Film Accounting 101 – Degrees Are Not A Factor

The profession of Film Accounting is arguably the last accounting profession on Earth, where you can earn over $100,000 a year, WITHOUT a degree of any kind – however an apprenticeship of 2 to 5 years is common. As an aside, last Friday I was talking to my current Unit Production Manager on a fairly big television series production who told me that she didn’t finish high school – furthermore she makes more than her two siblings who both have Masters Degrees. Just to give you the concept how little anyone cares about degrees in the film production world.
NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR EDUCATION

Sorry, I know them’s fightin’ words …. but beyond knowing that you can complete the things you start, no one cares where you went to school, what you took, or even if you didn’t. Yes, it’s a fun conversation breaker, but really … no one hires on that basis.

WHAT PATH CAN YOU TAKE TO GET INTO THE BUSINESS?

I get asked this question a lot. Again, there isn’t a straight forward path to take. There aren’t any head hunters or series of courses to take at specific colleges/universities. I think that there should be, with practical drills and applications – but there isn’t. Why? Hmmmm … excellent question. Film production people are a breed that believe in getting a valuable final product at any cost in a defined unit of time – and, they don’t see that kind of attitude coming out of colleges; at least, not in a large percentage of cases. Most film people truly believe that if you can’t walk into the job and DO it,(without too many mistakes), then you’re not going to make it and they’ll let you go and try someone else.

NOT FAIR YOU SAY?

Yup. I say that, too. That’s why I make a special effort to train people BEFORE they get hired. There isn’t any money set aside in the budget to train someone. Each crew member needs to stand on their own 2 feet as soon as they walk on board. The attitude is – if we didn’t badly need you we wouldn’t have hired you, so get the job done and if you’re slow then work harder-longer.

THE WINNERS REAP BIG

It’s a fact that if you get past the first few productions, and are still standing, that you’ll be in demand. It’s tough to find someone as tough as me and thee. If I find someone who can take the rapidity of workflow, deal with it, that person is placed on my speed dial for the next production I’m on. It’s a fact. I have a true story about a CPA in Detroit who did one of my courses, suffered through probably two of the worst low-budget messy productions ever in Michigan, came out the other side, then participated in a huge film production where everyone loved her. She ended up with a very good full-time job, in a jobless town (Detroit), working with the film board to keep the producer’s honest with their budgets and state tax credits. Like I said, the winners reap big.

CONCLUDE

Learn something about the business before you jump – especially if you’re looking at film accounting as the route into the ‘biz. Try to accept contracts that aren’t impossible productions run by rookie producers, or, if you DO end up with an impossible production, work your way through it with killer hours and take the abuse – because at the end of it you’ll be recognized as ‘da dude – people like me will look you up and bring you into the fold.

PRACTICAL TRAINING

I have knocked myself out coming up with a training agenda in film accounting, film budgeting, managing film production cost reports, etc. Have a look at my courses on http://www.talkfilm.biz

I’m not sure in what time period you’re looking at this blog – so check the link to see if I have something for you, near you, soon. (At the time of this writing the next two courses are Sept 22/12 “Film Accounting and Auditing”, then on Oct 20th and 21st “Film Accounting 101”.

Click here to see more.

Best/John

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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'.

2 Responses to Film Accounting 101 – Degrees Are Not A Factor

  1. TG says:

    Thanks for all the information. I’ve been doing some research and have found very little on this topic so I appreciate all the help.
    My brother has recently, in the last year, started a small production company where he has several reality show concepts he is working on. He has one that has recently been funded and he is in works with a media company to start shooting soon. I am a CPA and he has asked for my help with his books. I’ve been doing some research, but know very little about this industry. My questions are: What books would you recommend I read to learn the accounting for this type of industry? AND What budgeting software would you recommend, as well as general ledger/financial statement package?
    Thanks so much for your help.

    • Thx for your comments. I can’t believe that it’s taken me this long to catch up with my blog! To answer your question, there aren’t any books out there on Production Accounting. I have an on-line book called Walk The Talk which is designed for managing film budget and cost reports – it has insight into the forms and controls necessary. Right now I’m almost done an on-line CPE course which will be for CPA’s to get an overview of Film Accounting.
      The budgeting software used is primarily Movie Magic Budgeting. You can get a copy from the Showbiz Software stores (located in NYC or LA). My contact is Anthony Lopez at 646-829-0701. The general ledger software used in film accounting is usually a proprietary software supplied by one of the 4 entertainment payroll services – Entertainment Partners, ease Entertainment, Cast and Crew or media Services. My favorite is Ease Entertainment. You can give them a call at 310-469-7300.
      Check my web site at http://www.talkfilm.biz for more articles and info.

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