Why you can’t use a digital background voucher (yet)

Background vouchers are brilliant. They are an elegant solution to a paperwork nightmare.

The document acts as a W4, an I9 (sort of), a start form, and a time card. And the Carbon copies act as tokens that the Wardrobe and Property departments can use to lend extras a few things. And recover them!


A background voucher from SAG-AFTRA

But vouchers are also carbon copy forms, printed using a “Dot Matrix printer”. If you’ve never heard of this technology, there’s a reason. It’s been outdated for 10 years already.

So why are vouchers still a thing? Surely someone is capable of creating a better system. Here at Castifi, we certainly think so. And we did. But last week, we bought a Dot Matrix printer. And I had to set it up. If you already think that printers are designed by spawns of Satan, you are correct. But you haven’t seen the devil incarnate yet. I have. Here is what our printer looks like. I suggest you turn your sound on!

The sweet sound of “Impact printing”

If you’re curious about Dot Matrix printers, let me present you a little excerpt from wikipedia:
The disadvantages are: noisy, low resolution (dots making up each character are visible), not all can do color, color looks faded and streaky, slowness and more prone to jamming — with jams that are more difficult to clear. This is because paper is fed in using two sprockets engaging with holes in the paper. A small tear on the side of a sheet can cause a jam, with paper debris that is tedious to remove.”

But after using one, I can tell you what the worst feature is: you can only load one voucher at a time! Or you could load your continuous roll of matrix paper. Wait, I forgot, it’s not 1972 anymore, nobody uses this.

So again, why did we buy this printer? Well, it all has to do with this little paragraph from the SAG-AFTRA Collective bargaining agreement:

Schedule X Part I and II
“Producer shall give each background actor at the time of reporting to the set a contract and/or voucher which is the background actor’s property until dismissal, at which time the background actor will retain one copy of the properly filled-in and executed contract and/or voucher.”

So there you have it. Them’s the rules. As with any set of rules though, the context and interpretation are important. So of course, we asked if we could use an electronic voucher instead. The answer, as you must have guessed it: No.

Because we want to provide our users with the best possible experience, we decided that we would acquire a device from the Jurassic era, capable of printing through carbon copy forms, and pre-fill them with all the information we already have in our database.

When you create a project with Castifi, you end up with all the information you need for a voucher: name, rate, call time, mailing address etc…It’s all in there, waiting to be used for every report you can imagine.

Of course, because I can only load one voucher at a time in this printer, you can imagine how long this printing job would take. I am now on the quest for a vendor that can do a better job than we can with our current resources. But unlike Monty Python’s Holy Grail, I’m not getting anywhere, and at this point, I would prefer facing the killer rabbit than calling another print shop.

But we have also made it our mission to challenge this silly rule.

Electronic document signing has been around for a long time now. Adobe Sign, DocuSign, HelloSign and more serve thousands of legally binding documents every day. No one questions the validity of a contract they sign online. And if you asked around, I would think most people would prefer to receive a signed agreement in their inbox rather than be given a flimsy sheet of carbon copy paper.


Here is Castifi’s offering:

When background actors work with Castifi on set, all they have to do during the day is use their mobile app to log in their time. We also allow production companies to manage all data entry if they prefer. This includes NDBs, regular meal breaks, adjustment and bumps.

At the end of the day, production sends a digital voucher to each actor, prompting them to sign the document digitally. If there is a disagreement, it can be solved there and then.

In addition to this, we have built in features in our mobile app, such as the “Wardrobe lock”, which allows a costumer to prevent an actor’s voucher from being processed if they have checked out some items of clothing.

So, if like me, the sight of a 1980’s printer is enough to trigger an ulcer, and the thought of 150 carbon copy vouchers on a desk makes you feel dizzy, join us in our mission to modernize the production industry. Until then, we’ll only be able to pretend that we are doing the right thing.

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