I worked as an on set Production Assistant on big budget productions for five years. If I wanted to be paid in a timely manner, I knew that on my first day of work on a new production, I had to fill out and turn in my start work. I would go to the Paperwork PA and ask for my start work packet.
These packets were anywhere from ten to thirty pages long, bound with a flimsy paper clip.
Depending on the day, I usually didn't have the time or the luxury to sit in a chair, at a table, and meticulously fill out these documents.
Why? Because my call time was anywhere from 3:45AM to 6:30AM, and whether my first task of the day was getting the director breakfast or signing in a hundred background artists, I tended to hit the ground running, and rarely stopped, even to eat. A PA is a non-union employee, so it's rare not to work through lunch. No time, no table, no chair.
So, in order to fill out my start work (again I emphasize - a ten to thirty page packet), I'd have to find moments throughout my day. Which meant I'd have to carry this ten to thirty page packet bound together with a flimsy paperclip in my back pocket for hours, maybe all day, until I finally completed it.
Now, let me just take a moment to explain, this wasn't the only thing in my back pocket. A good PA must have certain things on hand at all times. These things include: a pen, an extra pen, a sharpie, a few extra call sheets, and a few extra sides. And, since I was not only a good PA, but a great PA, I had other things in my pockets... to the point where I eventually graduated to an oversized fanny pack. I would carry an extra water bottle, in case an actor or the director mentioned they were thirsty (I always impressed the 'higher ups' when, as soon they mentioned they were thirsty, a water bottle would appear as if out of nowhere). I carried a one liner (a complete schedule of shoot days, on average about five to ten pages stapled together). Chapstick. Sunscreen. A baseball hat hung from my belt. You get the idea. Anything I would need at a moment's notice, so I wouldn't have to run back to wherever my backpack was being stowed (usually in the on set mobile office AKA 'honey wagon' which was parked several blocks, or even a van ride distance away from where I was stationed).
Alright, so this start work packet was shoved into my back pocket all day. What if it was raining? or snowing? Or what if it was so hot outside that my butt was sweating? Well, then the start work would get wet, the ink would smear, and at the end of the day I would turn in a soggy wrinkly mess - the official document to ensure I was compensated for my day's work.
I'm sure the payroll clerk was ecstatic to receive a packet of paper soaked with butt sweat.
I am obliged to also mention that on several occasions I have turned in Workers Compensation documents dotted with blood.
When you're working on set, paper SUCKS.
Okay. So let's say I could fill out this start work digitally. That's great if you've got access to a laptop. But as an on set PA, I didn't. Okay. So via a smart phone, then.
As a younger person with sharp eyes, this is not such an issue. But tell the sixty year old union grip to fill out a thirty page document on his smart phone, guaranteed, he's prefer the paper. And his butt sweat problem is probably way worse than mine.
With TiM, information is pulled from three sources which pre-populates the start work so all you have to do is click two buttons, and your start work is done.
Information Source #1: The Employee Profile.
The employee creates a profile - once. An employee may do this from anywhere, even the comfort of his/her own home, and it only takes thirty seconds to create a profile, so if one prefers to do this at home, it's not taking away much from personal time.
And when I say once, I mean once! The profile stays with the employee from production to production. A profile is in the employee's virtual hands, at all times.
This profile contains information such as name, address, phone number, email... the type of information that you would fill in again and again on multiple pages throughout the start work packet.
It also asks for information like shirt size and shoe size - so come wrap gift time, an office PA isn't wasting days of his/her life going around to each crew member asking for this information.
I know how tedious and annoying this is. I've been that Office PA.
Information Source #2: The Production Profile.
The production creates a profile. Again, takes about thirty seconds.
This profile contains information such as the name of the production company, the production office address and phone number, and the payroll company's name and information.
These details are also pulled and pre-populated onto the start work packet automatically.
This is fantastic! I can't tell you how many jobs I've worked on where I've simply left the payroll company information blank because it changes from job to job, and no one on set ever knows who the payroll company is, or even what they do, exactly.
Information Source #3: Employee Invite
Instead of an employee tracking down a start work packet on their first day of work, with TiM, each employee is emailed an invitation from production to fill out start work via TiM.
Each invite contains the employment details an employee and the production must agree to before work can legally commence. Details such as Department, Job Title, Union, Start Date, and Pay Rate.
This information is also pre-populated onto the start work documents so the employee can see exactly what their job is and what they will be compensated. When an employee submits their start work via TiM, there is a clear record that they've agreed to the terms of employment offered by the production company. This clear record greatly decreases a production company's risk for liability.
And there have been liability lawsuits. Like this one.
I can tell you first hand that I've submitted start work (a legal agreement to work) without knowing my rate. That first paycheck was usually a mystery. As a PA, I could take home close to $700 a week, or closer to $400, depending on the production. How would anyone be able to budget their finances when their potential income ranges so widely? I didn't save much, I can tell you that.
TiM stands for Time Is Money. Since TiM pulls from three different sources: The Employee Profile, filled out by the employee, The Production Profile, filled out by the production, and the Employee Invite, filled out by the production and agreed to by the employee, TiM decentralizes the entry of information used to fill out start work packets, which saves everyone time.
TiM saves the employee time because he/she doesn't have to fill out the same information over and over every time he/she starts a new job. In TiM, there is little to no room for error when almost all the information on a start work packet is pulled and pre populated, which saves the production team time because they don't have to track down the employee if there is human error. TiM saves the payroll company time because selected start work pages can be automatically pulled from packets and emailed as PDFs. And, TiM saves the production company time (and money) because it vastly decreases the risk of liability and therefore lawsuit... versus when paper- based processes are utilized.
I wish I had TiM when I was a PA.