At the beginning of every show, everyone must fill out start work,1 yet a distressing number of people don’t know how to do it. I once had this conversation with a makeup artist who had more years in this industry than I had on this Earth:
INT. PRODUCTION OFFICE – DAY
A woman with a RIDICULOUS amount of makeup on her face stands at TAPA’s desk.
Can you show me how to fill this out?
Where it says “name,” write your name. Where it says “address,” write your address. And so on.
I just don’t understand these things. I’m an artist!
First of all, while I understand it says “artist” in your title, you’re not the kind of artist who gets to say things like that. Secondly, fuck you.
Okay, maybe I didn’t say that last part. But I sure thought it.
The point is, filling out start work is pretty easy. You’ll have to write your name, address, and social security number on a half-dozen forms. Hopefully, you have all that memorized.
You’ll also need your driver license number, and license plate number. Those, you’re less likely to keep in your memory bank. What I do is, I email myself that information. The next time I start a job, I just search my Gmail for “license.”2
You’ll also need either your social security card to go with your driver license, or your passport. This is to verify you’re authorized to work in the US. You can’t use copies, either. Whoever signs off on the I9 (usually a payroll accountant or a department head) needs to see the real thing.
That’s the theory, anyway. In three years, I have never shown anyone my social security card. I fill in the number on the I9; someone asks to see the card; I say, “Oh, I forgot it;” they say, “Bring it in tomorrow;” I don’t; it’s never mentioned again.
I know a lot of crew do this, too, because I’ve been the girl who checks the I9s on several shows. (That’s it’s own special hell, let me tell you. ABC/Disney, in particular, is fussy about I9s being filled out exactly correctly, with no white-outs or crossed-out lines, either.)
On many shows, the office PAs are tasked with putting together the start packs.3 Most of those shows require you to highlight each and every line the crew is supposed to fill out, along with flagging every signature line with a SIGN HERE sticker.
The problem you run into here is, if you happen to miss a line (or a whole page!), it is guaranteed that the crew member will miss it herself. By holding her hands through each step of the paperwork, you’re allowing her to turn of her brain.
And even with all the highlights and stickers and incredibly easy-to-follow instructions, people still mess up their start work anyway! So why are we wasting our time?
Like those European cities that got rid of all their traffic signs last year, we should stop trying to guide people through each and every step. Let them figure it out for themselves.
Except actors. Actors are dumb. And they’re getting more paperwork, soon, probably.
- Or “start paperwork,” but who has the time for all those extra syllables?↩
- Actually, I Google the correct spelling of “license,” first, then I search for it in my inbox.↩
- Really, payroll should be doing this, but oftentimes there’s only one payroll accountant, and they just can’t get it all done in a day.↩