7 ways to encourage social distancing on a film set

The idea of social distancing on a film set has the potential to sound like an oxymoron. Almost every memory I have working on set involves lots of people working closely together for very long periods of time. While it may be too early to conjecture there are still things we can plan and prepare for.

Using technology, avoiding paper and going digital used to be a nice suggestion over the last several years. These tools/technologies were often optional devices that productions would use to streamline things and make things more efficient. Today in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic that we face digital tools will serve as a primary and necessary way to help in our efforts to create a safe set and maintain productivity.

Below I have outlined 7 ways to encourage social distancing on a film set in light of the COVID-19 virus.

  1. Use technology to allow a video village system that is not dependent on 1-2 monitors. Teradek has a great product called SERV PRO that allows a video system to stream up to 10 devices (combination of iPads and phones). Using this device will allow the people that really need to see a monitor (various dept heads and Producers) the opportunity to view without having to all be clustered around the same monitor as the Director/DP/Scripty. In addition this system makes it extremely helpful for ADs when placing and setting background in very large spaces to carry their monitor with them.
  2. Have signs on set to remind cast and crew of Social Distancing efforts. Consider placing these signs in key spots such as restrooms, trailers, entrances to set etc
  3. Limit in-person meetings and auditions. Consider using software like Zoom to conduct production meetings, table reads etc.
  4. When working with Background Actors consider using software like RABS to decrease contact between staff and the Extras. RABS is great for handling digital vouchers and creating a paperless system that will give you peace of mind.
  5. Go digital with sides, call sheets and essential paperwork for cast and crew. A few companies that are making waves in this industry are Setkeeper, Croogloo, Studio Binder and Scenechronize. By avoiding passing out paper documents you will be minimizing crew interaction in a significant way. There are also numerous payroll companies that have setup digital systems for time cards etc.
  6. Create a training video system that each Crew Member, Cast Person and Background Actor must watch prior to their first day of work. Trainual is a software tool that you could implement with relative ease.
  7. Allocate large enough holding areas for lunch, background holding etc so that people are able to have enough space when doing those activities. Some sets may even talk about doing a working lunch and observing french hours to allow for such a possibility.

7 reasons to consider the new G-Casper when creating Call Sheets

Ever since I heard that there was finally a reliable call sheet formulated on google docs I wanted to try it. I remember when google docs was in its mere infancy I tried to create a call sheet to fit, however there were limitations. Now that google docs has advanced in what it can do, a team of people have developed a kick-ass tool that will forever change the way ADs create and maintain call sheets, production reports, exhibit G’s and more.

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  1. It’s created using Google Docs. Google Docs have become an integral part of tv/film production thus making this transition that much easier. The same premise of using an excel sheet…only its now in the cloud. Should your computer get stolen/missing you still have a call sheet to edit.
  2. It’s free. You don’t have to spend a dime. Who doesn’t love that?
  3. You can now make the process more collaborative. Stop emailing those excel files back and forth or waiting for your dropbox files to sync. Have your entire AD dept on this document and get to work. This is also beneficial for when someone gets sick, fired or has to step away to solve a crisis.
  4. You will save time by allowing the document to pre-populate information like the previous casper system. It can pull up scenes, cast and crew info based on the other tab’s data and linking features.
  5. Decrease the amount of human errors made. With the new bug feature, it will help you spot potential problems such as in-correct call times, bad email addresses etc…
  6. Everything is in one place. You don’t have to have multiple excel sheets and pdf’s open to get your work done. Everything is in one central “google doc.”
  7. If shared with a 1st AD, allows them the ability to look out as it is being updated without having to wait on a printed physical pdf prelim. The 2nd AD can essentially make a round of updates and over walkie tell the 1st AD to look at on their phone/tablet.

What does a 2nd AD do besides make a call sheet?

Crew members who work as 2nd Assistant Directors fill one of the most critical roles on any film set. The 2nd AD acts as a bridge between the “set” and the “basecamp” and while they are known for creating the call sheet, their duties extend into other areas of production that are vital for a set to operate efficiently.

The below information was complied by the Directors Guild of America:

2nd AD Duties

  1. Prepare the call sheets, handle extras, requisitions, and other required documents for approval by the 1st AD, the UPM and/or the production office.
  2. Prepare the daily production report and end of day paper work.
  3. Distribute scripts and script changes (after shooting has started) to cast and crew.
  4. Distribute call sheets to cast and crew.
  5. Distribute, collect, and approve extra vouchers, placing adjustments as directed by the 1st AD on the vouchers.
  6. Communicate advance scheduling to cast and crew.
  7. Aid in the scouting, surveying and managing of locations (mandatory in New York and Chicago)
  8. Facilitate transportation of equipment and personnel.
  9. May be required to secure execution of minor cast contracts, extra releases, and on occasion to secure execution of contracts by talent. (May also be delegated to 1st AD and UPM.)
  10. Coordinate with production staff so that all elements, including cast, crew and extras, are ready at the beginning of the day, and supervise the wrap in the studio and on location (local and distant).
  11. Schedule food, lodging and other facilities.
  12. Sign cast members in and out.
  13. Maintain liaison between UPM and/or the production office and the 1st AD on the set.
  14. Assist the 1st AD in the direction and placement of background action and in the supervision of crowd control.
  15. Perform crowd control in New York and Los Angeles except where the work is customarily performed by police officers or is performed by security personnel or a facility at which the photography takes place and which requires or customarily provides this service; provided, however, persons not covered by the Basic Agreement may perform such work if at least two additional 2nd ADs are employed in addition to a Key 2nd AD and 2nd 2nd AD or two Key 2nd ADs
  16. Supervise and direct the work of any Trainee or Intern assigned to the picture.
  17. May assist in the proper distribution and documentation of milage money by the Producer’s appointed representative.

An employer may not unreasonably deny a request from a UPM or 1st AD for another 2nd Assistant Director. BA 13-202 (b).

How to create a clean, concise and readable call sheet email.

Creating a readable call sheet email is vital for any production to run smoothly and can sometimes be an art form in putting it together. Depending on the size/budget of your production will often dictate who sends out the call sheet email. For larger productions you may have a Coordinator or Production Secretary clicking “send” and on smaller projects the 2nd AD will be the one most likely getting out these essential “next day emails.” 

10 tips to remember when sending out call sheet emails:

1. Use a standardized subject heading

MOVIE NAME – CALL SHEET – DAY # – DATE

2. BCC the recipients

If you “show” email addresses in the TO FIELD or CC FIELD you are risking one person replying all to the GROUP and asking a dumb question that should be for the sender only. It is a good idea to build this list later in the day because it may change as you have to add or drop crew/cast members.

3. Send a separate email to CREW and CAST 

The CAST email can be simplified and have only pertinent information ie…they don’t need to know the location addresses if they are shuttled to set etc…

4. Avoid sending Call Sheet Emails to Background or certain Vendors where a separate detailed email will work in its place

Below is one example in which I would email a caterer by noon each day (separate from the call sheet email) in order to give them a heads up with the count for the next day. If I waited to email the caterer the call sheet there is a chance they may not have enough time to prepare enough food etc.

5. Consider having your crew members confirm the very first email on DAY 1

Its a good idea to do this just in case you have a wrong email address or the email goes to spam for some weird reason.

6. Consider writing a nice sentence thanking or encouraging the crew at the very top of the email.

7. List important information at the top that shows the very basics

 Consider bolding or highlighting certain text in colors to make the email readable.

Date:
Thursday Dec 6th, 2018

Call Time: 7AM
Courtesy Breakfast: 6:30AM
***please check the back of the call sheet for your individual call times***

8. List the locations in order of where people will park etc. 

Don’t list the first location first if people are showing up to crew parking. The chances that they will go to the wrong address is greater if you list it in the order of where the majority of people should park.

9. Make sure to leave a clean email signature and closing remarks

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions/concerns.

thanks,

John Smith
2nd Assistant Director, Batman Begins
(123) 222-3333

10. Attach any important documents 

Don’t forget to attach call sheet, sides, map, overheads and safety bulletins (when doing stunts or shooting in potential dangerous conditions)!

How to create the perfect folder structure for your next FILM project

Whenever I start a new production as a Line Producer or UPM I think about the mounds and mounds of possible paperwork that will most likely invade my desk the minute that crew and cast begin their assignments. Over the years I have found that the easiest way to make sense of all this paperwork is to create a digital workflow where every single document has a home and thus knows where to go. Once the paperwork is scanned into its appropriate folder it is then put into a physical bin with a similar physical folder structure.

You can download my FREE Low Budget Film Folder Structure HERE

Example below…

Here are a few tips to using this folder structure:

  1. Consider using it with dropbox or google drive. The thing I DO like about google drive vs dropbox is that you have the ability to share or un-share certain folders within the main folder. Example…. say you decide to share this folder structure with all department heads with the exception of certain folders such as Accounting etc…
  2. When using the system its much easier and faster to use the desktop version so that you can drag and drop files without having to login etc.
  3. Every project is slightly different so while there are certain folders that may work you may need more or less prep folders in your payroll section. Customize it to fit your needs.
  4. Take some time with your office staff, ad dept to explain the folder structure. Don’t assume that because you have shared a folder system with them…that everyone will instantly use it the way you would like them to.
  5. Make a habit of getting invoices, quotes, receipts into these bins the instant they hit your email. Do you really want to track these down when wrapping the show weeks or months later?
  6. If you are using a MAC I tend to color folders RED for missing docs and GREEN for completed docs. Sometimes if a document is in process I will color the document YELLOW. Using colors and this stoplight system help you and your team to figure out what is missing. Example is when you might be missing a W9 from an actor etc…

 

A checklist for traveling and working on location

When traveling to a different state or country to work on a film or tv series there can be a lot to think about when preparing and getting all your affairs in order. I’ve come up with a checklist of things to consider when traveling to work on location.

  1. If going to be gone longer than a month consider suspending your car insurance. This could save you $$$$.
  2. If living alone turn off your breakers except for your refrigerator and remember to turn your air conditioning off when you leave.
  3. If bringing a suit or or have a set of nice clothes consider wearing them on the plane. Doing this will help you not have to worry about wrinkling that nice jacket.
  4. Consider buying a drink holder or neck pillow for your plane ride.
  5. Charge all your devices (phone, laptop, ipad, chargers) before your arrival.
  6. Check the weather.com 10 day and month forecast for the place you are visiting and pack accordingly.
  7. Make arrangements for where you will store your car. Will it be safe in your driveway or the street for that long? Airport parking is typically really pricy for the long haul so be creative and consider a neighbors driveway.
  8. Consider having a remote post office box where you can forward certain bills etc to your new location. You might consider having a friend check your mail every two weeks in some situations.
  9. Ask production for the exact address of where you will be going. Using google find the local coffee shops, bars, restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores, gyms, etc and create an ongoing google document.
  10. Make sure that any outstanding checks or invoices that may be coming to your old address will be re-routed to your temporary address.
  11. Consider pre-ordering certain foods or things you may need via amazon prime and having them shipped to your new location. I tend to do this for things like protein or hygiene products.
  12. Find a few books at the local bookstore or online that you can dowload onto your ipad/kindle etc.
  13. Buy or bring a few unwatched movies with you.
  14. Consider what office supplies you may want to bring with you that will be hard to instantly get when you arrive. I typically bring my pendaflex and wonderfile with me everywhere.
  15. Bring essential things for laundry and mail. I typically like to bring a roll of quarters, laundry detergent pods, stamps, envelopes etc.
  16. Let your family and friends know about your travels. Consider creating a facebook group conversation and giving them a heads up!
  17. Clean your car and house. I know it sounds weird but do you really want to come back to a messy place?
  18. Get a haircut. You won’t have time once you land.
  19. Find a few friends and go hang out somewhere before you leave.
  20. Research fun things to do in the city you are headed to. Perhaps groupon.com or meetup.com will have some ideas for upcoming events or things to do where you are headed.

Tools to go digital with paperwork

Whenever I work as a Line Producer or UPM one of the things I try and avoid is dealing with actual physical paperwork. In general I have found that while I know how to sign a .pdf…. 90% of people don’t. Yes I can teach people how to sign a pdf, however when you are having to deal with hundreds of signatures who really has the time to educate people or wait for them to sign that document you sent two weeks ago.  Hellosign and Hellotim are two amazing services that can help bring your production into the digital age.

 

Tool #1: Hellosign

Hellosign promises to be an easy-to-use cloud based software that allows you to sign documents with ease.


I use this software to do the following:

  1. Collect info and signatures for Cast (deals, w9s and misc documents)
  2. Collect info and signatures for Crew
  3. Get location contracts signed
  4. Give access to multiple team members to control who receives paperwork
  5. Create templates that speed up the process and can be used over and over again
  6. Fill out and sign applications or signatory information

 

Tool #2: Hellotim

 

While I haven’t personally used TIM I honestly love the concept and plan to dive into the software at some point.

TiM makes digital onboarding easy, intuitive and secure by streamlining and centralizing all required tasks. Let TiM handle digital onboarding while the Studio/Production Company continues to focus on bringing creative content to an ever-expanding market.

For UPMs and accountants, TiM makes the process of tracking and approving startwork effortless and efficient by decreasing human error and enabling electronic approval from any device. TiM saves time, paper, and the production money.

***One thing to note is that TIM is designed specifically for Film/TV and even integrates with payroll companies***

Software to manage extras from skin to wrap

Managing extras can be one of the most challenging things for any production. Its one thing to deal with a few extras on an occasional basis, however when you are on a show that is having to manage hundreds or in some cases thousands of extras…you want a system that can run smoothly and effectively. For decades productions have relied on antiquated technology using carbon copy skins that really make the process all the more challenging. Having to track paperwork, props and dealing with out times has been a source of pain and frustration for both extras and production.

Current problems of the typical paper system:
*Extends Late Nights
*Slows Call Times
*Long Check-Out Lines
*Missing, Incomplete, Sloppy Documents
*Invalid Tax Incentive Info
*Causes Grievances
*Messy for Payroll and Accounting
*Extra’s Complaints
*P.A. and A.D. Time, Effort Wasted
*Poor Communication
*No Oversight
*Morale Killing
*Limiting Legal & Payroll Compliance

RABS is the only app to manage extras from Skin to Wrap. 
*You can onboard extras in seconds.
*You can wrap instantly, all documents completed, costumes and props returned with an automatic breakdown
*Hot-cost savings, vouchers, docs, tax incentives, digitally delivered to accounting.
*Cost $600 per week and $3 per extra.

Schedule a Demo: runabetterset.com/demo

7 reasons why your Low Budget film should go DGA Signatory

I often get asked to create schedules and budgets for films in development and one of the questions I will often ask the producer(s) is what unions they want to budget for. Many times SAG is a no brainer no matter the budget but often times convincing producers to budget for IATSE, DGA, TEAMSTERS and WGA can be a challenge. Many times the reasons producers don’t want to join these unions is because of paperwork, limited finances and having to be under the scrutiny of a union. I put together a list of reasons why producers might want to reconsider….

7 reasons why your Low Budget Film show should go DGA Signatory:

1. Choosing to make your project DGA signatory will allow your Director the ability to Join the DGA if they are not currently a member.

2. Your film will be eligible to be entered into the DGA Awards.

3. You will be required to hire DGA UPMs and ADs (1st, 2nd and 2nd 2nd) thus ensuring an experienced AD staff. Now yes you can (might be able to) find experienced Non-Union ADs and UPMs however it is possible that they may or may not be as experienced as someone in the union and this could potentially lead to problems.

Example: You hire a Non-Union 1st AD who has only done one or two features and they may or may not not know how to keep your set safe or on schedule and you end up needing to shoot more days thus causing you to spend thousands of dollars.

4. If a movie is over a million dollars, some financiers will prefer that your movie is bonded. Some bond companies will require that your film join certain unions such as IATSE and DGA to limit the risk involved in making the picture.

5. You have access to a vast network of possible DGA Directors, ADs and UPMS around the United States to employ. Check out the list(s) HERE.

6. It may not be as expensive as you thought. For films under $500K the rates are negotiable. Essentially you would be paying the fringes (pension and health etc) on 3-4 crew members in addition to your cast. Check out the rates HERE.

7. It may not be as difficult as you thought. Yes you have to fill out an application and submit information about the film…but you are most likely doing this for SAG etc. What’s one more application?

Curious about making your project DGA Signatory? Follow these simple steps…

Step 1.
Visit the Employers section of the DGA website.


Step 3.
Download the appropriate signatory package on the right hand side.
You may need the following documents
  • Name of Producer Company (company info, llc etc)
  • Project Title
  • Type of project (Theatrical Feature, Movie for Television, Television Series, etc.)
  • Name of Director
  • Principal Photography Start Date
  • Project location
  • Budget
  • Intended Initial Release
  • Company contact information: Name, Title, telephone, email, website

Note:
There is a section on the DGA Application where you will list the Director, UPM and ADs. Its important to note that for most applications you will need to hire members in good standing who are listed on the perspective Qualification List. There are some project types where you may be eligible to hire someone who is not listed in a certain category etc. You can always fill out the crew you know for now ie… (Director and UPM) and then submit the AD names at a later time once it gets closer to filming. If you have any questions about the application don’t be afraid to call the DGA and ask.

Step 4.
Email the packet to signatories@dga.org.

Once your signatory application has been received, a signatory rep will be able to review and let you know what additional items are needed for the signatory process. Should you have questions about the signatory application’s status once sent, contact a Signatories Assistant, at (310) 289-2094.

Step 5.
Upon return of the completed and signed signatory application and forms, the Guild will determine if the producer company presented is the appropriate signatory entity, based on the information provided. Further information may be required.

Step 6.
Signatory status will be given to the Producer at the time the Guild is confident that the necessary signatory and financial assurances’ documents have been provided. The signatory and financial assurances documents will be circulated to the appropriate parties, signed by the authorized representative of the signatory Producer, and delivered to the Guild prior to the commencement of Principal Photography. A payroll deposit is required. It is important to discuss the delivery of the payroll deposit with the Signatory Representative early in the signatory process.

Software to distro your documents with ease

As an Assistant Director one of the many tasks I am often required to do when working as a 2nd AD is the job of creating a distro list to send out call sheets, scripts etc. These “lists” are often difficult to keep up with and can be time-consuming in many instances.

Recently I stumbled upon some software Setkeeper that not only makes the distro process pain-free it has tracking software enabled that indicates whether or not the cast/crew have received or opened their call sheet.

Setkeeper is an online subscription site designed to create sides, distro documents and act as a hub to share information (such as location photos) to your entire cast and crew. Their software is top-notch with flexible pricing plans that can fit almost any budget.

Check out the highlight video and infographic below and consider doing a test-drive!

 

https://youtu.be/pnLJCZtNo4M