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How to Conduct Background Checks: A Guide for Production Pros

How to Conduct Background Checks: A Guide for Production Pros

March 26, 2024

Paul Hatcher is the Founder & CEO of Merrill Herzog, a global crisis response and risk advisory firm. In the following article, he details the importance of background screenings, various types of background screenings, and how to conduct them for productions.

The need for accurate, timely, and cost-effective background checks is at an all-time high in the entertainment industry. The entire background screening process from limitations in providing accurate information to ever-changing compliance, makes it a challenge for production companies to understand what they truly need and how to avoid choosing the wrong vendor—a vendor who could miss something and get an entire show canceled six seasons in.

Below, we’ll shed some light on the inner-workings of background screenings and provide information that can help production companies make more informed decisions when selecting their background screening partner.

Everyone has heard the alarming stories stemming from inadequate background checks in the entertainment industry. These range from discovering a reality show star secretly has a significant other, to primary talent making racially insensitive remarks. Often, such issues could have been unearthed with a thorough social media analysis. Regrettably, many background screening processes overlook such glaring and‌ high-risk information.

At Merrill Herzog, within our Production Risk Services division, we manage all facets of security. We recently collaborated with a production company that required background checks for crew members working near minors. During our standard screening, we uncovered that a video editor on the team was a registered sex offender. This revelation shocked both the production company and the Network, especially since the individual had passed background checks conducted by two different network-approved companies five times over the past three years.

This video editor had access to hundreds of hours of raw content featuring children.

You might ask, how is this possible?

The unfortunate truth is that most of the background screening industry resells data broker information and the accuracy of their background checks is wholly dependent on the accuracy of the third-party data. The way we mitigate this is to employ a full-time team of intelligence analysts and social media researchers who verify and validate any information reported, and then we save original copies of those files so they can be reviewed at a later date. The process may be tedious, but it is the only way to have accurate background checks.

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