Josh Weinberg, 29, had his first big break on the set of Amazon Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” not as an actor, but as the CEO behind the app Run A Better Set.
RABS is a web application that functions two-fold: It acts as a digital check-in system for extras on set and is an accounting tool, tracking when extras on set clock in and out and providing all payment paperwork digitally.
When the app was tested on the set of season three episode two of “Mrs. Maisel” during a scene with more than 700 extras and background characters, everything went off without a hitch.
Weinberg remembers a production assistant saying to him at the end of the day, “You saved my wrists. Will you do this again tomorrow?”
The Fairmount resident, who grew up in Wynnewood and was bar mitzvahed at Beth David Reform Congregation in Gladwyne, didn’t expect to build a software company for a living, but now he can’t imagine doing anything else.
In 2022, four years after RABS’ 2018 genesis, Weinberg hopes to have 100 simultaneous clients at RABS and continue to expand services the software can offer to industry businesses, such as creating a database of extras for casting companies and doing proprietary software development for studios.
You initially wanted to be a screenwriter or producer growing up. What was your first experience in the industry?
My first real experience was, when I was in college, I took a few of what they call “day player” jobs; you come on as a temporary worker as a PA (production assistant).
The first real job that facilitated RABS’ creation was facilitated by my cousin, another good Yid from Lower Merion, Scott Rosenbaum. He was filming a show called “Queen of the South,” which is actually still on the air, and it was shooting its first season in Dallas.
And so I get this job through good old-fashioned nepotism, living in Dallas. And they said to me, “Josh, you are going to be what’s called the extras PA, which means, here you go, kid: Here’s 80 extras; here’s 480 pieces of paper; here’s a folding table and some highlighters and Post-It pads. Figure it out.”
So, really, day one, I just looked at this process, and I thought it was horrible.
I went up to the producers a few days later and said, “Do you mind getting me the app that deals with all of this?” And they looked at me like, “What? What are you talking about?”
They basically said that doesn’t exist, so I said, “OK, I’ll make it exist.”
Where did your interest in the film industry come from?
My family would watch “Curb [Your Enthusiasm]” together, we would watch Mel Brooks movies … We’d watch Eddie Murphy on “SNL” (“Saturday Night Live”). Those experiences are moving in a lot of ways.
I was always an excellent performer, really good in front of a crowd for whatever reason. So it seemed like the right fit because when I was on stage, I could really make people laugh.
And then when you get older, you sort of get kind of caught in the idea of, “This is how I can impress people; this is how I can make money; this is how I can get famous.” All that stuff, in a way, created the beginning of a trajectory for me to go into show business.
When did you realize RABS had taken off?
There’s a financial moment when that actually happened, and there was also an attitude.
The attitude was there from the beginning. I just believe that if you want to create something, there has to be a strong intention — let’s just call it a spiritual sacrifice.
But the financial moment … COVID genuinely altered the trajectory of the business because suddenly I had a proven service that was COVID-safe and solved a lot of new production problems, and it was already there and reliable. And shows needed to go paperless; they needed to be COVID-safe; they needed to connect the remote accounting offices to the productions; they needed to be more efficient because there was a lot more payment information to track.
So COVID, in that first wave of July 2020 — after the pandemic had been around for a few months and the productions came back — that’s when, suddenly, we had the accelerated growth of what some would expect to come five years down the line happening within the first two years.
Why stay in Philadelphia?
I’ve chosen to stay in Philadelphia because the economy has changed. The business is totally remote. Business is all over the country. Philadelphia is not a show business town. The reality is that shows are in Atlanta, New York, British Columbia, Toronto, Calgary.
They’re everywhere, so you might as well be where you want to be. That’s why I’m here.