How to Get Into Film Accounting

Over the past few years a common denominator of most emails sent to me is – How do I get into film accounting? It’s a tough question to answer. How do you get into film accounting? It’s an insular industry, but not impenetrable. I go over this in more detail in my workshops, but this blog gives you a good idea of what to do. Essentially, you need to discover what the film accountant believes she/he needs, then fill that need – remember they’re looking for someone who is a FILE CLERK, or an INPUT CLERK.

Here’s a long-ish email that I just sent to a young woman who moved from DC to LA with the express purpose of starting to work at the introductory level of film accounting:

Which are you the most interested in?

(polls)

_______________________________________

The only way to get work in film accounting is to convince someone that you can fill their needs. It would help if you had some of the terminology and had some knowledge of the working environment.

Word of mouth is the only reliable method of getting work – I always call the previous accountants because it’s more important to me that the person I’m looking at can take direction and is relatively friendly, and isn’t afraid of hard work, long hours, etc. If you’re not working you may consider volunteering for free – just start calling productions in LA and ask for the production accountant and let her/him know that you’re willing to work for free (for about 2 weeks) and in exchange they answer calls made to them from other accountants. That way you can get 2 or 3 accountants who would know you and, assuming they like you, will provide some good telephone references.

Another tip is to say that you’re willing to go on Distant Location. A lot of LA accountants don’t want to leave town, so it makes your chances higher.

The most important step in finding work is to send out notifications that you’re ‘available’. Put together an email list, and a snail-mail address list, that has at least 200 names and addresses of accountants, assistant accountants and production managers. Then send out emails and snail-mail in an organized way, cycling through the emails and mailings every 3 weeks. When I started out working in film I found that I got 3 inquiries for every 125 letters mailed out, and usually one of those inquiries turned into a firm offer. With emails now, it’s easier to communicate, but I still find that snail-mail has more impact (a lot of blind emails ends up in Junk Mail).

Regarding your resume throw out whatever you’ve learned before. Have a covering letter stating what clerical functions you’re good at – practical things like – type 80 words a minute, use an adding machine without looking at the keys, understand the networking of computers, counted lots of cash before, understand purchase orders/petty cash, etc. Remember you’re applying to be a clerk, so you want to play down any accounting degrees, certifications, MBA, etc. That’s not what the accountant needs – they need a good CLERK.

Then on the second page have a list of jobs you’ve held in the past with a short 2 line (max) description of what you did and a person’s name and telephone number who the accountant can contact. The accountant is only interested in whether or not you are a good worker or a wacko who argues easily, is perpetually late, gives excuses instead of results, etc.

Nobody’s interested in your long term goals, etc – those kinds resumes taught in schools everywhere sound like BS to people in the film business and result in them concluding that you really don’t know what you’re doing.

At any time that you’re promoting yourself keep your eye open for what that particular film accountant says they need – pay attention to the actual words they say. You’ll find a trend in there pretty quickly – it’ll go something like “someone who can start right away and who I don’t have to spend a lot of time training”. Or it may the negative side of the same concept, “I don’t want someone who takes a lot of my time learning – I might as well just do it myself.”

Then use those same words in your covering letter. That way you’re promoting yourself to fill what they feel they need.

Finally, understand that you’ll be lucky to find something right away. According to statistics, it normally takes 5 to 7 weeks for a big promotional campaign to bite. So, be persistent and know that what you’re doing will work (provided to know, and can fill, what the film accountant needs). Don’t be afraid to re-cycle your mailings and emails. I had one producer call me up and say that because I had written to her 6 times, that she was going to hire me out right without even interviewing anybody else. Generally, people in the film industry understand that promotion is part of the business, and they respect that you’re out there doing it.

Let me know how it goes.

Best regards,
John Gaskin

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About filmproduction
I have worked in the film production industry since 1985, working on over 50 different productions of every size in 6 different countries. My self-published book, "Walk The Talk" is written in an easy to read manner for film students and working professionals who haven't had the chance to learn how to 'Direct the Money'.

6 Responses to How to Get Into Film Accounting

  1. Ptah says:

    When would you have those training tape ready to sale…. i am a line producer in traininig

    thanks

    • I’m working on a feature film production right now (“Devil” developed by M.ight Shyamalan). We should be done filming by Christmas. Hopefully in the New Year I’ll be able to get into a studio and film it.

      Thx for inquiring and keep you eye on this blog for updates. You can also find me on Twitter where I try to keep the tweets down to a few meaningful blasts a month.

      Best regards,
      John

    • Hello. It’s John Gaskin writing. Last November you had sent me a blog asking about training tapes. I now have a series of 9 Live Webinars which will be reocrded during the webinar and made available for anyone who signed up. The people who register for the webinars will receive links and passwords so that they can watch the webinars again and again at their convenience. As a side benefit, if you can’t make the webinars you will always be able to watch them later. (By the way, if you have internet and speakers you can attend the webinars – you get to communicate back to me during the webinar through an on-line chat box).

      Check out: http://www.talkfilm.biz/filmworkshops5.htm

      Best regards,
      John

  2. rstewart says:

    John,
    I think you mentioned this in another article but I couldn’t find it-
    I’ve been in public accounting for over 4 years now, and have had a ton of clerical experience that I feel would separate me from others, like my 10-key touch, typing, organizing, filing on top of all my tax experience which wouldn’t be that useful here, but what further education or coursework (if any) would be required here? I am in my late 20’s, not married or kids and would love to travel so that would be a plus if I got paid to do so, and could go anywhere to start on this. However I would want (if possible) to get more educated on the business side of film that would assist me in moving up this chain. I plan on getting your book and attending the next work shop even though I live in Houston, TX.

    • Thx very much for reaching out. I’m just about to publish some tour dates – please keep in touch with this blog for details. In the meantime check out my recently updated YouTube videos – you can find them by searching for Film Accounting. The direct links are
      http://bit.ly/YouTubeFilmBdgtMMB – Film Budgeting Utilizing Movie Magic
      http://bit.ly/YouTubeFilmBdgtManage – Managing/Manipulating a Prepared Film Budget
      http://bit.ly/YouTubeFilmAccountg – A Full Rundown on Film Accounting and Auditing
      http://bit.ly/YouTubeFilmAcct101 – An Intensive Training Course To Enter the Field of production Accounting as an Assistant.

      Best
      John

    • Hi, there. Thanks for reaching out. I think I answered you briefly on my Blackberry last Decenber, but in case I han’t I decided to send this note to you as an acknowledgment.
      Yes, the film production business has been a great ride for me, and in spite of the randomness of the business, and the wild and crazy nature of most people in it (pr maybe because of that) I have really enjoyed my last 25 years. I just wrapped an M.Night Shyamalan feature film “Devil” – just finished yesterday – and I’m looking forward to a workshop tour. Over the past few weekends, and late nights, I’ve been brushing up my web site pages and arranging schedules. Have a look at http://www.talkfilm.biz The next weekend workshops, followed up by several evening webinars, should suit your training goals. Have a look at http://www.talkfilm.biz and get back to me to let me know if I’ll get to meet you there.

      Best regards,
      John

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