Everyone’s Favorite Department

On one end of the spectrum, you have the camera department. On the other, craft services.

(Or “crafty,” as they are affectionately known by everyone else besides me, because “crafty” is already a word, with a definition and everything.)

The craft services person is always the nicest guy on set, with the possible exception of locations. The locations manager can be either super-nice, or used car salesman-nice, but crafty is always nice-nice.

There’s a very good reason for that. To most people, crafty means snacks. They’re the ones who bring bagels and doughnuts in the morning, put out fruit and candy all day long, and occasionally bring out walking meals after lunch, in the long stretch before wrap.

But that’s not actually their job. The reason the department is called “craft services” is that they’re supposed to help the other departments, or “crafts.” The on set dresser needs to move a couch? Crafty picks up the other end. Grips are unloading their truck? Craft lends a hand. In other words, he’s the most helpful guy on set.

A professor once told me the story of how crafty went from being a handy man to a snack provider. It’s probably apocryphal, but I like it anyway.

When people come in to work a long day on set, it’s nice to have some doughnuts in the morning. The craft services man, nice guy that he is, buys a box, and asks everyone to throw in some change to cover the cost.

But some people don’t like doughnuts. They like bagels. So crafty gets doughnuts and bagels. Pretty soon he’s getting doughnuts and bagels and fruit and coffee, and all of this is starting to cost a pretty penny. Unfortunately, not everyone is contributing their fair share, and this poor, nice guy is losing money.

So, he goes to the producer and asks for a little money, and the producer is like, “Doughnuts? Fuck that. I’m not paying for fucking doughnuts.”

And so, the next day, there are no doughnuts, nor bagels or fruit or coffee. And everyone is very, very upset. So the producer gives the crafty guy his money.

Decades later, crafty=snacks.

Oddly, since craft services is part of local 80, their union charter still reflects this history. They’re still supposed to do all of those other chores, like sweep the floor.

And collect horse poop.

True story– The craft services guy came up to the UPM and said he’s going to need another person tomorrow. The UPM asks why?

“Because we’re going to have a horse on set, and it’s crafty’s job to pick up the horse’s… waste.”

“So what? How long does it take to pick up horse shit? You don’t need another guy just for that.”

“Do you think the producer will like to eat finger sandwiches made by the same guy he saw sweeping up horse poop an hour ago?”

He got the extra man.

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6 Responses

  1. Good post, good stories. Craft services was only recently folded into Local 80, though, after their union lost a battle with Tom Short, Glorious Leader of the IA until his sudden retirement last month. I don’t know the details, but they managed to piss off Angry Tom, and he retaliated by turning them into grips.

    I liked your juicer buddy’s insight into the camera department as the only one that doesn’t help anybody else. I’d never thought of it that way, and suddenly realized how true it is.

    I’d always framed it in terms of high school — and the camera guys are the jocks, always preening in their nice clean letterman’s jackets.
    I’ve noticed a lot more women in camera the last few years, though, and that’s a good thing. They bring a certain civilizing element to that department, and are always the nicest people.

    They’re cute, too — never a bad thing…

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