Loring Weisenberger
June 4, 2022

Why Commercial Production Companies Love Tech

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From before prep to way beyond wrap, innovations in tech are creating new tools, services, and solutions that filmmakers everywhere can use to tackle tasks of virtually any size or shape. 

In this post, we’ll take a look at how tech can impact the stages of a typical commercial production, focusing on practical solutions that you can use on your next shoot.

Let’s dive in.  

An easier way to pitch, bid, and win jobs

Technology can make a difference even before you have the job. 

From acing the creative call to formulating your initial bid, today’s tools offer options to streamline, strengthen, or simply switch up the way you compete for projects and campaigns.

Just think how pitch materials have changed over the last 25 years.

Where production companies were once reliant on manual methods to produce storyboards, mock-ups, and other concept art, the digital domain has now opened a whole new dimension of creative options. 

Software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are more accessible than ever before, empowering creatives to push pitch decks and treatments beyond their previous limits. 

Web design tools can transform basic materials into responsive, immersive experiences. 

Production companies can even deploy 3D pre-viz- once thought far too costly and cumbersome to be useful in pitching- to win their next job. 

But tech can impact the nuts and bolts of the pitch process.

ABID, for instance, is a revolutionary new bid management platform from the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP).  

ABID is a virtual extension of using the AICP bid form that establishes a direct online connection between advertisers and companies during the bid process. It’s a first-of-its-kind platform that delivers “the most comprehensive, transparent, private, and streamlined accountability tool” for the bidding of marketing media production worldwide. 

Plus, it’s compatible with some solid budgeting software

Be assured that neither Don nor Peggy had access to the Unreal Engine.

Enjoy pre-production… on auto-pilot 

Pre-production can make or break a project’s entire lifecycle, and tech offers an increasingly diverse array of tools to make sure you always come out on top. 

The trick to fast and easy pre-production isn’t rocket science. While an efficient process is super vital - from crewing up to the administration and collection of tax documents - a repeatable process is what allows teams to move faster and waste less money.  

And on set, it’s technology that makes this not only more possible, but a hell of a lot easier. 

This is most notable (and needed) in the onboarding stage of pre-production, as it involves many moving parts. 

In a world where budgets (and profit margins) are shrinking, many production companies proactively search for tools that can increase efficiency in areas that are notoriously cumbersome. 

That’s why when it comes to onboarding today, many production companies opt for a more digital process

Reason being- digital onboarding puts the typical tedium on auto-pilot. 

Digital and individual crew profiles allow crew members to jump onto a project with little-to-no confusion and in just a few clicks. Producers can hire and rehire within a few seconds. Customizable digital startwork only makes this easier, along with massively reducing waste and chaos.

If easy to use, the right technology can prevent productions from doing double the work not just within the year, but within a single job.

During production, modernize the mundane to get time back

On a typical (commercial) production, no one loves shiny new toys more than the director and their DP. 

From cutting-edge camera technology to the literal wonder of virtual production, tech is doing everything it can to make sure that movies never lose their magic. 

But technology impacts production life behind the camera too. 

Fundamental operations that were once time-consuming, tedious, and fraught with error are sped up, simplified, and engendered with incredible precision by transferring manual paperwork and recordkeeping tasks into the digital realm. 

These fundamental operations include things like payroll, accounting, and budgeting. 

Digital-first management and payroll solutions can connect critical production activities through a single interface, making it so much easier to focus on higher-leverage tasks or be able to put out unexpected fires at a moment's notice.

To illustrate, let’s look at how some production companies pay their crew.

A PM or coordinator administers, collects, and approves paper timecards by hand.  

This can take several days and multiple revisions to get everything right.

While a notoriously time-sink process for productions, these tasks can be easily put on auto-pilot with digital solutions. 

Digital timecards streamline cast and crew payment:

  1. Digital submission eliminates confusion over incorrect or misleading data entry. 
  2. Digital timecard processing automates all necessary calculations, including those for union contracts, meal penalties, and complex overtime. 
  3. And approvals require little more effort than the click of a button, while digital records ensure that the entire process is transparent. 

If you add mobile tech to the mix, the production power of going digital can be leveraged anywhere at any time literally from the palm of your hand. 

But this isn’t really about paper vs digital. Most companies have already tried digital in their key processes. The real question? - What makes one tech solution different from the other?

There’s something that I like to call “up and coming digital” - it’s digital, but not quite workable at its full potential. This might look like a digital payroll solution that causes you to enter in the same information more than once, ultimately, killing efficiency.

With true digital solutions, production teams can work more efficiently, while the rest of the crew gets paid faster with less hassle.

Tech smooths out the wrap process

While post-production has always been driven by the latest technology, the wrap process has been woefully bound to physical labor and paperwork until relatively recently. Now, the integration of tech into administrative practices is revolutionizing the way teams put a production to bed. 

Traditionally, the process of wrapping a production requires sifting and sorting mountains of paperwork. Half of the job is a feat of raw labor, while the other half is essentially an act of forensic accounting. The physically-draining tasks of collecting, copying, and physically organizing are balanced by mentally exhausting investigations into receipts, payments, and missing documents.

A tech-forward wrap process, however, leverages the power of digital database management to simultaneously increase both transparency and ease-of-use. 

You don’t have to spend hours hunting for documents when you can search for them by name. 

You don’t have to sweat over organizing timecards when they’re indexed for you systematically. 

You don’t have to break your back managing physical paperwork when there simply is no paper to be managed.

Automated timecard calculations and submissions reduce costly payroll mistakes

Automatically generated wrap reports give you greater expense visibility with less effort, and mobile apps can create a transparent experience for producers and crew members alike. 

And many software solutions are now capable of playing together. Wrapbook, for example, features direct integration with Quickbooks and can even be used to quickly actualize production budgets.

Like all good tools, tech solutions help you do your job better. 

When it comes to wrapping a production, smart tech is the fastest and most efficient way to figure out your bottom line. 

Why digital is keeping companies more secure

Keeping your production company safe requires a complex dance of tangible safeguards and procedural best practices. Technology brings these ingredients together to elevate accountability and to better protect your company where it’s most vulnerable. 

Let’s consider the state of modern information management… 

Over the course of any shoot, no matter brief or small, production teams collect and accumulate an enormous amount of raw data. From the cast’s contract details to the crew’s social security numbers, the proper handling of sensitive information is a core production security task, so much so that the Motion Picture Association has established a detailed set of best practices for exactly that. 

Under “traditional” conditions, this data is physically passed back and forth by hand via forms and other paperwork. Therefore, security of the information essentially comes down to a mixture of individual responsibility and- to be frank- sheer hope. Yes, your team is responsible for appropriately collecting, organizing, and filing sensitive documents, but they can only hope that those documents aren’t stolen, lost, caught on fire, drowned in La Croix, or otherwise victimized by some kind of malicious entity or unforeseen calamity.  

By contrast, digital security reduces all of the above risks and eliminates the vast majority of them. 

To learn more about tech as protection, check out our Producer’s Guide to Digital Security.

Features like data encryption and secure portals for sensitive information exchange are the absolute basics of digital security. Access limitations further ensure that no one ever sees any information that they don’t need to see, and digital recordkeeping creates a clear chain of possession to discourage any info misappropriation.

Better tools are built for you (hint* they help busy producers rinse and repeat)

Question: What’s more difficult than getting a commercial started?

Answer: Getting the next commercial started.

The expedited project lifecycles inherent to commercial production inevitably lead producers and their teams to repeat many of the same pre-production tasks over and over again within a given year. While experience and expertise can speed up this process, the reality of a physical workflow guarantees that any gains made will be marginal at best. 

But technology is changing that equation. 

To start, software solutions keep track of former crew and make it easier to re-hire your favorite personnel fast. 

If you’re already using Wrapbook, you know that the software combines customizable crew member profiles with the functionality of a digital crew list to streamline the hiring process for anyone you’ve worked with.

Hire (and rehire) faster.

Digital onboarding and digital startwork features further accelerate the process by streamlining approvals and reducing the number of redundant, project-to-project tasks. 

Wrapbook automatically confirms each crew member hired according to their guild or union, worker classification, and location, collecting e-signatures for each contract before submission. 

Document storage features eliminate the tedious need for crew to submit the same tax paperwork to the same company multiple times per year and can help your production team build startwork packets faster by storing digital NDAs, crew deal memos, or any other important documents.

And, of course, mobile app solutions make all this functionality accessible anywhere at any time, supported by the additional speed and safety of a direct, official line between each crew member and the production team.

By directly integrating these features (and more) into your production’s payroll workflow, Wrapbook makes it easier, faster, and more efficient than ever to make sure your project hits the ground running. 

Wrapping Up

New technology is impacting every part of production, from beginning to end, from top to bottom, making even the most mundane tasks more exciting as they’re propelled into the future. 

When we surveyed 32 industry professionals, they shared that on average they paid their crew nine days faster than they had before leveraging tech with Wrapbook. They saved 25 hours per month on standard office and accounting work. And they saved 19 hours compared to when they processed payroll by traditional, manual methods. 

While these numbers are specific to Wrapbook, they also make a more universal point. This data proves that the real-world impact of tech on production is measurable, considerable, and undeniable.

To learn how to bring greater efficiency to your next shoot, reach out anytime. 

Disclaimer

At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

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About the Author

Loring Weisenberger

Loring is a Los Angeles-based writer, director, and creative producer. His work has been commissioned by a diverse range of clients- from Havas Worldwide to Wisecrack, inc.- and has been screened around the world. Through a background that blends project development with physical production across multiple formats, Loring has developed a uniquely eclectic skillset as a visual storyteller.

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