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Key Craft Services

Expert Sources: Heather Lapp
Date: August 7, 2019
Reads: 9,003

Career Overview

Key Craft Services provide snacks, coffee and refreshments to crew and cast throughout the day. They also maintain trash on and around set.

Alternate Titles

Key Crafty Service, Key Crafty, Key Craft Server

Avg. Salary

$1,200 a week1

Salary Range

$110k to $180k+

Career Description

Heather Lapp, purveyor of Craft Services to top television shows like Sorry For Your Loss, The Catch and People Like Us clarifies how Craft Services is different from catering: “Caterers are the people who come in and provide breakfast and lunch, they do that huge setup. What I do as a Key Crafty is come in and maintain all day.

“I do coffee, I do snacks, I do the trash, I take care of anything the cast, crew, and assistants need. I have a whole setup on stage with snacks and then, after lunch, I’m making fruit platters to go out. People can even come on the trailer and get anything they want. It’s drinks, food, little snacks, early dinner — that’s where I come in as a Crafty.”

Lapp explains that her day starts early, earlier than every other department head: “I’m there before everyone, and I leave after everyone. I have to get my setup done pretty quickly in the mornings so I come in an hour before the crew and start getting water and trash ready. People need to be hydrated right from the start.

“Also, people are super tired and start to complain if I don’t get the coffee going as fast as possible! You gotta keep everyone happy and make sure they have what they need, right from the off.”

Lapp runs her own department and maintains her own schedule independent of anyone else: “I don’t have to check in with anyone. If I’m on stage, I go in early and turn on the coffee machines and the warmers. Then I get the water into the coolers and check the trash — as a Crafty, you get a system down.”

Lapp has people coming in and out of her trailer all day, and the numbers are astronomical: “You have 150 people, at least, that you’re dealing with on a daily basis so you build relationships amidst the chaos.

“I have a great relationship with the PAs — they have a really hard job and take the brunt of set stress, so I like to take care of them. I have a really nice deli bar and a hot dog machine so they can come in any time and get what they need.”

Lapp shares her favorite analogy about being a Key Crafty: “I’m like a Bartender — people come into my trailer and share all kinds of things. The cool thing is, you become a part of a family, a dysfunctional one. When people are dead tired and having a horrible day, they start telling me their problems — it’s really fun!

“And I cheer people up — it’s lovely when I bring something special out, some cookies or special chips — and I see the effect it has on people. I try to be positive, I try to have fun with it all.”

Most of the time, Key Craft Services are hired by the UPM (Unit Production Manager), but if the Line Producer or even an Executive Producer has a particular preference, they can also hire the Craft Services team. Lapp explains that it’s your reputation that precedes and follows you:

“With Crafty, if someone sees you on a show and they like you, they’ll ask a Producer to hire you. Then you have to interview and sell yourself. At an interview, I bring my resumé with all my shows and they ask you lots of questions: what’s your setup like, describe your trailer, what does your coffee cart look like. The aesthetic on set and at basecamp is very important.”

Lapp tries to put her finger on what differentiates her from other Craft Service providers: “It’s always tough to articulate what makes you special, but I’m very attentive, I’m a people pleaser. It’s important to watch what’s going on to know when to jump in and when to back out. Actors might be about to do a heavy, crying scene so you won’t even want to look at them.

“Some Actors even want to stay in character. I really try and give Actors space; I introduce myself and let them know I can bring them anything they need in their trailer, or I can send a PA with their needs. Some Actors have special dietary requirements and I’ll buy what they need and leave it in their trailer.”

Every time Lapp interviews, she is given her daily budget. She laments that the range is variable and it can be a challenge to make the daily pot stretch: “It could be $1,000 per day and I’ll have to make everything work.

Ice, water, soda, snacks, fruit… it all comes out of that. $1,000 might sound like a lot, but for 150 people, it goes very quickly. Right now, we’re on location shooting Season Two of Sorry For Your Loss and it’s hot.

“I have twenty-two bags of ice and we’re going through it like crazy! I love working with decent budgets ($3,000/$4,000 per day) because it is hard to keep people happy otherwise. I once did a feature and the Producers didn’t even articulate a budget; they just said, ‘Do whatever you want, just keep people happy!’ I love that!”

Lapp goes on to lay out some of the changing trends on set and the fiscal challenges that come with them: “More and more people want the healthiest food possible on set, but it is more expensive so smaller budgets can be taxing. Plus, productions are now becoming ecologically responsible with non-plasticware and no single-use plastics, but going ‘green’ is a lot more expensive.

“Production doesn’t give us extra to do that — it’s a ‘make it happen’ attitude. And once you do it successfully, you’ve set a precedent: you have to keep doing it!”