Many Departments, One Screw Up

Over at the Hills are Burning blog, AJ has a great post about how you need to take responsibility for your own time card. Basically, the best boy grip on one of her shows told her he doesn’t bother keeping track of in and out times on his department’s time cards, because all of that is recorded in the production reports.

I do take slight issue with a couple of her comments:

Despite Production keeping multiple records of everything (daily time sheets for each department, production reports, callsheets, etc), Accounting doesn’t always match the numbers up, so if any of the times on the card is off by even one number, you’re likely to end up getting less than you’re supposed to no matter how many slips of paper are floating around the office saying you were in at 6am instead of twelve minutes later.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been shortchanged on my paychecks over the years. And every time I call up Accounting to do something about it, THE VERY FIRST THING THEY DO IS PULL UP MY TIME CARD.

That’s the first thing they look at to see if an accounting error has been made, and if it’s blank, guess what? I’m out of luck and it looks like I just worked for free.

It’s a slippery slope when we put the accuracy of our own paychecks in the hands of those who are penny pinching every chance they get.

To clarify, we’re talking about at least three documents– time cards, daily time sheets, and production reports. A time card is filled out by an individual crew member, and turned in to payroll (usually via her or his department head) at the end of the week.1 There is one daily time sheet per department (again, usually filled out by the department head), which reports the in and out times for each member of that department. A production report is a legal-sized daily report generated by the AD department (usually a 2nd AD). It’s actually like a bizarro call sheet, which reflects what we actually shot, not just what we intend to, as well as the times each cast and crew member really came in and clocked out.

As AJ points out, the only one of these you have control over is your own time card. Remember to fill it out as accurately as you can.2

If everybody is honest (or very good at colluding), your time card and your department’s daily time sheet should match up.

The production report, on the other hand, is filled out by a 2nd AD at the end of the night, after they’ve been working for 12 to 14 hours, when they’re tired, hungry, and probably getting yelled at by an AD, an actor, or a producer. Mistakes are inevitably going to happen.

That’s why every morning both the production office (usually the APOC) and the accounting department check the production report against the time sheets to make sure everyone’s on the same page. If not, production will call the department head to figure out why there’s a discrepancy.

What we don’t do is shrug and pick whichever time saves the production the most money.

Remember, it’s not our money. We, just like you, are part of the crew. We like you guys, and we want everyone to get paid what they’re due. Now, it happens to be part of our job to make sure no one gets over paid, either.

If you ever run into a situation where you need to show the payroll accountant that you did work the hours you claimed, just come to the office and visit your friendly neighborhood PA. We’ll help you find the daily time sheets, the preliminary production reports, all that stuff. Just ask. That’s why we’re here– to assist production.

* * *

While I’m linking to other below the line blogs, if you don’t follow me on twitter, you may not have seen my link to the Hollywood Juicer’s latest post, “Cautionary Tales.” Check it out.

Also, you may have missed me linking to this fun comment.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Or beginning of the week, if, like me, you forget to fill it out.
  2. With a bit of judicious rounding, if your boss has been a jerk lately.
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5 Responses

  1. How do you actually fill out the timesheet? The time format I mean. I’ve heard its’ navy time, but all I know is its very confusing.

    I would be really appreciative if someone could break it down for me, and I can stop bothering PAs for something I should know.


  2. APA, I didn’t mean to imply that production will “shrug and pick whichever time saves the production the most money.” But yes, mistakes do happen and not every show (namely the low budget ones) makes each department do a daily time sheet. And sometimes I don’t have access to the production office or anyone who can show me a PR (again, mostly on the low budget shows, but also comes standard with being a day player). That makes my time card my first (and possibly only) line of defense when talking to Accounting about getting paid correctly, hence the need to actually fill out a time card and not leave it blank like some people…

    We like you guys too!

  3. I’ve had an AD friend show me a time card app specifically for film crews that lets you input times and it creates a time card based on 6 min increments and accounting for OT calculations. I wish there was more of them – the one I was shown was for iPhone only and I use Android. Usually, I’ll set up a small document on Evernote to keep track of my times or I’ll text a friend as soon as wrap happens as a reminder for when wrap was. I’ve worked with crews where someone like a 2nd AC or Camera PA is made responsible for the department’s time cards (though I’m sure that’s more difficult to arrange with a Production Office team). I say, everyone should be responsible for making sure they get paid for what they worked.

    1. I know this post is old, but I have an Android app recommendation. It’s called Timesheet, and the developer is Llamalab. I love it because you can keep track of hours and wages earned for multiple projects (even if you get paid different rates for different projects), it’s got an expense tracker, a mileage tracked for if you’re getting reimbursed for gas, and a whole bunch more stuff. And the app is free. I love it! 🙂

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