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#14 Mark Bonnington

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 10:01 PM

You're ignorant and arrogant. Don't make films

Brandon, I'm posting on a "First Time Filmmakers" forum, which by definition introduces my discussion as ignorant. Beginners are always ignorant, that's one of the characteristics that classifies them as beginners. As for arrogance, I haven't proclaimed superiority in this field, I'm simply discussing the issues and explaining my view on them.
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#15 Richard Boddington

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 10:27 PM

You're ignorant and arrogant. Don't make films


Geez guys ease up, he is asking a reasonable question.

Brandon, I'm posting on a "First Time Filmmakers" forum, which by definition introduces my discussion as ignorant. Beginners are always ignorant, that's one of the characteristics that classifies them as beginners. As for arrogance, I haven't proclaimed superiority in this field, I'm simply discussing the issues and explaining my view on them.


You are quite right Mark, Brandon Whiteside's comments are out of line.

Until you've had to pay for a crew's meals out of your own personal financial resources it's not really any ones place to judge. I think it's obvious Mark is not doing a full union 80 million dollar feature here.

Filmmaking is very costly. If some one is making a film for $5000.00 it is most likely the persons own $5000.00. And before I hear, "well people with only $5000.00 should not make films." I can just as easily say, "well people have the freedom to choose whether or not they want to accept a job on a $5000.00 film."

That said, yes, Mark B you should at least try and provide food on set. If you can't spring for a catered hot lunch each day, at least have a craft table on set that is re-stocked with inexpensive food. No one is expecting steak and lobster on a super low budget film.

Bottom line is that the rule book for big budget features with a full union crew can not be applied to super low budget indie non-union shows.

R,
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#16 Brandon Whiteside

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 10:50 PM

It bugs me that i have been in the same position; making a short with no money to pay crew. When you say, or imply that you have absolutely no budget, then you are not in the business to make films. I mean, come on, when is the last time that you have seen successful a film or whatever that cost absolutely zero dollars? Even if your budget is $100 for camera and light rental (and that works for you), you either need to compromise the budget or you need to wait another month, 2 months, whatever to save up some extra money.

I call you arrogant because after the initial question was answered multiple times you seemed to try and come up with reasons why you should still not feed your crew.

I find that offensive because after producing much of my own content, from money out of my pocket, I still came up with the absolute best craft service I could (not pizza, more like sandwiches, snacks all day).

Trust me, a full crew is a happy, attentive crew.

Think about it, you need them. They don't necessarily need you. They could sit at home for free.

Edited by Brandon Whiteside, 12 September 2009 - 10:53 PM.

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#17 Richard Boddington

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 11:30 PM

Well Brandon that was much better said than simply: "You're ignorant and arrogant. Don't make films"

R,
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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 11:37 PM

Feeding a crew on a small budget is certainly a hardship and a challenge, but it's also an absolute necessity to feed them so the first thing to do is admit that and not whine that it's going to cost you money, and not be resentful for having to feed people coming to work on a production that you are more likely to benefit from, financially and career-wise, than they are.

There are certain costs to making movies, and feeding crew people is one of them. So if you can't afford to feed them, don't make a movie. Or make a movie with a very small crew that you can afford to feed. I shot one feature back in 2002 or so that consisted of the director, producer, me, one focus puller, one boom operator, one electric, one soundman, one art director, and one costume person. That's nine people, plus the cast. Lunch was basic stuff each day, nothing fancy -- Subway sandwiches one day, pizza the next, etc. No one complained.

There are also caterers that handle very small productions with simple fare.

Filmmaking is hard work and breaking for a meal after six hours is psychologically very important, not to mention necessary just to refuel to have energy for the next six hours of work. Like anything else in low-budget filmmaking, as a producer you just have to be clever about how you are going to spend the money on food.

Or you can just be hostile with the crew from the start about how much it costs to feed them, and when they complain about a lack of food or drink on the set, you can tell them how grateful they should be to be working for you and making your movie... and see how far that gets you in life, and how much of a "family" atmosphere that creates on the set.

Film shoots can be emotional hothouses and one of a producer's jobs is to create a good working environment where people feel positive about being there. He does that partly by trying to hire positive people, but he also does it by the little things he does everyday to show his gratitude to the crew for working hard. The last thing he wants to do is sound resentful that the people that work for him need to consume food and water every day!

---

As for people getting their own food, on productions shooting on soundstages with a cafeteria, it's not unusual for productions to just break people for an hour to get their own food. But it's always a bit risky on location because time is money and it's way too common for people to leave for lunch and come back late, for various reasons -- couldn't find a place to eat, got stuck in traffic, food was late, etc. Even a fifteen minute delay on a production can be expensive, especially on locations with time restrictions, or if you have daylight shooting limitations. Plus often productions each day start at different times so lunch after six hours can be a Noon or 3PM or 6PM or even midnight -- and it gets harder and harder for crew people to find a place to eat at odd hours. I'm shooting at CBS Radford Studios right now which has a cafeteria, but our shoot is catered anyway because the cafeteria, for one thing, is closed after 3PM.

And when the production is low-paying anyway, then at least people expect the meal to be included. Otherwise they are spending money to eat out every day and not making much money in the first place. Remember that a lot of low-budget productions, due to the long hours, end up paying more or less minimum wage rates to most crew people.

But at least when a meal is provided, it's possible to limit lunch time to a half-hour after the last man is thru the lunch line and then get people back into shooting mode usually 45 minutes after lunch. When people leave to get their own meals, it's more of a crapshoot when you can start shooting again, particularly if a key crew person or cast member wanders back late for various reasons. This is probably the main reason why it is smart to control meal breaks on a shoot by providing the food.
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#19 Mark Bonnington

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Posted 13 September 2009 - 03:02 AM

Okay, the vastly overpowering vibe I'm getting is that the books I read are correct, in that providing food is mandatory. My actress friend also supports that concept... she yelled at me when I mentioned getting rid of the craft table.

Here's a summated list of reasons for providing food on set (thanks to all the thread info):

-Preventing lunch hours from running longer than expected.
-Keeping crew energy levels high.
-Keeping crew hydrated.
-Helping to prevent hypoglycemic problems.
-Making the crew feel appreciated.
-Giving the set a more professional look (good for behind-the-scenes shots).
-Providing a place for non-active crew to mill about.
-Improving the director's skill at making low-cost culinary creations.

Looking at this list, it seems providing food is actually cheaper than not providing food, due to time improvements and increased performance by the crew.

That being the case, I'll simply have to save up more money before I shoot my movie, enough to cover the food budget. I have 10 actors in many scenes of my current script, so the quantity of food I'll need is pretty large. I'm writing a new script now, using only two actors in most scenes, to minimize the food cost.

In the meantime, do any of you have any other recipes or ideas that make for good, cheap, large-quantity food?

Edited by Mark Bonnington, 13 September 2009 - 03:07 AM.

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#20 Michele Peterson

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Posted 13 September 2009 - 03:11 AM

It bugs me that i have been in the same position; making a short with no money to pay crew. When you say, or imply that you have absolutely no budget, then you are not in the business to make films. I mean, come on, when is the last time that you have seen successful a film or whatever that cost absolutely zero dollars? Even if your budget is $100 for camera and light rental (and that works for you), you either need to compromise the budget or you need to wait another month, 2 months, whatever to save up some extra money.

I call you arrogant because after the initial question was answered multiple times you seemed to try and come up with reasons why you should still not feed your crew.

I find that offensive because after producing much of my own content, from money out of my pocket, I still came up with the absolute best craft service I could (not pizza, more like sandwiches, snacks all day).

Trust me, a full crew is a happy, attentive crew.

Think about it, you need them. They don't necessarily need you. They could sit at home for free.


I second this. The original poster came off as arrogant by repeatedly arguing why he has to to do anything for his crew who will be working hard, doing manual labor for HIS project. If you really don't have a penny to your name, then save some money up first or find some friends who owe you a favor, like someone you helped move or helped on their project. After all, lets be realistic, deferred payment never really pans out for crew and how important is this experience going to be on their resume? Is this really going to get someone else their next paying job by being on their resume? I highly doubt it. Your first, no budget project is not likely to win at sundance (they charge a fee too) or get an amazing distribution deal and make money. PA's, Grips, AC's, etc don't have reels, so that doesn't work either.

Show the crew who is there to help you some respect by getting them some decent food. Otherwise, don't be surprised when they walk off in the middle of the shoot because they get hungry, you're leaving them no other choice but to leave and get their own food.
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Paralinx LLC

CineLab

Abel Cine

Wooden Camera

Ritter Battery

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Technodolly

Metropolis Post

Wooden Camera

rebotnix Technologies

Glidecam

Opal

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Visual Products

Tai Audio

The Slider

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Abel Cine

FJS International, LLC

Technodolly

Willys Widgets

Paralinx LLC

CineTape

Rig Wheels Passport

Aerial Filmworks

CineLab

Ritter Battery

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS