Film Production Accounting

This post has been well received ever since I first posted it in 2009. I’m updating now to bring it up to 2014 standards.

There is a professional accounting niche that is little known – Film Production Accounting. I regularly receive queries to my web site, or my blog, about film production accounting and of how to enter this field. Most of the queries used to be from the Los Angeles area, but over the past 4 years there has been an equal number of queries from the Film Tax Incentive States.

FILM PRODUCTION ACCOUNTANT CATEGORIES AND EXPECTED PAY

Production accountants have traditionally fallen into the field without much of any kind of accounting background. I believe that film production is the last industry in the world to hire accountants who don’t have some kind of formal training in accounting. Currently, the field of film accounting is looking more appealing to a wide variety of CPA’s who are looking for something more markets to penetrate – or even to change careers. Most film accountants get into that position through a period of apprenticeship as assistant accountants. The levels usually go from File Clerk, 2nd Assistant Accountant, 1st Assistant Accountant to Key Production Accountant (sometimes referred to as the Production Auditor). Another position that is classified as an assistant accountant is the Payroll Accountant. The Payroll accountant is an expert in calculating complicated union payroll time sheets and is usually too busy to do much else than just that one function. A good payroll accountant can make in the area of $1800 to $2,000/week on the bigger Hollywood productions and are worth every cent.

The File Clerk would start in the range of $500-$900/Week, a 2nd Asst Accountant in the $900 – $1400/Week range, a 1st Assistant Accountant in the range of $1,500 to $2,300/Wk.  usually the accountants get a little more on a big Studio production, and less on a small independent production.

THE SKILLS OF A FILM PRODUCTION ACCOUNTANT

The Film Production Accountant needs to be conversant with every area of film production, if not downright expert when it comes to predicting cost overruns. The rapidity of spending during the production of the feature film, or TV show, is so high that it would be a nightmare for someone who hasn’t been exposed to the usual reporting system. That’s why an experienced Film Production Accountant doesn’t get out of bed for less than $2,500 a week (a 5 day week). Experienced production accountants demand and get at least $3,500/5 day week, and if they go on location ask for another $1,000 to cover off Saturdays worked (even though they don’t need to work many Saturdays).

The Film Production Accountant’s job falls into the same three categories as any other accounting function:

– Bookkeeping: the speed of bookkeeping has to be experienced to understand. Petty Cash is often in the $60,000 to $80,000 a week range.

-Reporting: there are very specific Budgeting and Weekly Cost Report formats which can be a bit of an IQ test until you get used to it. This type of report is used throughout the film production world from Australia to India to Europe to North America.

-Auditing: because the money appears to be spent so helter-skelter it can be abused, mostly by producers and department heads. It’s up to the production accountant to see the signals and prevent it before someone embarrasses themselves. There really are lists kept of those deemed to be A, B or C listed. Those that are B and C listed are almost always because of their inability to control their departmental budgets.

So, if you have an accounting background you can pick it up very quickly, but you really do need some experience first. The fact that you’re intimately dealing with so many facets of the actual film production it’s certainly a challenge and, I have to say after 30 years, tons more challenging and rewarding than working in manufacturing, banking, etc.

MY JOURNEY TO, AND IN, FILM PRODUCTION ACCOUNTING

My own background started out in Engineering in the 70’s. Then, when I graduated I saw that open pit mining wasn’t doing it for me, so I started working with an accounting firm to earn a designation. My original purpose was to become skilled enough to be able to use both Engineering and Accounting to help failing businesses turn around. However, after I got my accounting designation I discovered that I would be taking a steep cut in pay to go back to being a junior engineer so I took a job as a Chief Accountant/Controller at a place with about 15 branches. After 5 years I went out on my own, starting a small accounting practice with a couple of other people. After a couple of years of beating the bushes and working 7 days a week I saw that I could make more money as a Film Production Accountant than I could in my practice, so I dropped my office space, my 2 staff, and started working as an assistant accountant.

STEPPING STONE TO FILM PRODUCING AND PRODUCTION MANAGING

Like other industries, after spending many years accounting for and auditing the money, including advising producers and production managers, you start to get the idea that you can do as good as, or better job, at producing. There are many production accountants who have gone on to related film production careers – although, funnily enough, they often keep quiet about it. I presume because they want to distance themselves from the infamous “Blue Suit” – the much maligned Big Studio Exec. (Not a job for me – man, talk about pressure).

THE DOWNSIDE

A downside to Production Accounting is that you don’t ever have a JOB. You get CONTRACTS which last anywhere from 5 weeks to 9 months (pretty seldom longer than that). I’d say that my average contract on a film or TV production in the $20Mil to $40Mil range was about 6 or 7 months. Honestly, I really liked the fact of working with different people. I have often talked with other people in the biz, and we almost all agree that the independence that brings is worth the stress of looking for contracts. Once you’ve been in the business for 3 years, and if you haven’t messed up, you’ll be on call, especially if you’re willing to travel.

So, there’s the pros and cons to getting into the film production industry as an accountant.

HOW TO BUST IN

I spend some time talking about ways to bust in during the weekend workshop. With the advent of tighter and tighter money I see even more opportunities for film accountants as aides to producers, or even film accountants producing projects on their own. Subjects like Film Tax Incentives, verification of paperwork required during Crowdfunding of “Accredited Investors”, cash-flow schedules, familiarity with equity terms, etc can all be easily learned by film accountants, or by professional accountants and bookkeepers interested in penetrating this market. (If you are interested in how this all fits together see this short video).

Good luck in your career, whatever you choose.

For more about training as a film accountant see this link to film accounting workshops and training online.

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'.

117 Responses to Film Production Accounting

  1. Mike says:

    Just passing by.Btw, your website have great content!

    _________________________________
    Making Money $150 An Hour

  2. Eric S. Higgs, CPA says:

    John, this was very informational. Our CPA firm is located in Detroit, Michigan and we are looking to break into the industry. Please continue to advise and any other information you can provide would be greatly appreciated

  3. Hi, Eric. Thanks for your response on my blog.

    Yes, Michigan is a happening place right now. The tax credits (40% I think?) are the talk of the film community.

    If you want to continue as a CPA firm I would become an expert on providing audits for Michigan productions. I know of one or two in Toronto and another in Winnipeg who are the go to guys and have made a good living with doing just that in Canada – where tax credits earned it’s reputation.

    Also, each State is a little different and many producers and studios get overwhelmed trying to figure out what is, and isn’t, behind the hype. There’s always a certain amount of he-said she-saids when the producer is looking for money at the end of the day.

    I’ll try to find the time to put together a blog on it, but here’s a few tips on being the go-to audit firm for Michigan film/TV productions:

    – make friends with the completion guarantee companies (often called bond companies). Tell them your goals and ask them how you could fit in.
    – make friends with the Michigan film commission. Find out what they perceive they need.
    – work out some scenarios (what-if’s we used to call them) and check with the film commission and any tax authority bodies (they usually spring up as the money arrives – whatever policing authority) so that you’re familiar with estimating the tax credits a film production can justifiably expect – allow 5% contingency..
    – make friends with the entertainment payroll services. They are getting into the business of “administering” the tax credit for a fee, but they’ll need a local CPA firm to audit locally.
    – Google Dama Chasle and Jeff Begin. They are pushing their own tax credit administration business, and I believe Dama is from Illinois and likes working in Michigan. Pitch them as the go-to CPA firm. learn what you can from them.

    If all of the above is hooey because you really want to be a production accountant, let me know.

    All the best,
    John

    • Amanda says:

      I am a university grad from Asper School of Business in Winnipeg with a double major in accounting and supply chain. I want to get a start in the industry as a production accountant and eventually possibly move in to production management. You mentioned here a firm in Winnipeg that are the “go to guys” for the film industry. I was wondering if you could send me an email with their names? That would be so greatly appreciated.

      Also, this blog has been exactly what I have been looking for. Thank you for all the information you’ve provided here on the industry. It’s been quite valuable.

    • Nicole says:

      Hi there! I have a B. Comm from the Asper School of Business in Winnipeg with a major in accounting and have recently completed my CA designation. I was hoping you could provide more information on how you got your start as a production accountant. I noticed, like the prior post you mentioned here a firm in Winnipeg that are the “go to guys” for the film industry. I currently work as an auditor, but would like to consider a switch and seeing more about production accountants here in Canada, specifically Winnipeg.

      Thanks!

      • Thx for commenting Nicole. Winnipeg has always been boom or bust in the film production business; however, there are a couple of people that manage to stay there and produce their work. (Buffalo Gal is the main nstalwart). If you’d like to learn more about the film specific accounting practices and get your feet wet in a live workshop, check out my web site at http://www.talkfilm.biz . I have workshops in Los Angeles and in Toronto coming up – they’re followed by 6 live webinars which will be recorded for re-viewing by the attendees.

        Reagrdless – you have my wish to get in the ‘biz soonest!

  4. Vanessa says:

    Thanks for the blog John. Can’t wait for the blog on how to get started as an assistant accountant as that is exactly what I hope to do in the near future. I’m looking to move from Seattle to LA and from nonprofit bookkeeping to production accounting.

    Take care,
    Vanessa

    • You go girl! It will be a big leap from non-profit bookkeeping, but there’s something cool and fun about working hard as part of a team that produces film and tv. The biggest thing I tell new entries to film and TV production is to expect long hours, rapid movement in every department, very little social veneer and a payoff of being part of a team who earns higher than average wages – of course, some teams are better to work with than others, so you need to persevere even when you think it couldn’t get worse.

      As far as having a blog for film production assistant accountants goes, blogs can only provide so much. My book gives you more exposure to assistant accounting than many assistant accountants get on a big film production (they’re too busy doing one thing, like filing Background Extras Vouchers, etc). I know it may sound like I’m selling you something, but honestly, I wouldn’t cross the street for $22.50, see – I’m not doing this for the money. There are 10 or 12 true very short stories in my book which gives you the flavor of the biz, as well as exact examples of petty cash processing, deal memo’s, processing purchase orders, etc. These are all things the assistant accountant needs to know about and will really help you get a contract over someone else who’s totally green.

      Good luck in reaching your goals. Post another blog as you take steps toward working in LA – it’ll be cool to watch.

    • Hi, Vanessa. You had posted a question on my blog last March saying that you were hoping to move from Seattle to LA to pursue production accounting. Did you arrive in LA?

      I’m doing someworkshops again, in LA, Detroit, New York and Toronto – both in person (as a workshop) and also Live On-Line Training. Have a look at my website at http://www.talkfilm.biz

      Best
      John Gaskin

  5. Miss Jemeisha Johnson says:

    I was very excited to read your blog, I found it really interesting. I am a freshmen accounting major and I am really interested in production accounting and it was really hard to find information until I found this. So I just wanted to know if you had any advice for a young college student interested in this field. Would I need my CPA license to fulfill this position and should I consider minoring in theatre to learn more about production? If you just provide me with some advice it would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank You

    And good luck with your future endeavors.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jemeisha. Film Accounting is a strange duck. You definitely should have some accounting basics, but a full CPA certification is overkill unless you want to work (eventually) in a Major Studio (Disney, WB, Universal, etc) in their Finance Dept’s, then you definitely need a CPA degree, or equivalent.

      Getting a minor in Theater, or in Film Studies, probably won’t help to land a contract in Film Accounting, unless the program is unusually practical. If you like that area, take the courses for the fun of it, but they’re almost always (99.9% of the time) theoretical and slanted towards the non-business side of things.

      Remember, too, that you don’t get a “job” as a Film Accountant. You get a contract for the prep/shoot/wrap period of the film or TV production, then you’re out of work until you land the next contract. The rate of pay is much higher to recompense for that, and if you like to travel or take time off, it’s not so bad either. Everyone in the ‘biz is used to that and they usually set aside 20% of their earnings for a rainy day.

      Having said that, if you’re willing/able to work ‘on location’, that is, away from your home State, then once you have some experience you can stay busy show-to-show. After a couple of years you’ll be begging for some time off. (The production will pay your hotel and per diem when on location).

      The best advice I can give anyone looking for work as a Film Accountant is to stay alert, look at what is happening – listen to what another is saying but practice looking for yourself. Part of the bit about staying alert is – stay away from any kind of drugs, street/prescription/over-the-counter – any kind of drug by definition is a DRUG. I’ve seen too many careers blown to listen to someone tell me that week-end using is okay, or that ‘my doctor said to do it’. Unless it’s a penicillin type of thing, temporarily taken, drugs are ALWAYS (100% of the time) debilitating.

      Good luck in your career, and stay in touch.

      Best regards,
      John

  6. Irina Babushkina says:

    John, thank you for such an informative website. Your experience truly inspires me as I reconsider my career path. I want to get involved in production accounting with the ultimate goal of transitioning to production management in the executive role. I have a bachelor’s degree in Accounting, a CPA certification and 3 years of experience as an auditor in a large public accounting firm. I am also starting an MBA program at the University of Michigan this Fall. Having considered what you said about the background requirements for film accountants, I wonder now whether an MBA is the best choice for me if I want to get involved in film production. I am afraid that the MBA degree will put my career onto a more finance-oriented path. From your personal experience working in the field, do you have any suggestions as to what my best options could be?

    • Thx for posting a comment, Irina.
      An MBA would undoubtedly put you on the career path of working for a major studio only – most independents just can’t afford in-house MBA’s, unless you were also an experienced producer. An MBA would be real over-kill for a production accountant, or even as a producer.

      I have only met one other Production Accountant (besides myself) who is a certified accountant in some manner; and we both kept quiet about it in the earlier era of working on independent film productions. Amongst producers there is a certain amount of disbelief that a certified accountant will be able to, or even want to, stay the course.

      The old guard of production accountants, of which I include myself, started out with a manual set of books, did all payroll in-house, and we were treated like bookkeepers – shut up and pay, and never rise above the level of a Best Boy Grip (like the 1st assistant to the Key Grip). Over the last 20 years it has changed quite a lot where the Production Accountant’s worth has proven to be of much higher than it once was, especially to the studios, financiers and bonding companies. Having said that, there is still a ‘rumor’ that is hard to quell, that certified accountants won’t be able to put up with the travel, the fast paced set ups, the ‘usual’ rule bending (in many cases the only internal control is YOU), etc. I think the established crews and producers keep that rumor going, at least until the studio or the bonding company makes it clear to get out of the way. Occasionally, NBC or Disney will have a clash with their Internal Auditors who don’t understand the production side and who write long reports for the board of directors slamming the “Internal Controls” on film productions. That doesn’t help inspire the producers to hire more CPA’s, by any means, as they have to re-explain the industry specific practices once again to their Boards.

      In my opinion, certified accountants will create new blood in the film industry and actually go on to be producers and production managers in a faster laneway than previously attained by production accountants.

      I hope that helps. Check out my booster workshops at http://www.talkfilm.biz/MichiganWorkshops.htm If you can make it you will definitely get a booster in finding work in your home State. (Which part of the world are you located?)

      Good luck in your career.
      John

    • Hi, Irina. You had posted a question on my blog last May asking what your best options would be to get involved in the Film Industry. Have a look at the content of my workshops. I believe they will open the door to numerous opportunities.

      I’m doing someworkshops again, in LA, Detroit, New York and Toronto – both in person (as a workshop) and also Live On-Line Training. Have a look at my website at http://www.talkfilm.biz

      Best
      John Gaskin

  7. Lisa Logan says:

    Dear John,

    Your website has been very informative, thank you. I was wondering if you had any idea of what kind of salary an experienced film production accountant would earn working for a bonding company in LA?

    • Hi, Lisa. Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. I have been in Detroit the last three days delivering workshops.

      The wage rate for an experienced production accountant would go down from your usual rate, because it’s a full time gig, but how far down I can only guess.

      What I’ve seen in the past is that the bond companies have hired people from corporate at a low rate, then train them up on an apprenticeship basis. However, if they want an experienced person right off the bat, I’d guess that you could get about $125K a year.

      I hope that helps.

      Best regards,
      John gaskin

  8. eric says:

    Hi John,

    Great information! It sounds like the field has very specialized needs and I was wondering what software is typically used to manage production budgets/expenditures? Is there one package that everyone uses or does it vary? Who decides what is used?

    Thanks!

    • Hi, Eric. Sorry for not answering earlier. I have been working hard on a feature film and I’m just now coming up for air.

      There are 4 entertainment payroll services that offer their own proprietary general ledger software, free of charge on a lease basis just for that production, when you use their payroll service during production. The general ledger is different than other general ledger softwares in that there are specific functions for film production written into the software (things like petty cash module and a specific Weekly Cost Report interface).

      The 4 payroll services are:
      -Entertainment Partners (most well known amongst the Hollywood studios)
      -Cast & Crew (this is the payroll service that had all of the Pirates of the Caribbean productions)
      -Media Services (mostly for commercial productions, but also for lower budgets)
      -Ease Entertainment Payroll (Ease is composed of old-time pro’s in the film industry who have started their own payroll service in early 2009 and who have the best one-on-one service and excellent general ledger software. They have a film budgeting software in development.)

      The budgeting software most used was Movie Magic budgeting, made by Creative Planet. However, Entertainment Partners bought them out (letting Creative Planet’s version languish) and created their own budgeting software called EP Budgeting – effectively taking over as the go-to film budgeting software. Recently EP Budgeting is allowed to use the name Movie Magic Budgeting, although it isn’t the original. The guys from Creative Planet opened another company called Guerilla software – their software is very good, but still not as widely used as EP budgeting. Medi Services has their own budgeting software, which is very good for Documentaries or small independent style budgets.

      I hope that answers your questions.

      Best regards,
      John Gaskin

  9. Eric says:

    John:

    I graduated from UCSB with double majoring in Economics with Emphasis in Accounting & Film and Media Studies. While attending school I worked in television for three years doing production and IT work for a small educational access station.

    Coming out of school I went the safe route and did my time in Public Accounting so that I may sign attest engagements. I vowed to never sign an attest engagement. I really want into the industry and have enough in the bank to get by clerking. I am on a mailing list and apply for clerical positions whenever they present themselves.

    Thus far I have had one phone and one in person interview on the Sony lot. I showed up to the interview on the Sony lot and was told right off the bat that the position was filled. Apparently they were only considering letting a clerk go. I think I am well qualified but I am having difficulty breaking through what has to be rampant nepotism and people who know people. How can I be more aggressive in my pursuit? Any advice?

    Thanks,

    Eric, Almost CPA

    • Hi, Eric. Yours is a familiar lament. I just finished a long email to another person in LA asking the same question.

      Rather than answer you directly, check my blog again – I’m just about to post my email to her so others can see the same information.

      Keep at it.

      Best regards,
      John Gaskin

    • Hi, Eric. You had posted a question on my blog last September asking how you could be more aggressive in your pursuit to get into the film industry. A good way is to attend my workshops.

      I’m doing someworkshops again, in LA, Detroit, New York and Toronto – both in person (as a workshop) and also Live On-Line Training. Have a look at my website at http://www.talkfilm.biz

      Best
      John Gaskin

  10. Hey John,

    Your blog is very insightful, however I wonder if you could help me with a question that I am having trouble getting answers for.

    With the film my company is producing we ran out of funds to pay our staff and contractors. So we had everyone that wanted to continue to work sign deferred payment contracts that basically stipulated that if or when the film was sold everyone would get paid for the amount stated in the contract. No payout date was written into the contract. This was last year. We did not include the deferred payments on our books as a liability, was this right? Does the uncertainty of us selling the film play a role in whether or not we recognize this as a liability. Also, since the services were completed, would that not constitute earned income on the behalf of the staff and contractors? Meaning we’d have to send out 1099s with the earned payment amounts even thought no payment has actually been made yet.

    I keep hearing that deferred payments are handled differently when it comes to the film industry but no one can clarify this for me, nor can I find it in writing anywhere.

    Any insight into this matter would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Hi, Ronald. Thx for writing to me.

      Technically I believe that you should be sending everyone a 1099 then have them write off the income as a bad debt; however, I don’t know the exact IRS regulation. The way that I’ve seen this sort of thing handled to avoid the recording of income/bad debt is to declare that the non-earned crew salary is actually equity investment – that is they own points in the ownership of the final product.

      This would probably mean a re-send of a revised deal to everyone where you and each crew member signs. Conceptually you say that there are 1,000 points in ownership. You and your partners have 50% (hypothetically), then the other 500 points are divided up amongst the others on a pro-rated basis based on how much each person is owed.

      So, if you owe $10,000 in total to the crew, and $2,000 is owed to the DP, then the DP gets ($2,000/$10,000)*500 = 100points.

      I hope that helps.

      John

  11. Jeff Begun says:

    John,
    Thanks for the mention. I’m from Illinois, Dama was born in Virginia. We’ve been doing a lot lately in Michigan (“Stone,” “Red Dawn,”) ,Georgia (“The Conspirator”), Louisiana (“Dead of Night,”) etc. We kept our clients away from Iowa as it never seemed right.
    Hope all is well.
    Jeff

  12. john says:

    Finding relevant sites on this topic is sometimes hard to find. You did an excellent job covering the subject and I look forward to more posts from your site. Do you offer RSS Feeds or feedburner to get more content for our blogs?

  13. Andy says:

    Hi John,
    Suppose I’m a bit late on commenting, but I just came upon your blog. I was curious about something. I’m getting a B.S. in music business, and live outside the Philly area. Is there much work up this way. I’m only about two hours from NYC, so relocation or commuting isn’t a big deal (most people around here actually travel to NYC to work). Anyway, I dig the blog–very informative.
    Thanks from a newbie,

    Andy

    • M.Night Shyamalan is a prolific filmmaker and he loves to shoot in Pennsylvania. Last year when the tax credits ran out, he shot “Devil” in Ontario (I worked on it), but went back for his next production there. I know that they really want Pennsylvania State residents to work on the productions in order to maximize State tax credits.

      Check out Wikipedia for his company, Blinding Edge Pictures, Google the address and phone number, go to IMDb and find the names of the co-producers, and send snail mail to them at Blinding Edge. Also call Blinding Edge and ask to speak to their corporate accounting guys and have a chat – they’re all good people. See if the co-producers are on Facebook/Twitter and ask to become ‘friends’. I could give you the info, but because I worked on Devil it wouldn’t be cool.

      Best
      John

  14. Christie says:

    Hi John,

    I am a junior in college majoring in accounting. One of my dreams is to work in the entertainment business doing accounting work. I am currently trying to find internships that are relevent to that field, and I am finding that it is quite difficult. I want to gain experience in the film industry and am trying to find that first step. Do you have any recommendations or any information that could help further my search?

    Thank you so much!

  15. sapphire says:

    I am a recent accounting grad, sitting for CPA soon. I’m also in school working on my MBA in Finance.

    For the past 5 years I worked in accounting for Higher Education— Boring! How can I get a start in production accounting?

    • Production accounting is anything but boring. However, you should know that one doesn’t have a job as a production accountant – you get contracts. So, you’re busier than an angry bee for 2 to 6 months then you’re looking for another contract. That makes it at the opposite end of the scale from boredom. You do make more so you can afford to take some time off.

      Most States have tax credit programs where there is a cash credit if the producers hire locals. What State do you live in? (That makes a difference for your approach to finding work).

      Best
      John

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  17. sallie says:

    Hi John,

    I happened upon your website as I was looking for a new career path that would combine my accounting designation (Canadian CA) and my stage management background (I am also an Equity Stage Manager) and a lighting designer friend of mine suggested production accounting. I am currently working for a big 4 accounting firm as a senior manager in audit in Calgary and would love to know how I could possibly break into this industry in the city I currently live in. As I am currently on mat leave with a 4 month old so I thought I might research the path that might take me there and see what skills I would need to develop to do so. Any suggestions?

    Thanks!

    • Thanks for making an inquiry! You certainly have the skill level to work in the ‘biz. I have written a few blogs about the life of a film accountant. If you go to this link https://filmproduction.wordpress.com you’ll see a pretty good rundown.

      Some downside to your entry into film accounting – Most film accountants aren’t “accountants” – they have apprenticed in film production for a few years as clerks, etc until they have worked their way up the ladder to being a “key” film accountant and that’s what they would expect of you as well – to start at the bottom as a clerk. They might feel intimidated by your experience as an audit manager and not want to hire you for menial tasks – which is something you’ll have to deal with yourself as well. Furthermore, you need to understand that as crazy as it gets during tax season for your average accounting firm is about the norm for film production throughout. It makes it hard for a mother with a young baby at home to have to stay until 8 or 9 o’clock at night to get your work done, then to have to do it again every night until the production is over and you get into wrap.

      Some upsides – lots of mothers have done it, offsetting a tough 3 to 5 months of production with 3 to 5 months of time-off. Nobody cares in film if you say “I want to take some time off”; whereas in a CA firm, that’s pretty much a no-no. Also, ifilm production is a business that has very little social veneer – you work, you get paid – you don’t work, you don’t get paid – it’s a typically pioneer spirit that I really like all-in-all.

      I know a film accountant and a line producer in Calgary. Both of whom I consider friends, although we don’t get to talk that much, when we do it’s just like old-times. If you’re still interested I can introduce you through the email lines and if they’re available perhaps they can meet with you. One thing for sure, your getting hired would be a matter of how well you could sell them on the idea that you are willing to start at the bottom and work long hours.

      Best / John

  18. sallie says:

    John,

    Thanks for your prompt reply. I would love the opportunity to meet with the film accountant and line producer you know here if they had time and getting a feel for what to expect living here in Calgary and what the typical day starting out would entail. I was also considering taking one of your live online training courses (unless they are available on demand) to get better acquainted with the lingo, the required tasks and the industry and wondering which one you would recommend (film production accounting 101 vs film accounting/auditing for professional accountants)? I did actually read your entire blog and think the information was invaluable. Thanks for putting it out there!

  19. KL says:

    Hi. I am finishing up a CPA and wanted to get a degree (MFA) in documentaries. How does this combination work, if my documentary venture does not rocket and I decide to fall back on working as a production accountant? Basically, would I have some established credability as an accountant who “went through film school (.i tish, UCLS, USC, LA film school, etc). Thank you…Also, how is auditing in this business?

    • I think you’re on to something. The world of documentary makers is usually a world where finances and profit margins are only a vague concept that someone else should look after. I really think that there is a market to service these people. The difficulty is getting the documentary maker to know that it is worth it to invest some money in an accountant. If you can talk-the-talk with documentarians, assist them in other facets other than accounting (e.g. finding stock shots, promoting on the web, etc.) then you shoudl be in a position to make a living.

      Tip: live in an area where there are lots of documentary makers.

      Best / John

  20. andrelle says:

    Hello John, first off I would like to thank you for this informative site. Im looking for my niche in life and have always wanted to pursue accounting. I love the idea of Film Production Accounting but my only question is how exactly would I go about doing that. I’ll have my AA in Administration of Justice June 2011, and want to transfer to a university, and major in Accounting or should I major in film. Please help-

    • Hi, Andrelle. Are you in Los Angeles? There isn’t a college or school where you can go to do a curriculum. The simplest way is to just start as a file clerk with a filem or television production – it’s difficult to find that kinds of work. Remember there is no “job” in film, just term contracts. The best way is to start taking note of the productions that are in your city and make some calls, send some emails, etc to the production accountants. It really depends where you are and the amount of production happening in your area.

      Let me know how it goes.

      Best / John

      • andrelle says:

        I currently live in Lancaster, about a hour north of Los Angeles. I was recently looking at different Cal States that offer a program in Accounting. Now as a file clerk would I need any experience in film? Would I be able to go into Film Production Accounting without a degree?

      • Sure. It would be easier if you had some contacts in thbiz who could help get you placed, or if you had some practical experience as a bookkeeper. There’s nothing wrong with getting getting an education in accounting as well, it would be a good fallback if you can’t get a position on a production of some kind.

        -John

        Sent from my HTC

  21. Ahmad Yusri Aiman Mat Yusof says:

    Hi John.

    Thanks a lot. Your blog is so great. Its helps me a lot.
    I am a student in ACCA. Now, I am helping this one production house to prepare their account.
    FYI, they only have an audited account for year of 2008. As I have no working eperience coz I am still studying, I dont really know where to start. Really appreciate if you could give me some tips on the headstart. Thank you so much John.

    Sincerely,
    Yusri.

    • Hi, Yusri. The ACCA is growing rapidly. In which country are you located? Working in film and television production traditionally has an apprenticeship system. In film accounting you usually start as a file clerk and start work that way. So, it depends on your location and the amount of film production in your area. In any case, you should ask for interviews with those who produce film projects are see what turns up.

      Best / John

  22. ST says:

    John,

    Thanks so much for sharing the knowledge you’ve gained from your 25 years in the biz.. It says a lot about who you are and how much you care about the industry.
    I’m in the process of “re-invention” and was looking for a career that would combine my business knowledge/experience (BBA-Accounting, MBA-Supply Chain Management, 10+ years business/accounting experience) and my love for film/television. I stumbled upon the exciting career of film production accounting and was hooked!! I wish I had discovered it sooner because I live in Michigan and the industry has been booming here for the past 3 years. Unfortunately, as I’m sure you are aware, the fate of the industry is in question due to major revisions to the state tax incentive.

    Nonetheless, I am still optimistic about the industry in Michigan and I also have the flexibility to travel and/or relocate if need be. I am interested in attending your Film Accounting 101 and your Payroll Accounting workshops. Are there plans to schedule more workshops in the near future (wish I could make the New Orleans workshop). If so, I will work them both into my schedule regardless of what city they are in.
    Again, thanks for what you do and I look forward to hearing from you.

    • Wow. Thx for your well written comments. Yes, you sound like a natural for the film business – your business experience and willingness to travel are a big part of entering the field, as well as your up-beat approach.

      Unfortunately, I don’t have immediate plans to go back to Michigan. New Orleans is as far as I’ve planned as I’m working on a demanding feature myself right now. There have been several requests for workshops in the Los Angeles area, so I may try that next. However, I really try to accomodate a region’s requests, so if more in Michigan want film accounting and payroll workshops I’m very happy to arrange it for a weekend or two – it’s like a 2nd home to me now.

      I agree with you that the film industry in Michigan is not defeated entirely. In the past 3 years a lot of people have gained a lot of experience and that counts a lot when producers are looking for locations – the tax credits aren’t totally gone either. Also, the tax credits available in Ohio, right next door, may help provide work as productions are always looking for assistant accountants so any pool of production accountants in Michigan could get pulled into Ohio.

      After the last payroll workshop in Detroit a couple of the attendees landed contracts right after it, so that tells me that payroll is a good way to draw interest to you when trying to get contract work in the ‘biz. I have been working on a series on on-line payroll training courses. The SAG day performers and SAG weekly performers are completed, and the DGA and IATSE Union on-line courses are pretty close. If you can’t make it to New Orleans the payroll on-line courses may be helpful to you. I also have a series on recorded webinars which really give you the nuts and bolts of managing a film budget and the weekly reports, as well as an insight into union payroll. You can see what they’re about by visiting my web site at http://www.talkfilm.biz

      I’m sorry that you can’t make it to New Orleans, but very pleased that you took the time to write and to express your interest in another time/place.

      Best regards,
      John

      • ST says:

        John,
        Thanks so much for the encouraging words! It means a lot to me coming from you.  I’m not sure when or where, but I am confident that I will become a part of this very cool industry.  I think a major step in that direction is attending your workshops.  I joined your talkfilm.biz website late April and have viewed and learned much from your free podcasts.  I am holding out on signing up for your online training because I believe I would better benefit from the live workshops sessions.
        I will keep my eye on this blog and the talkfilm.biz site for upcoming workshops. A Detroit workshop would be convenient (I live in the historic Woodbridge area near Wayne State University); however, a Los Angeles workshop would be more fun and would give me an excuse for a much needed getaway.
        Thanks again for what you do, have fun in New Orleans, and I will be in touch.

      • ST says:

        Hi John,
        I couldn’t make the New Orleans’ workshop but, as promised, I will be at your Atlanta Payroll Accounting workshop! I am so looking forward to it and I will see you next Saturday.

        st
        detroit

  23. Stefan says:

    Hello John,

    I have been a film production accountant in South Africa for the last 7 years and worked on numerous US & UK features as well as TV series. I would like to take my career international in the sence of moving to the US or Canada, what would i need to do to achieve this?

    • There is a need for accountants in Louisiana, USA and in Ontario, Canada right now. I think the best way to get started is to contact the Louisiana State Film Commission, and the Ontario Media Development Corporation to see what they would need to provide a letter stating that there is a need for your skills in those areas. Then I’d look for a sponsor – for example E-1 in Canada, or Entertainment Partners in the USA. Once you have some support then see the US Counsel in SA. They’ll tell you the best visa to go for – I would think the O-1 Visa (person of extraordinary ability) would be the best. As you go along you’ll find barriers which you will have to surmount, but by taking it a small bite at a time you’ll at least be causative in attaining your goal.

  24. Carolina says:

    Hi John- I’m an accounting major passionate about film and the industry. Would love to land a gig in production accounting to see if this line of work would fit me. I actually like the contractor life style, you mentioned that each contract is like a tax season, then you have some time off after, all of which I am used to since I’ve worked my way up from a filing/clerck position in public accounting to staff accountant, currently at a small CPA firm – even though I don’t have a degree yet. I’m in the San Francisco Bay area, any ideas of where to go door-knocking in this area? Thanks much.

    • Thx for commenting, Carolina. Well, San Francisco isn’t a high film/tv production area, although some production happens there. The best way to get work is to get a bit of training then move to a high deman area – it was Michigan, now it’s Louisiana. There is a fair amount of production in other States as well. Another thing to do is to just turn up at the offices of any production in San Fran and ask the people working there – who knows, they may just need someone part-time right away. I know several cases of people whi got started in the film business that way.

  25. Zarrar says:

    How film production accounting is different from normal day to day accounting and reporting?

  26. Brian says:

    Hi John,

    Great blog and very informative on allot of levels. I have a question. What kind of Salary level do you think a Controller’s postion would range in for a two year old production company that is taking on a controller for the first time here in the Los Angeles area? i know it depends on certifications and market expectations, so a range would help.

    Thanks

    • Hi, Brian. Thx for commenting. Since the 2 year old production company never had a controller before they’re probably not willing to pay a great deal of money – I’d guess anywhere from $800/Wk to $1,500/Wk, regardless of certifications. However, if it is a profitable venture and they’re in it for the long haul, then it could be up to $2,000 per week for the right person.

  27. Adam says:

    Hello John,

    My name is Adam. I really like your blog and all the articles. I am currently a senior in college and about to graduate with an accounting degree. What I really want to do is get an accounting position for a major film studio or maybe just be start out as a clerk and work my way up from there. I live down in the Atlanta area and they are in the process of building movie studios in order to become the “Hollywood South”. I also have a friend who is looking to become a director/screenwriter. He’s already directed a couple music videos for a local artist and has even written a full screenplay for a movie. We are both trying to breaking into the film/media industry in some way. He’s more of the creative type, and I’m more of the financial type, so I think that being a production accountant would be a good fit for me.

    However, I am at a loss about what to do right now. I’ll graduate in five months, and I’m wondering if I should take the CPA. How important would you say taking the CPA exam is if I want to be a production accountant?

    I read what you said about starting out as a clerk, and it looks intriguing. If I started out as a clerk, what would the average pay be like? Do you think it would be a good bet to start searching for a clerk position down here in Atlanta?

    Lastly, I would love to eventually become a film producer. I know that film accountants work closely with the producer, so is it possible to work my up from an accountant to a producer?

    Any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated. I’m sorry if I’m giving you too much at once but you’re the first person I’ve come across who has all the knowledge.

    Thank you very much and I hope to hear from you soon.

    • Hi, Adam. Thx for commenting. Some thoughts:
      – a CPA is good to have if you want to work in a studio environment, especially one of the majors. Also its good to have a certification to fall back on. However production accountants sneer at most CPAs. I advise CPAs to drop the cpa status from their resumes if they’re sending them to production accountants.
      – It’s a really cool goal to want to produce. Honestly a producer who.doesn’t know the money side can never make it.
      – Some accountants have gone on to produce but they’ve had to drop the tag of ‘accountant’ simply because of the perception out there that an accountant is unable to understand the creative impulse – which is nonsensical … But nevertheless is still there and needs to be dealt with.
      – A clerk is the low man in the Accounting Dept but can rise quickly if brigjt and knows the terminology. By terminology I mean the accounting terms used in filmproduction. Also, if you can learn union payroll rules on the side I think you’ll make yourself invaluable in no time.
      – There isn’t any single thing you can do to work in filmproduction. It’s a matter of presenting yourself at the right time in the right placevand at the right.time. Go see some at Tyler Perry Studios. Anyone will do, and ask … And keep asking.

      Good luck. I gotta run.

  28. Tiffany Bussard says:

    Hi John,

    Thanks so much for your very articulate and informative blog on Film Accounting. I am one of those highly creative types who also has a very well-organized and business-oriented mind. My undergrad is a BFA in music and theatre and my masters is in accounting (with CPA certification and 3 years public accounting, including Big 4 experience). I definitely did not fit in in the “normal” corporate accounting environment. The idea of flexible project work, travel and working with creative types like myself seems like it could be a really good match for my personality and skill set. I have a lot of experience with all types of accounts, including payroll, a/p, etc. that are often advertised online as required skills for jobs in Film Accounting. But I lack the hands-on union/non-union experience and some of the other industry-specific experience; I do have experience with theaters and a symphony.

    Given my parameters, how do you suggest that one break-in to the business? How do you recommend getting your resume noticed? Is there a “temp” or other industry-specific company out there that helps place people with these jobs? You mention dropping the CPA designation from my resume so as not to seem overqualified. How do suggest showing advanced skills without seeming overqualified or, conversely, overstating your abilities? I’m especially curious about all this because I’m relocating to LA in three weeks (after spending six months there this year studying with a fantastic vocal coach – I’m also an opera singer) and think this kind of work would be a really great fit for me and mutually beneficial for the teams I would work with because of my balance of flexibility and creativity and focused business skills.

    Thanks,

    Tiffany

    • Hi, Tiffany. Somehow your nice comment slipped past me. Now that I’m up and running again, after a couple of grueling film projects, I’m trying to catch up with my unhandled communications. Helene will be sending you another email about workshop times and opportunities.

      Your commenst are filled with pertinent points – all of which are covered in a face to face workshop.

      Best / John

  29. lisa says:

    Hi John,
    This is a niche I am interested in pursuing. I appreciate how forthcoming you are about the opportunities as well as the responsibilities and expectations.
    Currently, I am a freelance, full-charge bookkeeper in Hollywood, California. I have a pretty solid finance background having been an analyst at a wholesale bank as well as an auditing/due diligence background. I do not have a CPA; however, i do have a decent grasp of GAAP.
    With some elbow grease, I think I could see myself thriving in the production environment. My first question is: what workshops would you recommend for me? And second, do you ever do live workshops in Los Angeles?
    Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer.
    Regards,
    lisa

    • Thx for the great comment Lisa. I’m getting back into the workshops after a grueling couple of projects. Helene will let you know when in Los Angeles. The best workshop for you is Film Accounting 101.

      Best / John

  30. Lori says:

    Hi John,

    Lori from Vancouver (I took your Film Accounting 101 workshop in November 2010). I’ve been working on a television series since September, and am LOVING it! I’m interested in taking the payroll workshop in 2012, and am wondering when you will post the dates/locations for the 2012 workshops. Looking forward to it!

    Merry Christmas!

    Lori

  31. Adam says:

    Dear John,

    Thank you so much for responding to my last comment. It was very helpful. I am currently doing my last semester of class and am already searching for junior accounting positions to gain some experience.

    I am commenting today because in the process of searching online, I happened to come across a website that detailed workshops that you yourself have given in 2010 and 2011. I wanted to ask if you are going to continue to do it this year, and if so, when and where, so that maybe I could attend.

    Once again thank you for your help and I hope to meet you in person some day.

    Adam Greene

  32. Eileen says:

    Hi John,

    Thank you for the post! I have been looking around online for more information about production accounting and stumbling on to your site. Similarly to Adam, I am a recent graduate with a degree in accounting interested in going into the entertainment business. I have had a bit of prior experience in the entertainment industry (was an accounting intern for an executive producer of a documentary film and interned on the corporate side of Warner Music.) I am based in NYC and actually just had an interview for a 6 week accounting clerk position for a pilot of a TV show for ABC. However, I currently have a part-time permanent accounting job in an unrelated industry (interior/architectural design) that I just started last December.

    I am interested in getting my foot in the door in this field but also don’t want to be unprofessional and leave a job that I like and just began. I am at a bit of a loss right now. If I worked in an unrelated industry in accounting for one or two years and then start applying to film positions, would I be at a disadvantage compared to people who have the film experience…or would it be wiser to take the leap right now and focus on applying for film positions?

    I would really appreciate any advise you can give. Thank you.

    -Eileen

    • Hi, Eileen. Thx for posting. Gosh, it sounds like you did the right thing by sticking it out with design work – that’s pretty cool work! Keep your contacts with whoever you had at the pilot – then next time it may be a more appropriate time to jump.

      Best / John

  33. Nick says:

    Hey John,

    I am a High School student applying to college and I am researching careers/majors etc. I found your blog and I am quite interested in this line of work. I was just wondering if you could let me know what courses I should take in college. I live in New York and by reading what you’ve wrote about traveling and not terrible pay, this sounds like an appealing career to me.I am only going into college and i know i have a long way to go but If you could help me out with this I would really appreciate it.

    Thanks, Nick

    • Hi, Nick. It’s always cool to get blogs from someone just starting out in college. Thx for sending me your query.

      I wish I had something profound to say; something that would give you a perfect stream of courses to take; however, the cool thing about the film business is that anyone with a sharp mind, some understanding of computers (nowadays everything is on-line with supporting schedules) and a generally enthusiastic approach to work can get, and hold, work in film accounting. My favorite story of how a person became a production accountant is from a woman I worked for who came from Brooklyn – her name is Dominique. She was unemployed, had been working as a sales clerk, and was standing at a hot dog stand on Broadway in the summer around 1984. A well known New York accountant, Kathy McGill (now Ron Howard’s regular Line Producer) walked out of an office building, saw her standing there, and said, “Do you want to work for couple of days helping me file and pack up boxes?” Dominic said yes, and in a few years she was one of the go-to film accountants in New York City (about 15 years ago she relocated to Paris, France where she became proficient in French and is working in the French film business)! So, do your thing, there’s nothing wrong with getting a college degree, but concentrate more on your ability to be insouciant (to borrow a French word) than being conservative.

      Best / John

  34. Gabriela says:

    Hello John,

    Thank you for creating this website and for providing a guiding light to those interesting in film accounting. I am from Miami, FL and I am currently pursuing a bachelors degree in accounting. Working as an accounting clerk in Miami Children’s Hospital has been a blessing since I am learning all I can about the professional accounting world including payroll, AP, Auditing, Bonds and other projects that have risen and I am only 19 years old (people tell me that I won’t have problems finding a job in the future because I already have experience working in a large corporation). However, I do not see myself working for the healthcare industry in the future since it becomes extremely repetitive. I recently found out about the film accounting career track through my accounting professor, and have taken a keen liking for it. Since I was a teen, I have been extremely fascinated with the making of movies and all the behind-the-scenes work in the production arena. I wanted to ask you if this experience would assist me in finding a job in this industry after I have completed my bachelors. I do like to travel, and I am very charismatic while always eager to learn new things. I know there will be some challenges along the way, but this seems like an adventure worth embarking on.

    Thanks for all your assistance!

    Hope to hear from you soon,

    Gabriela

    • Hi, Gabriella. Thx for the enthusiastic post! I’m so pleased that you have it as a goal to get into the film industry. You certainly have the right attitude. I suggest you check out any local film or television productions in Miami and offer to do some bits of work for them on your time off. They may go for it, then you’ll have someone who can recommend you when you’re ready to make the jump. It really helps to have someone who works in the biz to give you a reference.

      All the best in your career.

      Best / John

  35. Kelsey says:

    This post is great. Finding an “in” to the film industry seems nearly impossible. I graduated with a bachelor’s in accounting with a minor in film studies and am currently working in the internal audit division of a large financial services company in Washington, DC. After I complete my CPA, hopefully by the end of this year, I want to start looking for a position in the film industry. Do you happen to know what kind of companies I could look for with internal audit divisions? I feel like internal audit might be a good stepping stone for me since I am getting experience in it now. Also, what kind of opportunities should I look for in the DC metro area? I am not sure if film production accounting would be the right path for me because I would prefer the stability of a permanent job, so I would like to know if you have any ideas of other positions I could look for. Thanks!

    • The best places to look for work within the film industry as an internal auditor are the big studios in Los Angeles. I’d start by sending resumes to NBC Universal and Disney. Google the HR departments and send a resume, make a call, etc. DC has great locations and will often have location shoots there, but to my knowledge there aren’t any studios large enough to warrant an internal auditor.

  36. ZOEY says:

    Hi John,

    Thank you very much for dedicating your blog to the Film Accounting profession. I find it harder to search for information about this type of work.

    I recently graduated with a bachelor degree in Accountancy, and is now doing an internship at a local film production company in Montreal, Canada. As an intern, I pretty much do everything from updating our social network, to a Production’s Assistant on set, and have done bookkeeping tasks as well.

    I would love to continue in this field of work, as an accountant hopefully but I am having a hard time to find a job/contract. May I ask for your advice on what to look out for? Am I doing the right thing, starting as an intern? Should I stay in Montreal or go to the States? Pursue a CMA (certified management accountant) title perhaps? I am confused as to what to do next.

    Thank you in advance 🙂

    • Hi, Zoey. Thx for your comments. Montreal and Toronto are two active film productions in Canada. I have worked a lot in both cities and can tell you that there are opportunities in each city. I’m delivering a workshop in Los Angeles this weekend, but in a couple of weeks – June 2nd and 3rd – I’m delivering a Film Accounting 101 workshop in Toronto. I have the attendees practice the actions of an Assistant Film Accountant – lots of input utilizing a common general ledger software used in the business – we also clear all the industry specific terms and processes that surround the Film Accounting Dept (Call Sheets, Daily Production Reports, Shooting Schedules, etc). Towards the end of the workshop I go over the various opportunities and ways to connect with people to find work. It’s still difficult to get started but the workshop takes the sting out of it. As far as a CMA goes, you don’t need it as a Film Accountant; however, if you want to work as an in-house Controller it helps, but is still not a guarantee of work. The independent film business (that is all local film producers in Canada0 has a general disregard for accounting ddgrees, unless it’s backed up with actual work in the business.

  37. Courtneay says:

    Hi John,

    I have been working as a payroll administrator for 8 years now and I don’t have a degree in accounting. I went to school for broadcasting. I moved to LA from MI over 8 years ago to persue
    a career in graphics, editing and sound effects for film but the first job I landed being new to LA was an union accounting clerk for an International Heavy civil Construction Company. So the industry chose me.. from there I have worked at other Heavy Civil construction companies even
    been a contractor for Dreamworks Animation as a payroll specialist. I am currently at CBS as as a payroll clerk but very interested in steering my career in the direction of Production Accountant
    for film and televison. Do you have any suggestions on how I can drive myself in that direction?

    CN

    • Wow. You are a natural for Film Accounting. The best way to get into the business is to associate yourself with film accountants and those who work with film accountants. I go through several contacts inmy workshop. As it happens I have a workshop this weekend at 8383 Wilshire Blvd. Check out the agenda, etc at http://www.talfilm.biz (my web site). I won’t be back to Los Angeles for a while so if you really want to get into the biz I really advise you to join us. It’s a smallish class where we do the actions of an Assistant Film Accountant – utilizing the unique software used by film production and learning the terms of the business. I think that producing a film and constructing a large building are very similar and you’ll find that you fit right in.

      I hope to see you there.

      Best / John

  38. Courtneay says:

    found it http://www.talkfilm.biz/ thanks

  39. C. Lisa Feneis says:

    Hi John.
    I ‘accidentally’ came across your blog while doing some research in my accounting class. Currently at UCLA getting my graduate Certification in Accounting (already have my MBA) and beginning my CPA review at the end of this year. I am very interested in getting signed up for one of your workshops and was looking to see if you have a tentative schedule for anything happening after September 2012?

    I would be interested in any location as well. This would include the Audit portion you offer

    Thanks!
    Lisa

    • Hi, Lisa. Sorry for the late response. I have been overwhelmed with downsizing and an extremely busy Sci-Fi TV Series production. I’m now settling down and planning a series of workshops. Helene, or I, will be in touch with the fall schedule.

      Thx so much for for your great comments.

      Best / John

  40. L says:

    Darn, it looks like I just missed your workshop. I live in Burbank, CA and have been working as the bookkeeper/accountant for a casting company for several years and worked almost a year for a production company (non-union) back in 2005. I would love to make the leap into film/TVproduction accounting. I have voraciously read your blogs and have attended the free training at Cast and Crew and EP to get a feel for the software. What can do to make something happen? I have emailed my resume to several listings from Emily Rice’s list but as I do not have any “shows” to list, my resume is in the old school acccounting type format with objective, skills listed first. What else can I do? Frustrated that I missed your workshop. – L

    • Yes, it’s too bad that you missed the workshop in LA. Without seeming too cavalier, the only thing you can do is to keep trying …. try to have face-to-face meetings as much as possible. You should be a shoo-in with your exposure to the ‘biz. Also, trim down your resume. People working in film production have contracts, not jobs, so they have a tendency to shy away from old-school resumes with listed objectives, etc. It really comes down to – I need someone to show up clean and sober, who will work cheerfully for long hours, and not complain too much.

  41. oh this was a great read and really explains to the newbie as well what your very important role is about. A must read for any production office staff.

  42. Adam says:

    Hello John,

    This is Adam again. I just graduated from college with a BBA in Accounting. I am thinking about going back to school for my Master’s Degree and taking the CPA exam. In the meantime, however I’m thinking about maybe getting a job as a production assistant here in Georgia. Do you think being a PA would help in the long run for my goal to be a production accountant?

    • Hi, Adam. Good to hear from you again. Yes, by all means – working as a PA will give you an excellent look at the workflows and industry standards in film production. Also, you’ll be able to meet the accountants and talk to them about future work. Actually, I just hired our last office PA as one of my assistants – it happens a lot.

      Go for it!

      Best / John

  43. Hi John!

    Thank you for sharing your film experience with us. We are truly grateful for your transparency!
    My name is Kimberly Josey. I have an accounting firm in the the Metro- Detroit area. Have been in business now for 14 years, providing bookkeeping, accounting, payroll and tax preparation services. I am now looking to move into movie production accounting. Any additional advice that you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

    Have an awesome day!
    Kimberly Josey

  44. Hi John!

    Do you have a video or on-line training course for those that are interested in entering the film industry as a production or assistant accountant? That would be very adventagious for those that can not make the workshops. If so, can you tell us where to locate it and how much does the course cost?

    Thank you!
    Kimberly

    • Hi, Kimberly. Thx for your comments. I have found that training on-line is possible on an overview basis, or even learning how to manage film budgets and costs; however, training as an assistant film production accountant is difficult on-line. Check out my web site for some free videos, articles, etc which will give you the flavor of film accounting. See http://www.talkfilm.biz

  45. Christina says:

    Hello John,

    This is a great blog and very informative.
    I’m an in-house accountant for a production company located on NYC. I have been thinking to jump into production accountant role. The company that I work for does advertising, music video, short films and documentaries. I’ve been with them for 5 years. During those years I have been exposed into different accountant roles. From accounts payable, accounts receivable, and currently as an in-house production accountant.
    As an in house production accountant my responsibility is to reconcile budgets against producers actuals, actualized PT/P&W, reconcile petty cash, file imsurance claims and file tax rebate jobs when applicable.

    My question is how do I get myself out there?. And do I need to start as a PA first?

    I feel that I have the proper tools to be a production accountant on location. But just don’t know where to start.

    • Hi, Christina. Thx for commenting. Wow, your background is really good. You could very quickly get into film production accounting. You could get started on a very small independent production as a production accountant; however, I recommend that you work as an assistant accountant on any kind of union film or television production as a first step. It will give you the feel for tempo of production, the general ledger software nuances and payroll service procedures. The general ledgers used by film production are licensed to the production by the payroll service used (EP, cast & Crew, Ease or Media Services). Each of these companies have their own proprietary software – they resemble each other in many respects. The way to get yourself out there is to promote yourself to production accountants, UPM’s, major studios and independent production companies.

  46. Kimmy says:

    Hello John!!! HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Your blog is very helpful to those of us wanting to start in the film industry! Thanks for dedicating your time to help us! 🙂

    I will be attending your workshop in Detroit next month. I have 15 years experience in accounting, payroll, audit, general ledger, A/R, reconciling,regulations, procedures, A/P, Financial Statements, and etc. I do have a degree in accounting and masters in finance. My goal is to start in the film industry this year but just need guidance on how to get there as far as the accounting side. I’ve worked in private sector and currently work for the government as a civilian. I’m sure your workshop will give me the tools needed to start! It’s time for a career change for me and to just step out on faith! Look forward to meeting you!

    Kimmy

  47. Kimmy says:

    Hello John and Helene!! I wanted to thank you so much for taking the time out to teach the Film Accounting 101 class in Detroit a couple of weeks ago! The class was very informative and the beauty of it you get hands on experience as if you are actually working as a film accountant! You learn all about the full cycle of film accounting such as purchase orders, cost reports, A/P, J/E,and etc. Also, your able to add on to what you have learned viewing the webinars. John prepares and walks you through the various stages of the entire process and helps you along the way!!! You receive additional material that John provides that enhances your skills and knowledge! I will be attending the payroll course in New Orleans in June and I highly recommend these classes to newcomers as well as those that needs a refresher. I have 15 years accounting experience in the private and government sector so this is a career change for me but I wanted to let you know that John and Helene have truly inspired me and Im very confident after taking the course and all the materials and webinars I have on hand in becoming a film accountant. I have recently updated my résumé and will be moving forward on this journey!! 🙂 I will keep you updated on my progress!!

    Thanks again and will see you in New Orleans!
    Kim

  48. Emily Kennon says:

    Hello John,

    How do I register for the Film Accounting 101 in Orlando?

  49. Thanks. I currently have a bachelor’s in accounting and run my own business. I have over 18 years experience in accounting and taxes. My children are now old enough where I have the time to start expanding. I live in New Mexico and there are lots of opportunities available. I just have to be able to break in. I look forward to your mentorship and any advice, (such as average charge) that you can offer.

  50. Vee from NYC says:

    John,

    I am so glad that I found my way to this website. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for!!!I have a masters in accounting and I have been working for a top CPA firm for about 3 years. I love the film industry and have always wondered about what goes on behind the scenes. I have been wanting to break out of the 9-5 40 hr weeks (60+ during busy season) routine. So you can imagine my delight when I found out about the little known field of film production accounting through your blog! I live in NYC and I want to know if and when you will have seminars in the tri-state area. I want to know the steps I need to take in order to fulfill my new found goal of being a film production accountant and even maybe a producer some day!

    Any advice will be much appreciated!
    Thanks,

    • Hi, Vee. I’m sure that I replied to this privately, but id not please let me know and we’ll start a dialogue.

    • I have 2 live weekend workshops coming up one in Tampa FL on May 31, June 1st 2014 and one in Los Angeles on May 17, 18, 2014.
      See the details and agenda on my training website. You have a great background in accounting now you just need to learn the
      studio standards of film accounting procedures. According to rave testimonials the Film 101 is the best option to change careers.

      Best,
      John

  51. Melissa Fox says:

    My husband is currently an insurance auditor and is looking for a change. I have been researching related fields for him and came across your site. We are located in North Carolina. The Wilmington/Charlotte area is beginning to see quite an increase in production with Wilmington being named “Hollywood East”. My question for you would be where should he start looking for a job in the film industry here related to auditing/payroll/finance? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • I will be doing the Film Accounting 101 weekend workshop in Tampa on May 31, June 1st, 2014. See my training website for full details.
      Although your husband has a good accounting background he needs to learn the industry specific film production accounting procedures.
      Film accounting has it’s studio basics which can be learned over a weekend which includes the Snr level live online webinars that follow.
      The Film 101 has helped others get into film accounting with success. See the testimonials and agenda on my website http://www.talkfilm.biz

      Best,
      John

    • Hi Melissa,

      Normally a person would have to get some training and experience to work in film production accounting.
      I have some self study courses about the industry on my training website it might be enough to help him decide if he
      even wants to get into that field.

      Best,
      John

  52. Julie M. says:

    John Gaskin! As I read this, I had a strong feeling it was written by you, prior to seeking and finding your signature at the end…. After 20+ years, I knew that you might be the only John in the field with such expertise. I keyed the LA and Mexico portions of ‘Confessions’ for you and GC. Your blog is extremely accurate and informative. How nice of you to advise those with hopes of working in production accounting. Please stay in touch and let me know how you are doing (preferably via email). I wish you the best!

    *For those seeking a career in production accounting, I highly recommend following John’s advice, as he is a well-respected, knowledgeable professional in the field!

  53. Letisha says:

    I was turned on to film production accounting by a talent agent. I am an accountant, working on my CPA, have a day job and a business of my own. My business has made some money, but the clients are a nightmare. Its not what I thought.

    Do you have to be in the union as well to apply? Im in the Atlanta area. Thank you!

  54. Howdy! Thiss is my first isit to your blog! We are
    a team of volunteers and starting a nnew project in a
    community in thee same niche. Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on.
    You have done a wonderful job!

  55. tysil814 says:

    Hey John what a super informative blog you have here I am glad that I came across it.
    I got an A.A. Degree in Math and Science (3.8gpa) and transferred it to Brooklyn College where I am finishing up my B.A. Film Production with a Marketing Minor (3.8gpa) (almost 22yrs old).
    I was passionate about working on sets at the time when I started, but after seeing the “worlds” of production I am much more hesitant than when I started. Now my time is up and I need to start paying back my loans. I was always really good at math but never really sought to have a career in it (finance/accounting) as I was into the arts.
    Anyways, I’m debating about going back to school for accounting, even though it will be a huge investment (I already have loans to pay) and I will have to go for 3 years part time while I work. I came across this blog and the site I listed below (I’m from NY) and was wondering what you thought about it and my situation. Maybe I could head towards Film Accounting? I mean I have already done 4 internships in the field and have been on feature sets, but, I don’t think any of that matters unless you have the proper connections to a film accountant?

    Let me know your thoughts!

    http://indiepayroll.com/the-people/

    • I understand what your saying.
      You’d need to learn the film accounting procedures then start as a trainee.
      Perhaps with your contacts you could go introduce yourself to production accountants and propose you’d begin with
      anything they needed help with?

      Best,
      John

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