The Reel Green team caught up with Film Producer and Circus Founder Daniel Domachowski to learn about his innovative new product to help productions create a smaller footprint and to save a ton(ne) of paperwork!
Read on to learn more about this new technology for the motion picture industry.
The story of Circus – What is it and where did it come from?
In the winter of 2016, I was producing a feature film called Hello Destroyer in the Northern city of Prince George. Since we didn’t have a large budget, we tried to be as lean as possible with minimal crew, equipment and the tech we used to run and coordinate the show, but just because we were lean didn’t necessarily mean we were running the production office more efficiently or economically. My team spent so much time collecting the information and documents we needed from our crew to process legal, payroll and tax credits that, honestly, we sometimes got a bit distracted from giving the rest of the crew the attention, logistics, and tools they needed to tell a great story. And after production had wrapped, embarrassingly we were still collecting documents from our crew to file tax credits.
Frustrated, I had asked my colleague if this was a problem on much larger shows. I figured a healthy budget would equate to a bigger team to collect this info yet she told me that onboarding crew is just as complicated, spending more money on labour and supplies to deal with the mountain of paperwork from a much larger crew – a monumental task for something like a Marvel or Disney studio film. The time and cost to print all the start packs, tax credit residency documents, payroll start slips, etc, get everyone to fill in redundant information and execute manually, get separate signatures from PMs or Producers, scan them, distribute them and file them all in bankers boxes is a bit overwhelming for any show. It wasn’t just frustrating for the production team – all crew seems to loathe the idea of start packs because they were having to fill in and provide the same details and documents for every single job, which becomes incredibly redundant for those that are veterans in the industry.
With my background in advertising before diving into film, and with my Co-Founding CTO, Nigel Fish, we set out to design and build a paperless platform that would streamline this entire process of onboarding and allow crew members to permanently store their work details and documents in a secure environment. We called it Circus
and it’s the world’s first HR platform for Content Creators.
What is unique about Circus?
- Set unique deal points for each crew member (union or non-union role, work schedule, prep/shoot/wrap/travel rates, kit fees, etc.
- Determine which documents they want Circus to collect from crew (ie, legal, payroll, tax credits)
- Customize multiple deal memos using our free template and get digital signatures from crew and authorized productions reps.
- Set permissions for crew members to receive special access to certain crew data and docs (ie. catering/crafty can access allergies, accountants can access payroll details)
- Invite crew members to the production and track their onboarding progress, allowing them to upload and store payroll/tax credit docs on their encrypted work profile.
- Organize crew data and docs into a comprehensive crew list where the production office can search, track and manage deal points and documents in a cloud-based system. All crew can access the crew list in real-time to see who they’ll be working with and how they can communicate with them.
How is it being used in practice?
We just launched mid-January to a flurry of excited sign-ups. We also are sponsoring Crazy8s local filmmaking event, who really wanted to reduce the amount of management and paperwork since it’s such an overwhelming task to produce the event and its films each year. They also wanted each of the winning films to have locked in settings and standardized deal memos so we were able to provide each team with an invite code so that when they applied it on Circus, the workflow would be set for them. We found that each producer has been onboarding crew at a rapid pace, collecting deal memos and siphoning the data into the crew list in minutes, allowing them to focus on the film and not the paperwork.
How many Crazy8s
productions are using it? When did they start using the tool?
There are six teams on Crazy8s
using the platform and onboarding an average of 30-35 crew members each from mid-January. They go to camera on the 9th of February so it’s important to them that they can onboard their entire crew well before then in an efficient manner.
How is it making their onboarding more efficient?
The traditional way of onboarding usually consists of the production office chasing paperwork down from their crew before the first day of photography. We wanted to reverse that and put the onus on the crew to self-onboard, limiting the amount of work the office had to do. The biggest savings in time are the signatures. Usually, production offices have to get the crew to fill out all their details on the deal memos, gather signatures, then chase down the PM to sign, then scan, distribute and store in bankers boxes or upload to a cloud.
On the Circus
platform, the crew receives an invite and if they already have created an account, the deal memo is pre-filled with their employment details. So all they have to do is sign digitally. We automatically add the PMs signature (since all the deal points and legal language is locked and cannot be altered) and generate a PDF and upload it to the Circus
cloud and send a copy of the fully executed deal memo to the crew member’s email.
For day calls like security, swings, production assistants or transport crew, they really love Circus
because they’re the ones who are affected most with onboarding, having to fill out start packs so often with exact same employment details. With Circus
, they only have to do it once. I heard of a day-call security staff who filled out 82 start packs last year, which is just insane and unnecessary.
For the Crazy8s
they have already saved 500 sheets of paper, but short films generally do not require a lot of paperwork. For a feature film with an average crew of about 100, their savings could reach 2500 sheets with start packs sometimes hitting 25 pages. On a studio film, the savings would be in the tens of thousands.
With the Circus
platform, using our current user data and surveying the industry, production teams can reduce their crew onboarding time by 75% and our early estimates on savings in labour for an average film chasing down paperwork of about 100 crew would be anywhere from $1500-3500.
It’ll always be free for crew to create a profile and it’s free for content creators to onboard up to 10 crew members for smaller projects. If anyone has any questions or suggestions on how we can improve the platform to meet the needs of their production, please get in touch with me so we can customize the workflow for you at firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out the website and consider Circus for your next production to make your onboarding more efficient and environmentally friendly.