Production business relies heavily on the transfer of items from one hand to another.
Passing down crew deal memos, submitting receipts, completing exhibit-g, getting signatures for time cards…
I wouldn’t be surprised if a single pen changes more than 10 hands within an hour in production.
No handshakes, no touching, perhaps not even passing down paperwork. Welcome to Post-CoronaVirus times.
As we are finding ways to reopen production business, I figured conversing about digital transformation may be helpful.
Honestly, It may even be long due for the production business.
What is digital transformation?
Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies to create new — or modify existing — business processes, models, culture, and experiences to meet changing business and market requirements.
When it comes to production, the first thing we get to transform is the paperwork process.
- for Cast & Crew Deal Memo’s
- for Timecards
- for Opening accounts and other paperwork
Anything we need the signature of – we can do digitally.
In the US, since 2000, for the last 2 decades, everything you sign digitally is legally accepted like ink according to The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign Act) (*)
There are two cloud cloud-based e-signature services that I like. Both allow the user to send, sign, track, and manage signature processes using a browser or mobile device.
Adobe Sign (formerly EchoSign) is the digital signature solution from the software giant Adobe.
It is part of the Adobe Document Cloud suite of services.
Adobe Sign is sold in subscriptions at the individual, small business, or enterprise level.
Pricing: Currently, individual price starts from $14.99 per month (for annual commitment or annual prepaid) and it is $24.99 if paid month to month with no commitment.
The package gives you both Adobe Sign and Acrobat pro.
I am using Adobe Sign with an individual account as well. I like their pricing for unlimited use and I am familiar with their easy interface over the years.
→ Since they are the creators of PDF, it is easiest to edit signature areas on their software.
→ Some templates (like I-9) are already on the system which makes my job easy.
👉 I recommend Adobe Sign for the indie-producer or production coordinator that is responsible for the paperwork for the crew.
Their small business package (currently) starts from $20.99 per user and can have up to 9 users.
One of the most popular e-sign software in the business world, DocuSign offers a free account for receiving signatures and archiving everything you signed.
Pricing: Currently, their personal plan starts with $10 (with an annual commitment) but limits you to only 5 documents a month. You can use $15 without an annual commitment.
If you are not needing to send paperwork to the crew and using e-sign less than 5 times a month (let’s say you want to use it with your production accountant, your insurance broker or your clients) then a DocuSign membership might be right for you.
I also highly recommend it for organizations.
We used DocuSign for my last team (we had 7 people in my team using it at the same time). I created templates and shared amongst my production manager and coordinators.
👉 If your production office has multiple people sending the same paperwork, DocuSign business accounts are ideal for you.
In the Business Pro account (which is $40 per person) I am told that you can send the same document to multiple people at the same time – with advanced fields. That will be pretty useful for a high-volume production office.
- Instead of sending the cast & crew members their paperwork one by one, DocuSign told me that they have a way to change the name field, upload the data, and automatically send all the paperwork to each cast.
- FYI, I didn’t use that feature yet.
Cash is so 20th-century.
Currently, you can easily use your banks’ online banking for payments instead of writing a check yourself, putting it in an envelope, and mailing it to them.
If you want to eliminate the hustle of paper altogether, you may have few options for smaller amounts.
One of the easiest ways to send and receive money is Zelle.
Zelle is a digital payments network owned by the major banks (Bank of America, BB&T, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, PNC Bank, US Bank, and Wells Fargo) and you can register to it with your phone number or email. It enables you to send and receive money directly to your bank account.
FYI, there are limits on the dollar amount and frequency of transactions allowed on Zelle that are imposed by the banking institution associated with the account being used. Therefore it is not ideal for paying everyone on a big production.
👉 I recommend Zelle for receiving money (for small contracts) or sending petty cash to department heads.
The advantage of Zelle is the instant arrival of the money directly to the bank account.
A very popular app that is owned by PayPal, Venmo is ideal for small transactions. It doesn’t charge for the transaction itself. Venmo makes the money from you keeping your money in the account. Normally, it can take one to three business days to get the balance in your bank account. If you want it instantly, Venmo will charge you.
👉 Venmo is something I frequently use for day player contractors like certain extras or other misc. players.
The last times I used Venmo:
→ I had extras for a background on my set. I had a checkbook and Venmo. More than half of the extras preferred Venmo.
→ I frequently use it to pay the owners of ‘picture cars’ that we found on Craigslist 🙂
→ I also used it while I was shooting during the pandemic. We wanted to find a way to not have physical contact while paying the cast members. So I used Venmo.
Let’s stop taping receipts to clean papers please.
Double the waste! Double the time… no one needs it.
Truly. No one.
The IRS has allowed taxpayers to use electronic receipts as documentary evidence since 1997.
In fact, their rule states that the receipts must be readable. And guess what happens to paper receipts after a few years because of the cheap receipt inks vendors use. It fades. Digital scan stays the same forever.
We have no need to continue this habit.
Here is a software that can help you with your receipts.
Expensify is a cloud-based expense management software that synchronizes with bank transactions and users can upload their receipts.
→You can sync it with your transactions.
→Receipts can be read automatically (With a technology called SmartScan)
→ Your receipt can be matched with transactions.
In my last in-house gig, my team switched to Expensify for receipts as well. This was a major win for efficiency and saving papers.
Whether it is Expensify or Quickbooks or Sheets – use an expense management system and please do not tape the receipts to paper.
Pair it with the budgeting template I created and you are set up to win!
Leave your email to me and I will send you the Google Sheet template, tips and tricks for film & video production and give you first access to our budgeting software we are developing.
I don’t see the need for uploading footage to the hard drives going away anytime soon. But maybe in a decade, all footage will be in the cloud and transferring footage to hard drives can be an old practice as well.
For now, before I finish this article, I want to showcase another cool software that you may like.
Frame io is a ‘collaborative video workflow platform’. It’s one of the best ways for editors to send videos for notes. One of the music video editors introduced me to this system and it was the most frequent system we used in the last in-house gig I had as well.
The beauty of frame.io is that it gives you the ability to give notes while watching the video and it automatically puts time marks on your notes.
You can review dailies and all versions of the edit. It is designed to host multiple versions of your video project so you can see them all, note them all and display the latest version.
You can even draw inside the video frames to point out little elements in your video production. It’s pretty neat.
Pricing: It starts from $19 per month for one user.
There are still a lot more ways for digital transformation to change our industry. We will also minimize paper transfer and paper waste…
I am hoping the ‘concern of passing down pen & paper’ may push our industry toward digital transformation more rapidly.
What do you think?
Let me know by commenting below!
P.S. I do not have any financial-affiliation with any of the brands. I am just their user. – Featured image is Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn / Clu in the movie Tron (1982) right before he gets digitized. 😉 I re-made the two memes from John Cena meme and Disappointed Cricket Fan meme. Photo with Leonardo DiCaprio is from Scorsese’s movie Wolf of Wall Street (2013)