Digital Workflows on Production: Embracing Our New Reality

July 31, 2020

Let’s Get Digital (Workflows)

As the coronavirus rages on throughout much of the U.S., digital workflows on production have gone from "nice to have" to a must.

The industry white paper and numerous state production guidelines for COVID-19 have given us all a great jumping-off point. As we drill down into the new production requirements, each department will likely need to explore COVID-safe solutions in more depth.

Here we’ll look specifically at how producers and production accountants can institute digital production workflows in keeping with the white paper.

Getting (Off) That Paper – and onto Digital Workflows

For the production office, digital paperwork will reign supreme. In fact, the industry white paper has an entire section just titled Paper. The overarching mission statement there? “Whenever possible, use of paper should be minimized.”

Got it. But what does this entail on production?

Digital workflow for paperless startwork and scripts

“Alternatives such as electronic scripts and electronic sign-in/out should be explored.”

Here the white paper refers to shooting scripts as well as any paperwork the crew would normally have to sign with a pen on set – so startwork and time entry (crew call, wrap, meals). Instead of giving out 500 pens a day and somehow sealing each piece of crew startwork in a plastic evidence bag, the industry white paper suggests going electronic with a digital workflow on production.

Digital startwork

Your standard crew onboarding documentation: W4s, I9s, deal memos, even custom non-disclosure agreements. For these, of course we recommend TiM!

Mobile timecards

There are a few on the market, some tied to a payroll service, some not. Media Services has a good one that integrates with TiM.

Paperless scripts for the digital workflow

You can use something like Production Pro to exchange the shooting script paperlessly among production departments. We're big fans of theirs for all kinds of paperless solutions - you can even do rehearsals and choreography with their app.

Petty Cash in the New Digital Workflow

“Consider alternatives to petty cash to minimize the need to handle paper money, such as purchase cards.”

Purchase cards for film and TV production are in a category that was already trending pre-COVID, and now is seeing an avalanche of interest as productions set up digital workflows. This is the perfect way to keep petty cash paperless during the pandemic, while also picking a peck of pickled peppers. Sorry.

  • Cashet is a widely used paperless p-card solution
  • PEX is our choice – a powerful petty cash dashboard and a mobile app for easy receipt capture make this a production accountant’s dream

How Does Production Management Fit into the Digital Workflow?

“Crew lists, call sheets, production reports and other similar documents should be electronic whenever possible.”

Again, the production industry was already leaning this direction, especially for the comprehensive paperless production reporting – COVID-19 just kicked it into high gear.

  • Crew lists, call sheets and production reports – Many options here. We’ve heard good things about Yamdu and Studio Binder, which are larger production management tools for a fully digital workflow. For an even more integrated solution which ties in payroll processing and digital asset management, check out Cast & Crew Studio.
  • Cloud-based production accounting / cost reporting – again, this will often be tied to a payroll company such as Media Services, whose MediaWeb offers digital vendor payments and is ACH-friendly.

When Paperwork Must Be Shared

“When use of shared paperwork is required, such as blueprints or editing binders, hand hygiene before and after handling is recommended.”

For the sake of all crew, we certainly hope to see this kind of paperwork sharing eliminated entirely, in favor of digital workflows on production. A fully paperless system is in the interest of everyone, from the crew members on up to the executives, financiers, production payroll and insurance companies.

While this part of the industry white paper doesn’t address digital solutions, for set construction blueprints you might again look to something like our friends at Production Pro.

Additional Tools for Keeping that Workflow Digital

While not specifically touched on by the white paper, a couple more digital tools we love can also keep your workflow contact-free in key ways:

Set Scouter, where you can browse and book thousands of locations right from your kitchen table.

Art Cube Nation, a digital resource network for art departments everywhere. They've done amazing work mobilizing the production community to fabricate PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tripgrid, a travel management tool for production which can help you get policies in place for moving crew around safely during the pandemic.

Looking to get started with digital start paperwork? Talk to us.

CATEGORY: Thoughts On

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