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Arts and Entertainment

A Former Hollywood Assistant's Guide To Stealing Food From Craft Services

(Photo by Andy Kuban via the Flickr Creative Commons)
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Angelenos know the signs of a production in process—round-the-clock traffic, giant white “working trucks” blocking in your Prius, exhausted PAs with clipboards informing you that the gunshots ricocheting over your apartment building are just sound effects and no cause for concern.

The best signs, of course, are the actual signs; if you live in L.A. (or binge-watched Bojack Horseman) you’ll probably recognize the distinctive bright-yellow, black-font-ed squares bearing an arrow and pointing to “CREW PARKING THIS WAY.” What those signs usually don’t advertise, though, is the ultimate fringe benefit of working in the entertainment industry: free food.

Almost every production, from feature film to commercial shoots, hires a craft service department to provide food and beverages for its cast and crew. The spreads can range in variety from pomegranates and fresh melon to three-day-old Yum Yum Donuts hard enough to chip a tooth on, but the point is, they’re there for the taking, sort of.

As a former TV assistant who’s watched many a crafty table get plundered (and done some plundering myself - I miss you, free Uncrustables), I feel uniquely qualified to help hungry L.A. residents on the go access their inner Joanne the Scammer and avail themselves of all the free food that show business has to offer.

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Of course, LAist cannot condone the practice of civilians stealing food intended to nourish hardworking crew members scrambling to get a decent meal in between sixteen-hour days… but if you’re intent on doing it regardless of ethical repercussions, here’s how:

• In crafty-stealing, as in life, the first key is confidence. Walk in like you’re the boss—or, better yet, like you’re the assistant of the boss, scrambling to procure an iced latte and a bowl of Lucky Charms as though your career depends on it (which, depending on the boss, it easily could.)

• When in doubt, say you’re “Jen’s assistant.” There’s always a Jen. Or if it's a commercial being shot, say you're "with the client." People are always scared of the client, and will acquiesce accordingly.

• Keep props in your car—a true production crew member goes nowhere without one of three things:

  • a) a white-paged script. No colored paper! Trust me, everyone on set will freak out if they see you with a different-colored (i.e. more recent) script draft than the one they're working from, and this will set off a chain reaction of panic that makes your presence way more known than a handful of pilfered Craisins ever could.
  • b) a walkie-talkie. Black, plain, standard-issue. Extra points if you stick some gaffer’s tape on there with a fake name scrawled on it. Extra, extra points if you add some kind of inscrutable inside joke (BIG KAHUNA, Extra Sauce) on the nametag.
  • c) a bottle of Arrowhead water. Maybe you’re a beleaguered personal assistant tasked with hydrating the “talent”; maybe you’re parched from singlehandedly holding together the transpo department; maybe you’re the most fearsome entity of all, network executive paying an unexpected set visit to “see how production is going.” Whoever you are, if you’re on a working set, you will have acquired what’s commonly known as Imagined Dehydration Syndrome, a disorder endemic to the Los Angeles entertainment community.

• If someone asks you suspiciously whether you’re “affiliated with the production,” fake a phone call. Pro tip; an authentic Hollywood-assistant conversation will just involve nodding silently while the person on the other end screams at you, and occasionally interjecting with a soft “You’re right, I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.”• Smile. And look exhausted. Hollywood gets a bad rap for being aloof, but most people working behind the scenes in the industry are friendly! And tired. So, so tired.
Emma Specter is a freelance writer and copy-editor who was born and raised in New York City, moved to Los Angeles two years ago and is probably getting a parking ticket as you're reading this.