Over the past few months, Below the Line has been offering our readers some new ideas and technology for dealing with the new safety protocols necessary for making sure film and television production can safely reopen.
Today, we’re looking at another way to keep your set safe and secure via software created by Traction Guest, a company that specializes in employee and visitor management systems, including a newly-launched Frontline mobile app that can help to keep track of who is coming and going from your set, whether you’re filming on soundstages or on location.
A few weeks back, I had a chance to talk with Keith Metcalfe, Traction Guest CEO and co-founder, about how these systems can be used specifically in entertainment industry situations, and that includes keeping track of visitors to set.
But first, a little more about Mr. Metcalfe, who has a fairly impressive resumé from the world of software as you can read in his bio:
With a diverse background in the tech industry, Keith Metcalfe is a seasoned entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience across large organizations. Keith has extensive knowledge in enterprise software, identifying strategic trends and celebrating the importance of data, business intelligence and innovation. As a developed expert in SaaS and CEO of enterprise software company Traction Guest, he sees a critical business requirement and opportunity in transforming visitor management with emerging technology to significantly improve physical and data security worldwide.
As you might imagine, Metcalfe doesn’t exactly work in show biz or deal with all the politics and hierarchies that come with working on a movie or television set, but he does represent technology that seems perfectly suited for the new demands that have been raised by the new addition of COVID protocols.
Maybe it’s not immediately obvious why and how Traction Guest might be useful on sets. Imagine if the AD on a show or production assistant or others are able to keep better track of who is visiting the set or where everyone is on set, as well as who belongs in whatever zone they’re designated. (Before reading on, maybe quickly scroll down to the bottom of this piece and watch the helpful video so you can get the general gist of what we’re talking about in this column.)
With offices in Vancouver, Dublin and Seattle, Traction Guest was created as a necessity Metcalfe saw in the way visitors and guests are dealt with while visiting important businesses, especially ones with a lot of employees and traffic. “We started this business because we believe that when people were visiting other businesses, often regulated ones, the experience was really awkward. It wasn’t safe, it wasn’t secure, it was sort of terrible,” Metcalfe told me. “What existed was a lot of on-premise software that didn’t work particularly well, because companies had to buy machines, deploy them and update them. We said, ‘Let’s fix this with the cloud.’ People can just now grab an iPad or their phone, download our app, and start inviting people, giving them these customized experience.”
“Imagine that you can log into a browser anywhere in the world on any device, and you could see a pulse of who’s coming in and out at any point in time,” he continued. “Then you can have a historical record at your fingertips of who’s been there. You can actually ask them to cover whatever questions you want — they get an Email and fill it out before they come. Then they just scan in with QR codes. All of that is in a database that we allow customers to have themselves, and that database can be anywhere in North America, Europe or the States. Then they manage their own live database of who’s coming in and out of the different sites. You can literally look at a real time browser of 30 sites and select one of them or all of them and see who’s coming and going, and what’s happening.”
Metcalfe told me that Traction Guest is currently working within 30 industries on five continents, including critical manufacturers with essential workers. “All of them are trying to make sure they have a mitigation strategy for making sure their sites are safe, because shutting them down is costly in a ton of different ways.”
ˀThat certainly can be said for any production, because as we’ve seen in recent months, when one person tests positive for COVID, that could mean that not only do they have to quarantine but everyone else has to do so as well. How can the important parties on set – like the first AD and producers, for instance – keep track of that, especially if the local Department of Health needs to figure out the necessary tracking and tracing to keep the spread? And that’s on top of the people who just show up to sets or location shoots and try to pretend that they belong there – we all have heard or experienced cases like this before.
Metcalfe shared an analogy about this very situation. “In the early days, I was going to studios and would ask, ‘How do you deal with knowing whether somebody is trying to pummel their script, or if they’re a fan?’ and they said, ‘We hire people with good memories.’ They were serious — they had all these spreadsheets and pictures on walls. We take care of all of that, because it’s a problem — people want to get on set that shouldn’t be.”
“A lot of it has to do with education,” Metcalfe confirmed. “Having a record of who’s been and seen people is something we can do really well, but a big piece is making sure that people are informed before they come. The expectations are set that there’s a duty of care. What you’ll see in the entertainment industry right now is the unions are saying ‘We want our people cared for.’”
Metcalfe noted that studios in particular have an insane amount of traffic working in an industry where time is money and everyone is concerned about budgets. “Imagine that somebody comes in, they’re sick, they infect a set, the set has to shut down for a week to two for quarantine. The cost for that is insane. The other thing is they don’t have a structured flow of business, and it’s not the same site to site. When you get invited into a studio as an example, do you know how to get there? If it’s a campus, which entrance? What are the procedures, when you get there? Our technology allows people to register via their mobile device, receive an invite with pre-visit instructions and a unique QR code, and be pre-screened for health information. When they arrive onsite, approved individuals are scanned in and accounted for in a centralized manner.”
One specific concern that always arises within the entertainment business – and this is something that’s not going to change with COVID, zones or anything else — is that you often have talent on set that might need special treatment, like the star of the movie or other actors. “We actually have a VIP watch list in our platform, so that you know when they and their people come in.
Metcalfe concluded with a few of his own examples about how things became more complicated due to the COVID pandemic. “Before, visitor management was only about visitors, but in the new world, it’s about a safe, secure visit for everybody, including employees. Do you know which offices they went into? Who they saw? Did they understand and wear their PPE? Did they answer their health questions beforehand? We’re automating all of that, so companies can actually focus on getting back to work, rather than all of the problems with getting back to work.”
You can get more information about Traction Guest at TractionGuest.com, and watch a demo video about how it works below.