2020 taught us all a few things. Some truths we didn’t want to know, but others we absolutely needed to. The sudden and overwhelming need for end-user tech-on-demand meant that as consumers, we all got a little more impatient for smooth processes. That includes crew members being onboarded to production.
When even Grandma can school the kids on how to properly set up their AirPods for Zoom, we’re in uncharted territory. Production can no longer afford to send their production accountants and crew members jumping through flaming paper hoops to get onboarded onto a film or TV project.
Fortunately, there are painless crew onboarding solutions out there. The automated start paperwork we use at Media Services to onboard crew members onto productions – called TiM for “Time is Money” – is available to all productions, whether payroll clients or not.
Called by various production accountants a “life saver,” “game changer” and a software “I won’t do a show without,” it’s worth enumerating a few of the ways TiM is reinventing the start paperwork game for film and TV crews.
1. Empower Your Crew To Be Another You On Set
Payroll accountants who have used TiM often applaud its ability to let them delegate start paperwork duties. Whether to department heads or paperwork PAs, TiM provides a simple delegation function to any existing user. Your newly-deputized start paperwork team can be firing off startwork to crew members from their phones the very day you anoint them, using their regular TiM login.
Same goes for I-9 verifiers, of which you can have an unlimited number on a show.
“I have complete freedom in TiM,” says Tammi Haynes, payroll accountant and TiM user on movies like Uncut Gems and TV shows including Crashing. “If I want to give someone hiring power or make them an I-9 approver, I can do that in seconds. It’s just click, click, click, and they have verifying power.”
2. Customize Crew Startwork Like a Champ
While many digital start paperwork systems have preconfigured packets to speed up the job of getting startwork to crew members, production companies often have custom forms for their freelancers to complete.
TiM is designed to let you be the editor of your own custom start forms. Just bring in the document as a PDF, add signature fields and text as needed, and you’ve got a new form in your crew’s startwork packet. Even better, the custom form is now available for future start packets and templates – for the entire production, and beyond.
“Adding a custom document is super simple – you just place the fields where you need them. You can do it yourself, which gives you so much freedom and speed,” says Haynes. “I just add it in and hit Distribute, and now it’s part of the new start packet.”
3. Approve, Sort, Repeat
Payroll accountants know how difficult it is to track down missing crew deal memos, verified I-9s, etc. when their crew is using paper startwork. But going digital doesn’t necessarily improve visibility – unless the onboarding system is built for it.
TiM’s approval pipeline struck us immediately as not just a replacement for paper, but a vast improvement on it. This is mainly due to its advanced sorting and push notification functionalities.
“I love the approval pipeline. I can easily click and sort the information any way I want. If I want to see who hasn’t had their I-9 verified, I can just click Unverified and see them all instantly,” says Haynes.
“If I need to kick startwork back to someone, I can see that in the approval pipeline; there’s a little flag and I can kick it back to them at any time.”
4. Make Mine Mobile
A big factor in TiM’s success is that the founders themselves were former crew members on production. They created the software to make the startwork process better for themselves and their fellow film and TV workers.
By focusing on the needs of the crew from the outset, they made a system that was smooth for everyone, from the set to the production office.
One way they made it crew-friendly? TiM’s design is mobile-responsive.
That means it recognizes when you hit the site from a phone, and adjusts accordingly – making it more like an app. Though the payroll accountant may be on a desktop most of the time, the rest of the crew isn’t – with TiM, they can still fill any role in the approval hierarchy with a few taps on their phone screen.
“I show them how to send invites one time, and they can do it all day,” Haynes says of her hiring deputies. “Plus, they can do it directly from their phones, which is huge – not everyone is going to have a laptop on set.”
5. Remember Me
Another down side of paper? Having to fill out the same information over and over again, as the crew member goes from job to job – especially on shorter term productions like branded content shoots or esports gigs. With TiM, the employee’s information is stored in their profile, so when they get invited to another production, they can simply click to fill in their info.
But TiM’s memory also serves the production side. Accountants, department heads and paperwork PAs are understandably overwhelmed when they have to re-key names, addresses, occupations and rates from handwritten crew startwork – especially for crew they’re working with for a third or fourth time!
Add to this headache missing signatures, illegible writing and the complicated do-si-do of the I-9 and its verification, and you’ve got a recipe for madness.
“TiM remembers my contacts, so when I’m sending an invite to somebody, if I’ve hired them on another job, their info just pops up,” Haynes relates. “I just put in their email or phone number – the system finds them, and I create their offer right there.”
Wrapping It Up on Starts
It’s a new world in 2021, in more ways than one. Start production on the right foot with an automated onboarding system that saves your sanity.
Get more information about TiM Digital Onboarding.