Eating for Free in Los Angeles

Guest Post by Evan Gaustad

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“Starving Artist” is a popular term to throw around in LA. It’s a nice, backhanded way to tell a hopeful actor or musician that they’ve made a terrible career choice. 

While it’s a cutesy sort of phrase on the surface, what if it actually rings true? What if, in an attempt to pursue your dreams, you are actually starving? Like, you have absolutely no money and cannot afford food? Your body has begun breaking down muscle and other tissues as a means of keeping the nervous system and myocardium functioning? At that point it becomes less important to find a 49-seat theatre in which you can set your modern day adaptation of The Cherry Orchard, and more pressing that you eat a sandwich.

Fortunately, Los Angeles offers a unique means of eating fantastic meals for free. With a little determination and a crippled sense of pride, anyone can go to the set of a commercial or TV show and eat from a craft service table as though it was their right. Here are some guidelines if your life choices have made it imperative that you steal food in this manner:

Find A Set

Don't mind if I do.

Don't mind if I do.

Lots of TV shows shoot on the studio lots, so you can’t go there. How frustrating would it be to get arrested on an empty stomach?! Don’t plan on getting free food at Paramount.

Instead, just look for the handy yellow signs posted on telephone poles and street lights and start your day with a fun little treasure hunt. It shouldn’t take more than an hour to find a commercial or film shoot on location, and then you’re just moments away from getting some food and hopefully restarting your metabolism.

Get Some Breakfast

None of these people probably know each other.

None of these people probably know each other.

The most important meal of the day is, fortunately, the easiest to get if you’re a freeloader whose liver is screaming for glucose. Since the “crew call” is usually so much earlier than the “cast call”, the breakfast food truck arrives early and has to stay there for a couple hours as people roll in. More importantly, no one knows who anyone is at seven in the morning. Still, to ensure that the guy making your bacon doesn’t get wise to you, thereby prolonging your body’s state of ketosis, it’s important to assume one of the following roles:

  • ACTOR – This is probably easiest. You can wear whatever and looking confused is typical for a young actor arriving to set. The crew will assume you’re full of yourself and not want to talk to you anyway. Follow the scent of coffee, order a breakfast burrito, hold off on the cheese to keep up the rouse (even though your body will be screaming for it since every ounce of fat has been used to fuel your flailing brain), and then be on your way. The only hard part of pretending to be one of the project’s actors is that you likely need to know what the project is about, so give that some thought.
     
  • CREW – A member of the crew is free to not know exactly what’s going on, because you can just pretend this is your 13th straight 14-hour day. Respond to questions with short answers like, “need coffee” and “you have no idea.” However, if this is your plan for reintroducing vitamins into your system, you may need to dress the part. Showing up in flip-flops is a dead give away that you’re a starving liar. Bringing a roll of painter’s tape that you tie to your belt will trick almost anyone for at least 15 minutes.
     
  • DIRECTOR – No one will believe you, but if you claim to be the person in charge you have a chance of confusing everyone just long enough to order and eat a giant breakfast (but not so giant that a burst of insulin throws off your electrolyte balance enough to stop your heart) and then leave. This is not your best option.

Get Some Lunch

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If you sleep through breakfast because your body is essentially trying to hibernate, don’t worry. Lunch is still an option, though not the same walk in the park as breakfast since everyone has been working together for half a day already. With that in mind, here are your options:

  • CREW MEMBER WHO GOT LOST – Come in flustered, or as flustered as your severe niacin deficiency will allow, talking about how you went to the wrong set and unloaded 25 C-stands before realizing you weren’t where you needed to be. Then pretend to wave to a person who isn’t there, grab some food, say something about leaving gels in your car and run.
     
  • PRODUCER – Much like playing the director role at breakfast, acting like a producer at lunch might baffle people long enough for you to get a small dose of riboflavin. The trick here is yelling into a cell phone. A secret to success in Hollywood is unbridled anger, so yelling at no one while piling salmon filets on a plate won’t really draw attention. Nor will storming off with your food never to be seen again.

Get Some Dinner

Most sets will have wrapped before dinnertime, so you may want to spend the evening finding extra blankets since your body temperature is much lower than it should be. But, if you’re lucky enough to stumble across a late shoot that’s still feeding people, just walk up and take whatever you want. At the point in the day, no one will care.

It’s hard to make it as an artist in Los Angeles. It’s even harder when you’re constantly on the verge of slipping into a coma. But with a bit of planning and some hunger-fueled resolve, you can be eating for free and back to a reasonable, dream-chasing weight in no time.  

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Evan Gaustad is a comedy writer and blogger. He's currently traipsing around the country, writing about the things he sees. Visit and subscribe to his blog for more!

Interested in writing for Taking Fountain? Pitch me at carrie[at]takingfountain[dot]com! And don't forget to swing by the Taking Fountain Community group over on Facebook!