Hollywood Payroll Goes Digital

How we saved 10,000 hours a year, for the makers of your favorite entertainment content.

Less Time on Paperwork, More Time on Set

Cast & Crew provide motion picture, television, commercial and live event clients with customized solutions to help them operate in a highly complex union and regulatory environment. Some core services still relied on paper documents requiring, multiple party approvals, manual data entry and little transparency into the status of these timecards.

Entertainment professionals fill out hundreds of Start Packets and Time Cards every year. These paper documents then need approval from multiple parties and are sent back and forth with alterations. The result is inefficient, error prone and costly for everyone; from the entertainment professionals and production companies to Cast & Crew, who handles the data input.

Cast & Crew approached us to design and build an application which would tackle the inefficiencies of their current system, and address the nuances of union and employment regulations, while seamlessly integrating with their existing systems. After rapid, iterative design and development phases the result was two distinct products, Start+ and Hours+.

The result was two new cloud-based applications:
Start+ and Hours+

Results That Drove the Bottom Line

6 weeks

Time to MVP

125k

Total users

934k+

Forms processed

Enterprise grade software, secure web applications and an intuitive user experience.

Challenge

Design and build a software solution which automates registering entertainment professionals, reduces error prone manual data input errors, increases transparency of approval progress, and complies with all employment and union regulations.

Solution

Leverage the cloud to enable two new, secure web applications, enabling entertainment professionals to complete and manage their Start Packs and Time Cards digitally. An intuitive user experience that accounts for local regulations, hundreds of union pay rules, and is secure and compliant with PII, HIPAA. and PCI.

Outcome

Start+ is Cast & Crew’s electronic onboarding system for entertainment professionals. This leveraged a robust security and encryption scheme (every user’s data is encrypted with it’s own keys stored in a Hardware Security Module). The system is completely configurable by the customer, allowing for the creation of custom documents and approval flows.

Hours+ is Cast & Crew’s electronic time capture system.

Start+

Digital decoupling of data enables a streamlined Approval Flow, where approvers can filter deals by rates which are ‘off scale’ (not within the hourly rate limits). Approvers can Focus their attention on the most critical aspects of the deal.

Creating a digital profile for production employees.

Users create a profile in Start+ with all their core information so that they only need to fill out forms once. It remembers all their past offers.

Streamlining onboarding approvals by only showing data that is relevant to the approver.

Currently approvers have to sift through large packets looking for key data points that are relevant to them. Theorem identified use cases and decoupled data from documents so you only see what you need. Approving 10 packets went from minutes to seconds. Instead of rendering an entire packet to see “hourly rate”, that data point is marked “needs approval” and all data points are seen at an approval dashboard.

Ready for any production.

Every studio and production company has different documents employees need to sign. These sometimes are the same versions of the same document, as in the case of Deal Memos. Rather than having generic document types that can be used, any PDF can be uploaded, and data mapped onto the document. Clients can support new configurations without additional engineering or customization.

Hours+

Hours+ is Cast & Crew’s electronic time capture system.

Enterprise grade hours-to-gross power for every production’s payroll accountant.

Hours to gross is taking hours, the time worked, and changing it into dollars(gross pay). Cast & Crew had spent years developing a powerful rules engine internally to “break” timecards. Hours+ takes Cast & Crew’s rules engine and exposes it to Hours+ payroll accountants. Now a production accountant can break timecards without sending it to Cast & Crew.

New visibility into production costs to better control production budgets.

It is hard for unit production managers (UPMs), to keep an eye on costs when it is all on paper. People are filling in timecards on paper and getting them approved — but what is the gross payout? By digitizing timecards and calculating costs at a high level, managers can keep a close eye on costs and react in real-time when they notice expenses escalating.

Time Entry for Every Production

Hours+ supports several time-input methods. The employee entering day by day, employee entering at the end of the week, copying previous weeks times, or by allowing department heads to fill out times for employees approvals. This is because productions and employee-department head relationships vary between projects. Hours+ allows for flexible time entry and a multitude of use cases to ensure more adoption and ease of use.

Core Technology

To ensure security of the sensitive the PII information Theorem selected  Amazon KMS to encrypt all data.

Theorem engineers used Grape, an opinionated micro-framework, for the API layer, which allowed us to rapidly prototype and continue building on top of an existing foundation.

The business model required Theorem to account for hundreds of variable payroll rules. We built out the views on top of a database containing these regulatory rules. Using transferable business logic enabled a drastic decrease in payroll rate calculation from, 10 seconds to 20 milliseconds.

The technology that Theorem selcted powered meaningful performance improvements. Some of those selections included:

  • ReactJS for a powerful and adaptable frontend

  • Grape::API & Grape::Entities to support a REST API

  • Cuba micro-framework

  • Amazon KMS for encryption of PII (Personal Identifiable Information) data

  • A custom document signature application layer

  • Integration with Worksight to assist with timecard separation and salary splitting

  • SSO supported by OneLogin for a seamless transition between the two applications

Design

Using our iterative design process we created an intuitive user interface for the in-app experience.

More Than Development

Our full stack approach to building products means that our work goes beyond product design & development, to include all expertise needed to deliver core business value.

For Cast & Crew this included engaging legal counsel, security firms, developing business models, hiring an internal team and CTO, internal training and ongoing maintenance.

Our holistic approach to product creation gives us a deep understanding of all user needs and business goals.

We engaged security and law firms to conduct security compliance checks, external code audits and provided recommendations regarding the storage and sharing of PII data between Cast & Crew systems, and the storing of federally mandated documents (like I9s and W9s).

Branding Design

Leading the entertainment industry with modern payroll and production services, Cast & Crew needed branding to reflect their premium services. After extensive research coupled with customer and internal stakeholder interviews, Theorem established a new visual identity system to set Cast & Crew apart from traditional payroll services.

The branding system we created was directly usable by our product development teams, who quickly translated them into intuitive, attractive products, as seen in Start+ and Hours+.

Outcome:

  • Logo System

  • Typography, Color Standards

  • Standard Icon Library

  • Brand Asset Usage Standards

  • Photography Rules

  • Brand Voice Guidelines

Master Logotype & Mark

Considering the history and trust of built on top of the existing Cast & Crew services, it was important we refined and updated the brand without abandoning its history. We made small adjustments to the treatment of the logo, by utilizing the word mark more heavily, to refine the company image while maintaining brand familiarity with customers and end-users.

By using the ampersand as a tertiary graphic in a monochromatic and minimal flavor, we were able to further retain familiarity while modernizing the brand aesthetic for the 21st century.

Typography

Revising the Ampersand and Wordmark ever so slightly allowed better application in digital mediums. We adjusted curves to be less clumsy, balancing ascension and descension wile retaining the essence of the mark. These changes are nearly unnoticeable to the naked eye but present meaningful benefits in diverse applications and subtly enhance the prestige the brand communicates.

You probably want to know:

  • How long did this project take?
  • How much did it cost?
  • How big was the team?
  • When can you start on my project?

Questions?
We Have Answers.

Setup a free consultation with a Theorem Product Strategist to find out.

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