After months of total shutdown, the entertainment industry is slowly grinding its gears again, with some added challenges to protect talent and crew from COVID-19.
As the sector navigates those new hurdles, it's also struggling with many of the same frustrations that are unique to the entertainment space. Two of the biggest human resources management operations — payroll and insurance coverage — present industry-specific pain points, for example, that can hamper film crews' and production companies' ability to make up for lost time.
Speaking with PYMNTS, CEO Ali Javid and CTO Hesham El-Nahhas, both co-founders at Wrapbook, explained why payroll and insurance are so burdensome to the entertainment space in particular, and how placing greater control over employee data with the employees themselves can help to alleviate some of those challenges.
Organizations across industries face plenty of payroll challenges when workflows aren't digitized and optimized. Yet those pain points are amplified thanks to some unusual characteristics of the entertainment talent pool.
"Within entertainment and many other project-based industries, employees jump between employers every week making it very hard to innovate on payments," explained Javid. "Payroll systems have historically been set up for employee data to be locked within each employer's proprietary implementation."
What this means is employees must fill out a new set of paperwork — often many of the same data fields — each time they migrate to a new employer.
Like other markets, the entertainment space continues to rely on the weekly or bi-weekly payroll schedule, a rhythm that El-Nahhas said is "based on the limitations of yesterday's payroll systems." With professionals using pen and paper to complete the onboarding process as they move from job to job, there are security concerns with having their personal bank account information passed around on paper to ensure they're compensated.
Adding to payment delays is the fact that employee onboarding, which happens at every job change, creates additional workflow burdens for HR and payroll professionals. El-Nahhas also pointed to the entertainment space's need to integrate talent fees, union pension and health calculations, and other payments within wages.
Wrapbook aims to tackle this issue by giving employees greater control over their payroll data, which, Javid explains, enables a professional to manage their own information across all employers within a Wrapbook profile, enabling a more seamless onboarding experience for both employee and employer. The company recently announced a $3.6 million seed funding round, a show of support from investors for the company's technology, and one that El-Nahhas and Javid said would go toward expanding its own talent pool across the U.S. and Canada.
Insurance is a closely related function within human resources that similarly faces plenty of industry-specific friction points. From pyrotechnics and stunt scenes, to multimillion-dollar cameras and other equipment, Javid said that facilitating insurance for this sector requires deep industry knowledge.
"Insurance for the specialized personnel, equipment and property within entertainment requires industry-specific expertise in safety, risk management and underwriting," he said, adding, "Managing this risk falls on both the production companies and insurance providers."
When it comes to insurance claims workflows, ensuring that crew and talent receive timely medical care is critical to protecting professionals and maintaining positive relationships between production companies and other collaborators.
Javid also highlighted the importance of timely, accurate claims payouts: "A film's success is tied directly to the efficient and well-planned coordination of the producers," he said. "In the event of [a] claim, it is essential that producers are compensated for valid claims quickly so that production operations can resume."
Managing the safety and security of employees on set has become an even more difficult challenge as a result of the pandemic. El-Nahhas noted that in addition to maintaining social distance, "hyper-sanitary diligence" and COVID-19 testing, crews are also facing unfamiliar challenges as projects downsize to support the need for remote workers and fewer professionals in close proximity with one another.
Considering all of these hurdles, businesses within the entertainment sector could see significant value of not only nixing paper and digitizing operations like payroll and insurance, but also adopting technology that can understand the unique perspectives and pain points these firms experience. With the global pandemic having hit the entertainment space so hard, change is inevitable, and industry players must be agile.
"Many are adopting technology to improve their ability to work remotely and cut out busy work they dislike," said El-Nahhas of the changes these firms are already beginning to implement. "This drastic shift will forever change payments and insurance within entertainment."