One the great simple joys is hanging around on a movie set.

Unless you have no reason to be there. In which case it’s boring after an hour.

Or, if you’re about about to stand at a door no one uses for eighteen hours with a clear mission to make sure everyone continues not to use it.

But there’s always craft service.

Almost none of what people imagine when they picture a movie set is completely necessary. The racks of costumes. Ladies in headdresses talking to a space alien and a guy dressed like a Roman soldier. The frantic people and guy with a bullhorn. Mostly, nope.

Usually a half dozen people meet in the dark, in a parking lot, at some unsuspecting location. There’s a bathroom. A place to change and do makeup. And a connection between the place, the actors and their characters. All you have to do is unload the van and wait for the sun to come up. Have gun will travel.

But you still got to eat. And here’s the most important thing: coffee.

Breakfast is served a half hour before call time. Why not at call time? Because call time is work time. This sounds sour, but breakfast is a courtesy meal. There needs to be something there, and hopefully hot, simply for esprit de corps. The day it happens to not show up, though, feel free to point at the dry cereal.

This does not apply to coffee. Those coffee-urn things take for freaking ever to warm up. For. Freaking. Ever. Especially when no one thinks to plug the thing in until somebody asks about it. Especially when you’re standing there waiting for it. When you see somebody wandering aimlessly around a parking lot looking for something to plug a coffee pot into, you are in for a long day.

Same problem at Starbucks, or whatever you’re planning on swinging by in the morning. This seems like an easy fix when someone offers to do it the night before. But it can come back to bite you. The water isn’t already hot when they unlock the door in the morning, even if you’re dutifully standing there waiting, increasingly late for call time. They can keep the world buying soulful holiday albums and pumpkin coffee, but the water thing doesn’t happen any quicker than it will let them. So get to set first and make some coffee.

Never, ever, run out of water. Soda isn’t water. But while you’re at it, get a little bit of every kind of soda. Generic is perfect. And then on top put the vitamin waters and one six pack of something fancy looking. Just one.

Don’t forget a second urn for hot water and a variety pack of tea. Buy cheap, regular coffee buy the resealable can and hide the can. And lots of the fancy coffee cups with the little holders. The normal creamer and sugar packets. Put a magic marker on the table and you’ll save on cups.

Every craft service table needs a little personality.

Every craft service table needs a little personality. (

You need candy. Go by texture and variety, but nothing that will break people’s teeth. Avoid things with nuts. Don’t make somebody’s imaginary allergy your problem.

Two boxes of different energy bars. It looks like more if they are different colors.

Fruit. A little of everything. Replace daily. Old fruit makes people sad.

Personal favorite: Those little ham roll-ups with the cream cheese from the deli at the super market. It is an empirical fact that these are better the second day, as long as they slept in somebody’s refrigerator and not the trunk of their car. Even still, something magical happens with that cream cheese.

Speaking of which, creamer . . . Dairy products floating around in cooler water in the back of a van are not ok. NOT OK! Get the little ones and throw the warm ones away. It’s the sort of thing no one will notice until everybody notices all at once.

How much do you buy? One big handful of every individual thing, multiplied by every person there, by the number of days until you go shopping again. People snack in categories. They’ll talk themselves into one cookie (two or three times) and one mini muffin (two or three times) and down the line as their natural orbit happens throughout the day. Plan on shopping for non-perishables again in about three days.

Then what about lunch? Everyone eats every six hours for one hour. This is not an estimate. This is not optional. Everything else stops. Want to lead people? Respect their stomachs. Which has more to do with having things hot and on time rather than breaking the bank on anything fancy.

Which means lunch for a six a.m. call time is noon, but dinner is at seven. When it’s time, stand up and yell, “We’re back in.” They’ll all know what you mean.

Pizza is not lunch or dinner. Read that again out loud. Pizza and burgers are walk away foods. Another courtesy meal you hand people on the way to their cars after you just squeezed twenty hours out of them on an eight-hour flat rate. This isn’t so much for their spirits but rather so that they come back the next day at all. And don’t accidentally run you down on the way out of the parking lot.

A table full of sandwiches, especially a giant sub, are at best a lunch, not a dinner, and there better be antipasto and regular salad and even some kind of soup. Chili is great, but only for people that like chili.

Know your vegans and vegetarians! Think of them first.

After a couple days, splurge on a food truck. But do yourself a favor and go take a look at it before it rolls up and everybody sees their lunch spot dripping motor oil.

Meals are more about restaurant rotation than anything else. It takes effort to get everything there and hot at the right moment from a different place everyday. Have ALL the local menus ahead of time. All of them. Have a backup to your backup and keep it moving.

Asian, Italian, doesn’t matter. Get a variety of things. Cover all the bases. But if it’s anything more exotic than your average mall food court, make sure everybody’s on board, then check again. Eye contact is key to communication.

Do not trust their delivery people. Ever. Go pick up the food. Always.

The best way to get everybody’s order for individual meals? Walk around with the menu and a pen and have them write their name next to what they want with any notes. This is the best advice you got all day.

Why? Because even nice people get grumpy. And under that kind of pressure, grumpy can squirt out in the strangest places. To make sure it doesn’t unnecessarily get all over you, have written proof that the sound guy said yellow mustard.