5 Tips for Transforming Your Production Office from a Three-Ring Circus into a Green, Efficient Workspace

By Nik Bars and Emily Winters

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We all know that a production office can quickly become a three-ring circus. At times it may feel like you’re juggling torches while pedaling a unicycle on a tightrope when revisions are constantly being made to your scripts, you’re getting bombarded with questions over the walkie, and your Executive Producer has made it clear they’re not paying a dime for overtime. At the end of the day when the printer jams — again — you stop and think, “maybe it would have been easier to be an acrobat for Cirque du Soleil?”

We reached out to the magicians of our SetKeeper network and gathered their strategies and recommendations for making your stress — and paper — disappear like a rabbit in a hat.

1 — Now you see it, now you don’t: prepare your crew for a paperless production

Printing only a quarter of the things we usually print is still fantastic.” — Claudine Marrotte, Producer

Persuading people to adapt to new tools and processes is always a challenge — perhaps even more so on a film set. Getting your crew up to speed could range from a quick pre-production email describing the new methods to a formal production meeting with heads of departments to help prioritize your green production goals.

What’s important is that your crew understands why you’re adopting these new tools and strategies. If they’re not motivated by the cost-savings, emphasize the stress-reduction: wouldn’t you rather upload a script and send it digitally than spend one more afternoon shoving revision pages into a three-ring binder?

If you’re adopting new software or apps that may be unfamiliar to many, it can help to delegate someone as a point of contact to schedule training or to ask questions.

Of course, you’ll have to print some things out, but if you reduce it to the most essential documents, you’ll be well on your way to a green production.

2 — Quit clowning around! Change the way you read and annotate scripts

It may be tempting to attack your scripts the old-fashioned way with the three hole punchers, brads, pens, and various colors of paper. But, consider all of the waste this produces, money that gets spent, notes that get lost, and just how much time it takes for your office to put this all together for your crew every single time a revision is made.

Scriptation is a solution that was created to tackle exactly this problem. With Scriptation you can make notes all over your script and when a new version is received, all of those same notes can be transferred to the same place in the new version with the click of a button. Furthermore, the app will let you know what in the script has been changed from the previous iteration and sync your drafts across devices.

“tightrope-walker-silhouette-2” by ujgmxxuy61 is marked with CC PDM 1.0

3 — Master the high-wire act of document distribution by using dedicated software

“When we didn’t have a program like SetKeeper or Scenechronize, with [just] three people in the office sending out personalized watermarked scripts, that would take us hours to do every single time.” — Will Potenberg, Assistant Production Coordinator

Using Google Drive, Dropbox or Acrobat to manage your documents and contacts is like ending your act by pulling a coin out of someone’s ear — it’s reliable and gets the job done, but leaves something to be desired. If you are really looking to save time and increase your efficiency, try using an integrated distribution platform. Rather than using several different tools (and paying several more fees), you can group them all together on the SetKeeper platform.

SetKeeper is a go-to source for your production office (or magic show) needs. Create sides with the touch of a button, watermark and send documents to your adoring fans, sign autographs digitally with e-signing, perform paperless crew onboarding, and ensure everyone is healthy and well with our health reporting feature.

You can easily import your contacts, create distribution groups, and grant users different access rights so that all the information is on a need-to-know basis — you don’t want to reveal all the secrets to your tricks to the wrong person!

4 — Say the magic words… use digital communication platforms

“We can all be in constant contact with each other so if anybody has a question, the answer can be found immediately.” — Amry Landsberg, UPM

Walkies may not always be the quickest or efficient way to communicate on set and we all know they can be a source of headaches (earpieces not in ears, batteries dying, channel mix-ups, proper etiquette, etc.). Adding messaging and task applications to the mix can help keep your crew connected and informed, especially once they call “quiet on the set!”

Slack can be a saving grace to keep in constant touch with your team. If your PA is on a run, they can send a quick message in the team channel so you — or whoever is available — can quickly answer them.

Digital list applications like Todoist and Microsoft To-Do allow you to have a shared list with your team where tasks can be assigned and checked-off as they’re completed. Instead of assigning tasks throughout the day, your crew will have instant access to these lists when they are looking for their next assignment. You can also send reminders for individuals to follow up on certain tasks.

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5 — Begin with a few card tricks; don’t start by sawing your assistant in half!

“It takes baby steps… If they aren’t super comfortable but are willing to try it I’ll tell them, ‘Great, try it out in pre-pro when it’s not so busy and give it a shot.’ But, I’ll never give anyone a hard time about it.” — Claudine Marrotte, Producer

While it would be amazing to snap your fingers and magically apply these solutions to your production, keep in mind that people adapt to change at different speeds…and with different levels of enthusiasm.

Make sure you and your team get familiar with your new tools during pre-production — rehearsal isn’t just for actors! Subscription-based tools usually come with a trial period so you can be sure it’s the right tool for your production before the curtain goes up on opening night.

If anyone voices frustration or concern about new processes, listen to their feedback. Chances are the “old” way of doing things can be incorporated into the new systems with a few adjustments.

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We hope that with these tools and strategies your production will not only become more sustainable and efficient, but it will fly through the air with the greatest of ease!

Have comments or ideas for other articles? Feel free to reach out to contact@setkeeper.com and let us know what you think!

SetKeeper is an industry-leading platform designed to coordinate the physical production process simply and safely. www.setkeeper.com