Travel & Living Planning in the Media Industry

Making movies, documentaries, and commercials is teamwork. However, these teams are usually freelancers who must travel from one filming location to another.

You could say a filmmaker is a modern nomad. In large productions, transportation managers and additional coordinators dedicated to planning the travel and living parts of the cast and the crew can be required. They oversee:

  • Transportation like flights, car transportation, train tickets, and so on

  • Accommodation like hotels, condos, houses, etc.

  • Catering planning

1. Why Managing Travel and Living Expenses Accurately is Important

It doesn’t matter if you make a movie for $500K, $5M, or $50M. Proportionally, your travel and living costs will always stay the same: between 8% and 10% roughly.

When trying to get your financing together or considering the cost reports on your previous show or movie, does 10% matter? Yes, it does! And quite often, cost reports on travel and living expenses keep piling up over weeks and months. They’re usually hard to track and can be pretty unpredictable. That’s why managing travel and living expenses on a film, show, or commercial matters.

2. The Current Problems in Travel Planning

As most of the planning mentioned above is done manually and with generic tools like Excel, Email, and Word, it can be a cumbersome effort. That's actually true for all business-related travel expenses. Most sales personnel hate doing the travel expense reports just as much as accounting is tired of asking for complete reports over and over again.

For a film production, however, this is an even bigger topic. Think of a couple of hundred human beings that need to be moved from A to B and need to sleep somewhere. That's a huge administrative undertaking considering that over 90% of an average film crew are freelancers – and there is still no common process.
It’s very long and laborious work and something you'd want to save up for some rainy days.

3. The Jobs to be Done in Travel and Living Planning

Today, a coordinator or APOC might search for a flight and a hotel reservation for an actress. The coordinator then needs to get approval from the producer. Once booked, the itinerary needs to be communicated to the actress – and usually her agency (Hello, email, my old friend!).

Then, the coordinator has to keep track of the itineraries of all cast and crew members, as she always needs to know who is traveling and staying where and when. That’s mostly done in Excel or a similar spreadsheet system.

Apart from that information, the same data needs to be exchanged with accounting or controlling for ongoing cost reports (the so-called “actuals” of a budget). A production must also consider that travel and living expenses are relevant for salaries and tax-related issues for the cast and crew members. So travel and living costs are nothing that should be taken lightly. All need to be well documented.

In addition, other stakeholders might also need some parts of the itineraries - sustainability officers for example, to calculate the CO2 footprints of the production. Let’s not forget that transportation is still one of the largest carbon emission drivers of a production.

And when it comes to vehicles, it can even become more complicated, as the production might have a fleet – usually rental cars, trucks, or vans. As one vehicle (typically with one driver) can only be at one place at a time, transportation management can also be a nightmare for mid-sized or large productions. The same is true for hotel rooms and apartments, as you can see them as limited resources.

4. How Travel Planning Software Will Help You in 2023

So, is there a better way than sharing PDFs via email? Yes, there is. Yamdu is a dedicated tool for the media industry and it’s helped many productions manage cast and crew in the past years. In 2023, it will even include additional travel and living planning features.

Why is that a significant step from current workflows? Because Yamdu is cloud-based and stores all data in a structured way.

As all the data is generated in the cloud, it’s ready to be shared from day one. But rather than distributing files and lists outside the system, a coordinator can publish new itineraries in the tool directly – optionally, after passing an approval process. That keeps sharing the information simple, even when many people are involved.

Yamdu storing all data in a structured way means that it’s actually aware of the nature of pieces of data. It knows that a cast member is a cast member and a scene is a scene. It knows when the scene is shot, at which location and from where you have to transport the involved cast members, unlike an Excel sheet, which can barely separate text from numbers.

As you’ve already done your shooting planning with Yamdu, all that data already exists. Once you create it, it becomes reusable by other users and even projects, as they will also automatically be stored in the company database. For example, this gives you a great overview of the following entities:

  • Cast members

  • Crew members

  • Vendors (e.g., rental houses, hotel companies, …)

  • Vehicles and car fleet (e.g., cars by crew members, rental cars, …)

  • Accommodation database (hotels, apartments, houses, …)

  • Catering overviews (incl. eating habits for the crew and cast)

5. Example Itinerary to see Yamdu in Action

Let’s use an example to make it more tangible. John Doe, the director, gets invited to the project’s crew list. During his registration, he enters not only his address and other basic data but also his dietary restrictions. Let’s say he is vegan. As a default setting, he gets marked as an “on-set” crew member by Yamdu (as the director, he will probably participate in the set catering).

When John needs to fly from Los Angeles to New York, the production coordinator opens a new itinerary.

  1. She creates a leg for the flight with John as a “traveler.”

  2. She adds all the necessary info – including the costs. Some data can be derived from it automatically, like travel distances.

  3. She adds accommodation for John in New York, e.g., a nice hotel in Chelsea for three nights. Again, adding costs.

  4. And eventually, the third leg will bring him back to LA with another flight.

The coordinator can save the itinerary as a draft and await the producer’s approval. Once approved, she publishes the itinerary and automatically shares it with John (as Yamdu already has his contact info ready).

The itinerary will be displayed to him as a practical overview, including all the details, necessary tickets and confirmations. An ICS file allows John to add the itinerary to his preferred calendar, like Apple Calendar or Google Calendar. John only has to confirm the itinerary, and the process is already done for him.

At the same time, the itinerary pops up in the accounting overview in Yamdu, showing all costs in the dedicated columns for travel, accommodation, incl. or excl. VAT, etc.

And in Yamdu’s sustainability area, a sustainability officer or green consultant can see the anonymous data such as mileage for the flight, type of hotel, and all other necessary information for CO2 calculations.

And in case the First AD asks our coordinator if John could stay a night longer, the coordinator can simply use the travel scheduler and update the itinerary accordingly. All the updates are again shared with everyone involved automatically.

6. Conclusion

Yamdu’s new tools will make planning travel and living for media creation nomads and filmmakers easier and more streamlined. That’s exactly what collaborative tools are made for: less redundant work, better overviews, and easily accessible and reusable data that can be shared in real-time.

All that is key to speed up your processes regarding T&L planning. Ready for take-off? Let’s move up to the clouds, where the sun always shines.