Back in 2019, we wrote on the subject of background vouchers and explained that due to a specific rule in the SAG-AFTRA collective bargaining agreement, it wasn’t possible to use digital vouchers to their full extent:
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.”
But this is no longer the case! Castifi has worked hand in hand with SAG-AFTRA to release a union approved background digital voucher, allowing producers to dismiss paper copies entirely.
First, let us explain what a digital background voucher is. To do so, picture yourself going to the airport:
Castifi’s digital voucher technology works similarly:
This is an incredible milestone for the background casting and production industry at large, creating unprecedented efficiency and cost savings in the process due to the following reasons.
Developing a system as quick and efficient as handing out a piece of paper was a challenge. However, by carefully keeping in mind how set operations take place, our product design team was able to streamline the check-in and check-out process.
Using batching options, a production representative can scan hundreds of background actors in a row without adjusting any settings. Because each voucher’s QR code links to its actor’s information, it is no longer necessary to search for the actor’s name through a pile of alphabetically-organized carbon-copy forms.
Besides, it becomes possible to make changes or add information to any voucher remotely. Assistant Directors can specify the official meal break for hundreds of actors at once from the comfort of the production office. The days of dispatching a production assistant to tell hundreds of actors to write down specific times on their vouchers are over.
The wardrobe department will be happy to know that digital vouchers come with a “wardrobe lock” feature, preventing an actor from being checked out if they have not yet returned their costume. Using the Castifi On Set app, those on the production staff responsible for such tasks can lock an actor’s voucher from anywhere and have access to the actor’s measurements at will.
A bonus to all this information being recorded digitally is that a background breakdown can be generated instantly at wrap. Castifi’s software is designed to sort all actors by type (Stand-Ins, Doubles, Featured Background, General Background) as well as by their worked hours, adjustments, and bumps. This report can be downloaded as a pdf and as a spreadsheet, allowing Assistant Directors to simply paste the resulting data into their production report.
And of course, it is no longer needed to send a driver with background vouchers. As most production documents are switching to digital, a fully digital “football” is now possible.
Every production accountant will tell you that processing background actor payments is a difficult and time-consuming process. This undeniable fact is one of the reasons Castifi was created over 5 years ago.
Traditional printed vouchers are constantly either missing information needed to process them (such as social security numbers) or riddled with typos that affect overtime, adjustments, and bump calculations.
When using digital vouchers, the information that gets sent to payroll is always up to date since it is tied to the actor’s profile in Castifi’s database. Data entry is more detailed, and the summary of wages displayed at check-out makes it easier for all parties to spot errors before the voucher has even been signed.
Because adjustments and bumps can be set remotely, Assistant Directors can resolve disputes between an actor and an inexperienced production assistant anywhere and at any time. All they need to do is open their phone and review the voucher in question.
Historically, production assistants were quick to edit a paper voucher after it had been signed (i.e. by crossing off adjustments) rather than taking the time to resolve the issue with the actor.
Because it’s not always possible to resolve these disputes on the spot (especially when dozens of actors are waiting to be checked out), Castifi’s software allows both parties to leave notes when signing a voucher so that these disagreements are officially recorded.
Making changes to a voucher will now always leave a digital trail, providing a better way to resolve conflicts and avoiding costly claims that may drag on for weeks.
Production accountants will revel in knowing that the payroll data contained in Castifi’s digital voucher can be reviewed in real-time online. Once approved, it can be sent directly to a payroll company along with employment eligibility and tax withholding documents. There is nothing to export, print, or email.
One of the first measures to be implemented at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was to stop using cash as much as possible. Exchanging paper documents from hand to hand is a key factor in the transmission of disease.
Castifi’s software removes paper from the equation entirely and only requires actors to “tap” the screen on the On Set app to sign off on their voucher. We also suggest making things even safer by using a stylus that can be cleaned between each use.
But let’s not forget about the staff working from the production office: in a 1997 study, the University of Florida found that a poorly-ventilated office where large amounts of carbonless copy paper were used had significant levels of volatile organic compounds present in its air, whereas a well-ventilated office where paper was widely used did not. The study also found that there were higher rates of sick leave and illness complaints at the office using large amounts of carbonless copy paper (source).
Another study, which was published in Environmental Health Perspectives, connected chronic occupational exposure to paper dust and carbonless copy paper with an increased risk of adult-onset asthma (source).
In 2001, three employees of a medical center in San Francisco filed a lawsuit against their employer, blaming exposure to carbonless copy paper and other chemicals for their inflammatory breast cancer (source).
You can read the full hazard review by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention here.
Safety comes in many forms. Using digital vouchers also makes employee verification much more simple and efficient. Upon scanning a voucher, the actor’s basic information (including their picture) will show on screen, preventing imposters from working on someone else’s behalf.
Finally, it’s important to note that background vouchers in their current form pose a significant identity theft risk. Carbon-copy vouchers often need to be left at holding, unsupervised, where anyone can obtain someone’s social security number, mailing address, phone number, and email.
Now, sensitive information is protected by the actor’s phone lock, and sensitive data is encrypted on the backend of Castifi’s software. This added security also follows the actor home: no one will need to keep stacks of carbon copies with all their personal information in an unmanned folder. Castifi’s app stores all past jobs’ data, making staying on top of payments a lot safer and easier.
Every department in film production has been striving to make our industry greener. To this day, background payroll remains one of the largest consumers of paper products. Given that each paper voucher is made of three pieces of paper, a background day can consume close to a full ream of paper.
In addition to the paper waste itself, recycling efforts need to contend with “de-inking”, a process that results in the production of a waste sludge weighing as much as 22% of the weight of waste paper recycled (source).
Given that background vouchers always end up being scanned and shredded, we see the switch to digital vouchers as an absolute necessity. There is no reason why productions should delay the use of this technology now that the information safety and union compliance aspects have been approved across the board.
We’d like to encourage you to become part of this green revolution by asking your background casting director about digital vouchers. Castifi’s agents are at your disposal to showcase how the technology works and welcome your feedback.
To start the process, head over to castifi.com and request a demo. Along with our Digital Voucher technology, we can show you how to digitize the entire onboarding and payroll process for your background, cast, and crew. We look forward to helping you!