At one point or another, everybody in film production has asked the question “what is craft services?” Well, what is craft services? We’re going to answer that question by defining craft service. We’re also going to break down the difference between craft service and catering. By the end, you’ll know everything there is to know about food on set. 

Why Crafty Matters

Is food on set really that important?

Yes. One thousand times yes. A hungry crew is a grump crew and a grumpy crew is no fun for anyone. If you've ever worked on a film set, you know how difficult it is. A lot of time is spent outdoors and whether it's blistering hot or near freezing, a cold water bottle or a steaming cup 'o coffee is a lifesaver.

For the film crew, there's a lot of physical labor involved so calories and hydration are essential. And when you're 10 hours in on a 12-hour day, that granola bar can be just the thing to get you to the finish line.

Especially on low-budget sets, where crew and talent are working cheap or even free, making sure they are well-taken care of goes a lot way.

So, yes, food on set is super important. Other than catered meals, craft services is the place where this important work is done. For a complete guide to the major roles in film production, check out our ultimate guide to film crew positions.


What is craft services?

Craft services is the go-to spot for food and drinks on production sets. Craft services, also known as “crafty,” is usually open for the entire duration of a film’s shoot. Big-budget shoots often differentiate craft services from catered meals.

Things You Might Find at the Crafty Table:

  • Fruit 
  • Water
  • Coffee 
  • Granola/Power Bars
  • Salad 
  • Pens/pencils

What is Craft Services on a Movie Set?

Why is it called craft services?

It is called craft services because it services crafts on set. What are crafts? Historically, crafts have been defined as people who specialize in tasks such as hair/makeup, props, camera, etc. Basically anybody who could be too busy to make it to meal-time. 

Nowadays, most everybody is protected by labor laws. That means crafty is for most everybody on film sets.

This next video answers the question, “what is craft services?" in further detail. 

Movie Set Tips: Craft Services by Filmmaking Stuff

There’s no doubt about it: craft services – or as film professionals usually say “crafty” – plays a huge role in a happy cast and crew.

Snacks vs Meals

Differences between crafty and catering

Craft services and catering are often mistaken for the same thing – but there are a few things that make them different. Yes, both crafty and catering involve food, but whereas the former mostly consists of pre-packaged and non-perishable snacks, the latter consists of meals and hot foods.

This next video explores these differences in further detail.

Craft Services and Catering by Donnell Adler

And just to clear up any confusion, let’s define the key differences.

Crafty provides:

  • Snacks for cast and crew
  • Basic tools needed to aid production
  • Mini-meals to tide over cast and crew

Catering provides:

  • Sit-down meals

It’s that simple. Sometimes (but not always), catering provides snacks for crafty. Just remember that catering is where you get “sit-down meals;” crafty is where you get everything else.

How to Get Into Craft Services

Crafty union and tiers

Craft services are represented by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). As is the case with most union rates, craft services typically fall under a tier-system of pay.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees defines the low-budget tiers as follows:

  • Ultra Low: “At least fifteen (15) days of scheduled principal photography and production costs budgeted at no more than 2.75 million dollars ($2,750,000).”
  • Tier One: “Production costs budgeted at no more than 7.5 million dollars ($7,500,000)”
  • Tier Two: “Production costs budgeted over 7.5 million dollars and at not more than 11 million dollars ($7,500,001 to $11,000,000)”
  • Tier Three: “Production costs budgeted over 11 million dollars and at not more than 15 million dollars ($11,000,001 to $15,000,000)”

Crafty rates scale depending on the size of the production. For full details, check out the IATSE Low Budget Theatrical Agreement.

This next video will leave you with some last minute tips for how to make an awesome craft services table.

Feeding Your Film Crew by Olufemii 

Crafty is an essential, yet often overlooked part of film productions. But with a little preparation, you can master the food game on set.

Up Next

Tips for Prepping a Crafty Table

Thinking about prepping your own crafty table? Check out our next article where we break down step-by-step everything you should include to make an awesome table. By the end, you’ll know everything there is to know about prepping food on set, including how to be cost-efficient.

Up Next: How to Prep Crafty →
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  • Chris Heckmann is a Professor of Media & Communication at Roger Williams University and graduate of UCLA’s Cinema & Media Studies Master of Arts program. When he’s not writing or teaching, he’s probably playing video games (or thinking about the next great Boston sports trade).

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