As an independent film producer, part of your job is cutting expenses. Can you get away with two days at that location instead of five? Can you get by with fewer production assistants? But there are some costs a filmmaker just can’t afford to cut, and film production insurance is one of those costs.
Actually, producers don’t just need a single type of insurance. They need several kinds of insurance because each policy covers a different aspect of film production.
Every producer needs General Liability Insurance. You need it to rent locations and to provide a back up to your equipment rental insurance. When you book locations and rent equipment you will often be asked to provide a general liability insurance certificate that names the owner of the equipment or property as additionally insured. Failure to have this insurance can represent a significant roadblock for any production of any size. This insurance costs a few hundred dollars and you buy it by the year.
Equipment Rental Insurance allows you to rent production equipment and vehicles. Get this insurance long before you intend to rent because it is not an overnight process. The higher your limits, the more you can rent and the more you will pay. When you rent equipment the rental house will require you to provide an equipment rental certificate that names them as an additional insured and that can take several days to acquire. All this means that new film producers should work get this insurance a month or so before they intend to shoot. Policies last a year.
Workers Compensation insurance is some of the most expensive insurance you will buy. On the other hand, you need it to shoot anything with SAG actors and having an annual policy, as a business owner, is a requirement for purchasing corporate health insurance. In the state of California, setting up an LLC and getting a workers compensation policy, may be a cheaper way for you to get better health insurance than you can afford by just purchasig a policy on your own. And you have better coverage if you become sick or disabled. Workers comp is a good investment for both you and your company.
Since most of these policies are purchased on an annual basis, they are good for multiple film projects. You will have to add riders, or get new policies, to cover stunts, pyrotechnics and other exotic operations.
Failure to have this kind of coverage basically puts all the property you own now, or ever earn in the future, on the line. If someone gets injured on set, if a location gets damaged, if you drop a light or a camera, you are footing the bill personally. Students often think their lack of assets represents some kind of barrier against being sued. The truth is that their income in future years is what is at risk. So if you ever plan to make it big, you have to deal with the insurance problem.
If you can’t afford this insurance, form a production company and then work to find other filmmakers who require your insurance in order to shoot their projects. You will become a producer on their project which will allow your insurance to cover their requirements. It will mean that you have to be actively involved in their production, protecting the equipment, location and personnel you are insuring, but you will quickly acquire many professional credits and build some long lasting business relationships.
Where do you get film insurance? I recommend working with an non-profit organization, like FracturedAtlas, that supports filmmakers and other artists as part of their charter. They give you the very best rates and are very responsive when you need certificates issued.
Nancy Fulton is a writer, publisher and independent filmmaker. You can find more about her work by visiting [http://www.backfromiraqmovie.com] and http://www.nobetterfriendmovie.com
Question by J Ral: Help finding the right career/degree…?
I would love nothing more than to be involved in the film industry. My dream is to be an actress, but I realize that many people share this dream with me. I am currently a journalism major, but i am not sure if i should change it or not. Even if I cannot become an actress I want to be part of the filmmaking process. I am interested in maybe being a screenwriter, or something along those lines. Does anyone have any suggestions? What options do I have, and what major should I have to get the most experience and knowledge? Also, I live in Texas, so i would obviously have to move to get a good job in this business. How would I go about getting a job like that? Do I send in an application and wait for a response, or would I need to move out there first, or just take a trip out there? Please help!
Answer by The Filmmaker
If you are not sure what you should do then you shouldn’t get into any aspect of filmmaking. If your dream truly is to act, then act. You should be a Theatre major. Act in everything that you can- every theatre production within a drivable radius. Search IMDb, Craigslist, Mandy, Greenroom- find every site you can and apply for every acting job out there. Don’t forget you classmates’ shorts and films- even if it gets to YouTube you have clips for your reel. You can move if you want- but no one will hire you with no reel/ resume/ connections. I’m not sure why you think living in Texas would be a problem; Robert Rodriquez, Summer Glau, Jared Padalecki are also from and still live in Texas. Austin is one of the top entertainment cities outside of CA and NY.
1) Figure out what your true dream is… and go for it.
2) Google is your friend. Use it. There is nothing that you can’t find online.
Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!
“How I Met Your Mother” actor Josh Radnor wrote, directed and acted in the new film, “Happythankyoumoreplease.” Radnor discussed the filmmaking process with Chris Wragge.