New Survey Investigates How Attitudes Toward "Going Digital" Can Help Shape the Future of the Production Office

ATLANTA, GEORGIA—June 18, 2018—While the digitization of many industries —and indeed, the world—continues at a rapid pace, the majority of productions continue to rely on inefficient and wasteful paper-and-pen solutions to track and manage finances. Is the entertainment industry finally ready to go digital? What are the obstacles? And what factors will drive this change? The National Association of Production Accountants has launched a new survey to unearth these answers, and more.

The survey will assess the current state of the entertainment industry—and gauge its readiness for digital transformation—by calling on producers, accountants, finance executives, and other key players.

Questions touch on a range of topics including software features that could potentially improve your current accounting platform, obstacles that prevent your production office from going fully digital, and ways in which using digital solutions could improve your production’s workflow.

NAPA believes that the findings of this survey will help to drive progress in the industry.

Be a force for change. Take the survey at napaus.org.

For more information or questions about the survey, contact research@napaus.org.

Please note: This survey is for research purposes only. There will be no direct sales or promotions as a result of your participation. Your individual responses will be kept confidential and anonymous and reported in aggregate.

What Does a Film/TV Resume Look Like?

                The Film and TV industry is a world of its own and if you are coming from the corporate world you will be surprised at how little translates between the two.  Creating a resume for film and TV can be tricky when first getting into the industry and applying for your first few jobs.  There are a few guidelines you should follow that will help your transition.  First off, start fresh.  Trying to tailor your corporate resume will only hinder you up because honestly,

what you did before working in the film industry does not really matter.  Also, your resume should be one page only.  As you start working and your resume fills up you will start removing old projects to keep your resume to one page, or you can include a “complete work history” resume, but that will come when you have settled into your desired role and are not looking to move up any further. 

Things to keep in mind:  Keeping your resume easily readable is better than cramming information on it to look impressive.  It is a natural tendency to put a lot of information on your resume to fill space, but please try and focus on what really matter-your experience in the industry.  If you are just starting out and working on landing your first job, focus on the skills you have that will translate rather than how many non-industry jobs you have had.  It may feel odd to not put an objective or your education status on your resume but very rarely will either of those assist you in getting a job.   

Tip 1:  State your name, contact information and position clearly on top.  The person looking to hire you needs to be able to find your resume in a sea of papers on their desk, with your name and position jumping out at them. 

Tip 2:  Keep your resume focused.  In the beginning of your career in film you may be landing jobs in other departments while you wait to get into the one you want.  Example:  You may be an office PA, locations PA, art department PA before you become an accounting clerk.  If that is the case, once you start getting accounting clerk jobs, state those on your resume.  When a Department head sees that you are jumping around departments it may come across as unfocused.  Having variety in your work history with different departments will aid you but you don’t want to be labeled a “Jack of all trades, master of none.”   

Tip 3:  Watch how much detail you put.  For the most part, positions have the same duties, so adding too much detail of your responsibilities is an unnecessary way of filling space.  However, if you were responsible for items that are above and beyond what is “the norm” for a position it is good to showcase that.

Adding whom you directly worked with can aid you as the industry is small and you do not know whom has worked with who in the past or who is friends with whom.

Below is an example of a person breaking into the industry, specifically the accounting department.

Purchase Order Log

Knowing the location at any point in time of all paperwork flowing in and out of the accounting office is essential to a successful office.  This can be tricky when there are a lot of documents being processed at the same time, and keeping a detailed log is key.  Below is a standard purchase order (PO) log used in the world of film production accounting.  Purchase Orders are a place holder for money and should be respected as if they were cash themselves.    

Column #1:  Number – When the department receives the purchase orders for the show they will be in numerical order and those numbers will need to be entered into the log.

Column #2: Out Date & Column #3:  In Date – A group of POs will be assigned to various departments that need them.  The amount distributed at one time will be decided upon by the key accountant but typically between fifteen and thirty at a time per department, depending on the size and needs of that department.  Because POs should be treated as cash, tracking when they are signed out is important, and the date when the PO is turned back into accounting for processing should be noted as well.  This way, at the end of the project you will be able to see what POs are accounted for and which ones are still out. 

Column #4:  Vendor & Column #5:  Amount – When the PO is turned in for processing, logging in the basic information is important so that, at a quick glance you can see where costs have been promised.   As with the vendor logging, the cost promised helps the key accountant know how much money will be spent in the future if they need a rough estimate before the actual POs are entered and reflected in the cost report. 

Column #6:  Issued To & Column #7 Department – Because POs are like cash, noting what department and what employee is responsible for the POs assigned to them is key for tracking down POs.

Column #8:  Entered – After the PO has “made the rounds” getting approvals from the production manager, line producer and key accountant, it will be entered into the accounting software system.  Noting this date is helpful to make sure every PO is entered properly and to know what period in the system they are in. 

   
  
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Purchase orders are a staple in production accounting, and the more projects you are on, the more you will see trends in what each department uses POs for.  For example, Production should be turning in POs for Grip and Camera equipment at the beginning of prep - if you notice that you have not received any alert the key so they can inquire about them.  This is important because they are “big ticket” items and those costs need to start being accounted for in the cost report. 

Keeping neat and tidy logs will help you and your department!

Petty Cash Log

Keeping organized in the fast paced world of Film is essential.  If you are not naturally an organized person…it’s time become one.  In Film Accounting there is a spreadsheet for many things and you will rely heavily on them. 

Read More

Being a Payroll Clerk

Working in Payroll has a lot of perks as well as being fun and having interaction with the crew.  If Payroll sparks your interest NAPA will be providing a Payroll Class where you can learn the ins and outs of how things are processed and in depth knowledge of Union rules!

Read More

How to Read a Budget

Understanding how to read a film budget will help any clerk stand out.  But unless someone shows you how to do it, it can be difficult to figure out on your own. 

A budget is broken down into three sections: Above The Line (ATL), Below The Line (BTL) and Post Production. Each section will have the following information given, but what does it mean? How does it apply to labor, equipment and items?

Acct#:  Each line item is assigned an account number that is used to track expenses.  There is a specific method to assigning the codes and they should be consistent on a specific project but can change from film to film.  It will depend on how the line producer lays out the budget. 

Example:  Everyone and all costs associated with the Production Staff will start with the code 113. Everyone and costs associated with the Camera Department will start with code 117. And so on…(these codes will change from project to project). 

Within each coding group there will be other consistencies with regards to kit rentals, purchases and fringe expenses. 

Example: 
Kit rentals for Production Staff are coded to 113-85.
Kit rentals for the Camera Department are coded to 117-85.
Fringes for Production Staff are coded to 113-99.
Fringes for the Camera Department are coded to 117-99.

Description:  
On labor- The description will include information on how many hours are budgeted for Prep, Shoot &Wrap. If they are budgeted for any 6th days or Holidays.
On purchases- It will give information on what type of purchases should be coded to that line.

Example:  Rentals, purchases or equipment.

Amount:  The amount of time being budgeted for.

Units:  The unit of time being budgeted.  This can be either weeks, days or hours.

X:  The number of crew or items budgeted for that line. 

Example:  There may be more than one person for each position.  Production Assistants, 3rd Electrics or 3rd Grips are common position where multiple persons are budgeted. 

Rate:  The rate that corresponds with the units budgeted.

Example:  Some positions are paid by the week, day or hour. 

Subtotal:  Subtotal for Amount x Units x X x Rate for each description line.

Example of Accounting Clerk’s line in Budget

 

Please note that budgets will differ from project to project based on how the line producer creates the budget.  If you are given access to the budget, go over it line by line so you understand what is budgeted. 

The budget is a highly confidential document and none of its contents should be shared with any crew members under any circumstances.  If a crew member asks about rates please direct them to the line producer.  

Petty Cash - How to Keep Track of the Production’s Cash

What is Petty Cash (also knows as PC)?  It is money given to an employee of a production to make purchases for the show.  One important aspect of dealing with PC is keeping track of it. It is imperative to understand this process and what to know what can be purchased using cash that belongs to the production.  A crucial part of the accountant’s job is keeping track of it all.  By keeping a PC log, you will be able to account for PC at all times.

PC (Petty Cash) Flow

Following the flow of PC is vital to ensure that you can account for PC moving in and out. Please follow this flow chart.

  1. Crew member signs out PC.
  2. Crew member spends PC on items for the production.
  3. Crew member tapes up receipts and fills out PC top sheet on PC envelope.
  4. Crew member turns in PC envelope to accounting.
  5. Accounting clerk logs PC envelope into PC Log and audits receipts.
  6. Auditor checks totals, flags any “funny” receipts, and passes them along to Line Producer (unless 1st assistant needs to review; this will be show specific).
  7. After LP approves he/she will give the PC envelope to the key accountant for approval.
  8. Once expenses are approved the accountant will reimburse PC to Crew Member.
  9. 1st assistant will enter PC envelope into the accounting software system and update the log.

*If you follow this flow, you won’t go wrong.*

What kinds of receipts are not allowed?

Not all receipts will be reimbursed and some will need to be flagged by the auditor if they are turned in.  The line producer and accountant will look into the situation and determine what to do but it is the auditor’s job to catch these before they are passed on.  The following receipts are typically not allowed and should be flagged.  Check with your key accountant if there are any variations.:

1.   Prepaid gas receipts
2.   Alcohol or tobacco products (unless they are being used onscreen and it is noted)
3.   Personal items for the crew member
4.   Personal craft service

PC requirements will differ from show to show.  You should ask your key accountant what he/she prefers.  If you need more information on receipt reimbursement/PC, ask someone in a higher position in accounting or refer to the accounting memo or PC advance form.

Good luck!  If you learn to love processing PC, your work life will be very enjoyable!

 

Filing...Don't Underestimate Its Importance.

How might the world end?  One theory is that the apocalypse will be brought about by incorrect filing.  Filing in the transient business of production accounting is critical when it becomes necessary to find backup for expenditures for a tax credit auditor a year or two down the road.

Filing seems like a basic skill since most everything is electronic these days and information automatically alphabetizes itself…except when physical files are still used.  If you are lucky, you may work on a production that is using digital document management, but for now most Film and Television Production Accounting offices are still using and filing paper.  When you are just starting out and trying to break into the accounting department you will most likely start as a clerk and one of your main responsibilities will be intake and filing of that paper- purchase orders, vendor files, petty cash, P cards, check requests, W9s and payroll.        

Intake is when the document first enters the accounting office and is placed either in an Inbox that catches everything or separate baskets for each type of document.   Check with your bosses on how they would like the office set up for Intake and then it is 100% your responsibility to review each item as it arrives and process it.  Each key accountant will want his/her office run a particular way and this may differ from show to show and accountant to accountant.   

  1. As soon as a crew member drops off anything to accounting make sure to date stamp it.  This will come in handy later if there is a discrepancy on turnaround time.  Normally the turn around time for an item is 24 hours. 
     
  2. Make sure all appropriate backup documentation is attached and if it is not, track it down (In future Blogs we will go over in depth what is needed for each document and the life cycle of each). 
     
  3. Finally, if a document that has a log associated with it, enter it into the log and pass it off to either the 2nd assistant or 1st assistant, depending on how your office is set up.  

After intake has occurred and documents have been processed and returned to you for filing, it is imperative that each document is filed correctly.  One way to keep files in order is to use 3-tab files that have a left side, center and right side tab.  Designating a colored tab for each type of document that is to be filed in a filing cabinet can also help. 

Also a review of alphabetization and commonly misspelled words will help you make a great impression in your early Accounting jobs.   Some good websites to help you with this are below. 

18 Filing Rules For Proper Alphabetizing                               

100 Most Often Misspelled Words in English

Good luck and remember that our industry relies heavily on word of mouth and a strong work ethic will help you stand out and keep people talking about you...in a good way!  

 

Industry Jargon

jar·gon
ˈjärɡən/
noun
noun: jargon; plural noun: jargons
special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand.”

In any career field, jargon is frequently used. Guess what, it is no different in the TV and Film industry. The jargon is not only different but the job titles are as well, which can be confusing to those who do not have experience in this field.  Good production accountants know the terminology in order to understand what is going on during production.

For example, when you are reading a budget, you will see terms such as “ATL” or “BTL”.  At this point you will be asking yourself, “What is ATL or BTL?” Well, once you familiarize yourself with our Film/TV glossary, you will know that “ATL” is Above-the Line Expenses and “BTL” is Below-the Line Expenses.

On set is where you will most likely hear a lot of Film/TV jargon being used.  From the director or 1st AD yelling “action”, to the “2nd AD” rushing to the “honey wagon”. Or, you will see “background actors” being escorted to the “back lot” for the next shot, all while the “AD” is giving instructions to everybody.  All of the terms, are words that you will hear in this industry and should be familiar with.

Click on the link below to access our in-depth glossary that will provide you with most if not all of the unique jargon you need to help you along your journey to fitting into the Film scene.

Who’s Who in the Film World?

“1st day on the job”

INT.  ACCOUNTING OFFICE/DAY

Key Accountant: to clerk  

“The Electric department needs cash, tell the Gaffer to have the Best Boy fill out a PC request.”

Clerk, staring blankly at the Accountant

Clerk:

What is a Gaffer?

                Film is its own world and if you did not grow up in it or work in it previously, you probably will not know who is who or who or the hierarchy.  That’s okay, you can learn now!

 

Each project will vary on who is employed and how many in each position but the above is a general guideline.  Stay tuned for a glossary of Film/TV terms and position descriptions in next month’s blog! 

BYOT (Bringing Your Own Tools): How to build your Kit Rental

BYOT (Bringing your own tools):  How to build your Kit Rental

Congratulations, you have landed your first Freelance job in the Film or TV Accounting department! What physical tools do you need to help you succeed in you new career?  If you have not heard people talk about their “Kit Rental” or “Box Rental”, you soon will. 

A Kit or Box Rental are personal supplies you bring with you from gig to gig that help you do your job.  On most projects, you can even negotiate a weekly rate for renting your kit to the production!  This helps save the Production money and helps you be efficient in your work.    

An example of a Kit for someone in the Production Accounting Office:

                              - Computer                                        - Printer

                              - Printing Calculator with paper         - Pens

                              - Scotch Tape                                    - Stapler

                              - Staples                                            - Stapler Remover

                              - Scissors                                           - Highlighters

                              - Post-it’s                                            - Stamps for intake of paperwork

                              - Label Maker                                     - Baskets for Paperwork

                              - Step Files                                         - Hanging Files

Stamp examples for intake of Paperwork:   

Building your kit does not happen overnight and there is no need to rush out and buy everything at once. Start with what you already have.  You will learn on each project what you use and do not use personally, you can acquire items as you need them.  Also, at the end of a project the Production Office sometimes sells office supplies they purchased at a fraction of the price and you can pick up items for your Kit along the way. 

Congratulations on your new career and have fun building your Kit! 

How to find Freelance Film/TV Accounting work in Atlanta

“The richest people in the world look for and build Networks, everyone else looks for work.” – Robert Kiyosaki

If you are already in Film/TV Production then you know that most of your jobs will come by word of mouth.  Reputation is everything in this industry and people talk.  Keeping up good relationships with previous employers and co workers will assist you more than anything else when you are trying to get your next gig.  But, what about when you are first getting started?  How will you get your good name out there?  Chances are you will need to start at the bottom like everyone else did and move up.  Interning is a great way to get your face, resume and great work ethic out there for people to see.  If interning is not an option for you then getting a paid job as a Clerk or Production Assistant is the next step.  These are great positions to learn on that are essential to any project in the industry.      

Where to find job listings and get your name out there:

You can advertise in the GA Sourcebook and if you are a Dues paying member of 161, make sure they know you are Atlanta local for their data base. 

Websites:

Georgia Film Commission – What better way to stay connected then to connect with our states Film Commission!  Their Help Wanted hotline lists upcoming projects in the area and provides contact information.

·         http://www.georgia.org/industries/entertainment/georgia-film-tv-production/help-wanted-hotline/

Emily Rice “The LIST” - The LIST is a compilation of job listings created by Emily Rice for production accounting professionals in the entertainment industry that is updated daily and distributed through a Google Group.  Types of Jobs posted:  Production Accountants, Production Controllers, Estimators, 1st & 2nd Assistant Accountants, Payroll Accountants, Payroll Assistants, Clerks, Staff Accountants, and Finance positions. Some ancillary positions like Auditing or department accounting (SpFx, etc) are also posted.

·         http://www.ricegortonpictures.com/list.html

Facebook Production Accounting groups – New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta have a Facebook page and post gigs and other issues important to those in Film/TV Production Accounting.  At times the NY and LA groups will have postings looking for local staff if they know they are coming to Atlanta. 

·         Atlanta:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/1462849103971567/

·         New York:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/143961440154/

·         Los Angeles: https://www.facebook.com/groups/263105437134632/

Networking: 

In Atlanta, there are many Film/TV Networking groups.   Visit them and see which is a good fit is for you, what you are trying to accomplish and what you can bring to the group.  Bring business cards and a friendly attitude! 

Georgia Production Partnership – The GPP is a great resource to network in the Atlanta area.  They have monthly meetings and mixers where you can meet others involved with Film/TV in the area. 

·         http://www.georgiaproduction.org/

NAPA Mixers – These are put on quarterly and is a good place to come and network specifically with other people already in Production Accounting or trying to break in. 

·         www.napaus.org

Meet-Up Groups – There are various meet up groups in the Atlanta area for Film & TV.  Take a look around and see if they are something you want to be a part of!

·         www.meetup.com

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freelance vs full-time production accounting for film/tv

So, you are a production accountant for film/tv thinking of making the switch from full-time to freelance work.  Welcome!  The decision is tough, but worth considering.  The great thing about film/tv freelance work is there is plenty of it!

Freelancer:  A term commonly used for a person who is self-employed and is not necessarily committed to a particular employer long-term. 

As you know, full-time production accounting entails working with one specific company in which you are assigned to a variety of shows or films.  In addition, you may be asked to take on other accounting tasks relevant to the company’s day to day expenditures along with maintaining day to day bank activity across many projects.  Regardless of your responsibilities, the company you work for, in the end is responsible for the work you perform. 

As a freelance accountant you are on your own.  You are hired by a production company for a particular film/tv project that has defined start and end dates.  Your job ends when the film/tv wraps- out production or post production.  Your responsibilities end when the job ends.  All production accountants provide a wrap memo, which clearly communicates the status of accounts, expenditures, budgets, etc before moving on to next project.  This insures that the production company can properly take over the responsibilities of the accounts and outstanding issues.  Top notch freelance production accountants are always available to answer accounting questions that may arise after the film/tv project has ended.

Going Freelance is a commitment and not to be taken lightly.  You work project to project which means you will experience unpaid down time between projects.  There will be times when a project lasts longer or ends quicker than what you planned.  Although this is rare, it does effect personal time and money management.  You are the responsible person.  There is no company to fall back on in case you are sick, or struggling with a variety of issues.

 

Pro/Con of Freelance

Pros:

  • Good pay.
  • Benefits available through your Union.
  • Time off when projects are finished.
  • If the project is hard/difficult people…good news is!  It will be over soon.
  • Potential to travel – if you like travel.
  • Meet new people all the time.
  • You become a more intimate member of the production team.
  • You can take ownership of the project.

Cons:

  • No time off while on a project. 
  • Having to look for a new job at the end of each film/tv show.
  • Potential to have to take jobs that are not exactly what you want.
  • Potential to have to travel – if you don’t like to travel.
  • Long work days.  No such thing as an 8-hour workday.
  • Temporary office-some are great some are not.

 

First things first

Freelance production accountants are in complete control of accounting from the start to the end of the project.  You work directly with the production company, UPM, line producer, heads of departments and various other employees to help facilitate the financial health of a film/tv production.    Each head accountant can set up systems that work for them and production accountant teams work together to tailor these systems to fit each production’s needs.

Preparing for freelance production accounting

There will be times when you do not have work.  If you choose to become a freelance production accountant, it is very important to have at least three months of your salary in savings.  Savings will help you enjoy your time off without worry and also give you the freedom to not feel pressure to take random jobs.  In snowy states production tends to slow during winter but luckily, in the warmer states it is open season all year long!

An important thing to consider is freelance accounting equates to long hours on the job.  In addition, you do not get paid for vacation and sick days.  While this sounds intimidating it is often worth having the freedom to fully see a production through from start to finish.  Good personal and family financial management skills can insure keeping up with the bills, having emergency funds and saving up for great vacations after production has ended.

Networking

Networking is a huge part of being a freelancer in any style of work.  Hate to say it, but the cliché “It’s who you know” rings true.  Word of mouth travels fast and reputation can have more weight than a perfect resume.  Working in the Film & TV industry is different than any other kind of work and both your personal and professional self are up for hire. 

A quick way to get a bad reputation is to lie about your accomplishments, be arrogant or insincere and difficult to work with. 

Ways to promote your reputation is having an exceptional work ethic, being good-natured and having common sense.   

EX:  One should never do just the minimal amount of work required.  People notice…and they will talk. 

In Atlanta, there are many Film/TV Networking groups.   Visit the groups and see which works for you. They can help find you jobs, network and provide support when you are out working on a production.  Bring business cards and a friendly attitude! 

Entering the film world: 101

Resumes:  film/tv resumes look very different from corporate resumes.  Please look at trusted resume websites for film/tv production resumes.  Your resume should have your contact information, the position you are seeking and your skills.  Once you start working independently, you will start listing the film/tv shows you worked on.  While you are still breaking into the industry, you will need to showcase your applicable skills for the entry-level position you’re applying for and keep resumes to 1 page.   Proficiency in filing, data entry and basic office skills are a good jumping off point.  If you have the opportunity to intern on a project or take a Workshop for Film Accounting, that experience will be valuable for interviews and landing your first job!  

Work hours & ethic:  Always give 110% in this industry.  If anyone slacks on their job it will affect the rest of the project.  That rings true from the Executive Producer down to the Intern, everyone has an important job on a Film or TV show and it needs to be taken seriously.  There is a lot of fun to be had but when it comes to work and performance there is little room for laziness.  Also, days are long, so be prepared for 10 – 12 hours days.  You work hard for a few months and then you play hard! 

Attire:  Vary rarely will you see a suit or business attire.  Dress for comfort as your days will be long and full.  Dress business casual for your interview but when it comes to actual workdays…jeans, shirt and sneakers are more than acceptable.    

Above are just some of the basics about switching lifestyles.  Only you can decide if it will work for you and your family.