Online Film Production Payroll Courses

For several years now I have been teaching the functions of a Film Production Payroll Accountant. The job is in high demand, and is well paid; however, outside of my one or two workshops a year there is no avenue for someone to learn that role. So, drawing on my experience of fun and effective weekend workshops, I have developed a series of online film payroll courses. But, first let’s backup and look at the role of a Film production Accountant and what his/her skills must be.

 

SKILL OF THE FILM PRODUCTION PAYROLL ACCOUNTANT

So what does a Film Production Payroll Accountant do? The Payroll Accountant has nothing to do with the processing of government and union deductions and benefits. That’s almost always processed by one of a handful of Entertainment Payroll Services. The skill that the payroll accountant gets paid for is his/her smooth application of the various union and guild payroll rules.

AGREEMENTS WITH THE AMPTP

The unions and guilds commonly paid by a Film Production Payroll Accountant are SAG (cast), Director’s Guild (the Unit Production Manager and the various Assistant Directors), IATSE (Crew) and Teamsters (Drivers). (I am ignoring the Writer’s Guild only because there is usually one person to pay and that fee is usually arranged and known well before production starts). Each of these unions/guilds make agreements with the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers). Some of these agreements are monsters (the SAG Agreement is in the range of 700 pages); however, there are very specific rules within each of the Agreements related to payroll.

THE USUAL PAYROLL CATEGORIES THE FILM PAYROLL ACCOUNTANT MUST KNOW

The Film Production Payroll Accountant knows where to find those rules, and has become very familiar with the references. I always make a summary of the applicable rules, which I call my “Cheat Sheet”. That summary is usually no more than a page and half long, widely spaced.

I do “Cheat Sheets” for each Guild, each IATSE Agreement and each Teamster Agreement. The usual breakdown of guild/union Agreements is:

  • SAG Schedule A (Day Performers),
  • SAG Schedule B (Weekly Performers),
  • SAG Schedule C (Weekly Performers paid in a higher range) and Schedule F Performers (Deal Performers paid in even a higher range)
  • NOTE: There are more SAG Schedules; however, if you know the Schedule A and B rules you can then very easily pickup the payroll rules associated with the other Schedules, including the payment of Schedule C , F and Stunts)
  • DGA (UPM and all levels of Assistant Directors),
  • IATSE Low Budget Theatrical (for any feature film production across America and Canada less than $14.2 Million)
  • IATSE Area Standards (applies to all Television and Features greater than $14.2Million throughout middle America including Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, DC, Florida, etc but excluding the New York and surrounding area)
  • IATSE Basic Agreement (Crew on the West Coast 14 States) and
  • IATSE New York Area (generally known as east Coast rules).

This short video introducing the Area Standards  helps to differentiate the IATSE geographical breakdown of their various Agreements.

FOUR TYPES OF PAYROLL RULES TO HIGHLIGHT IN EACH AGREEMENT

The world of union and guild agreements can get overwhelming, so just remember that the payroll accountant just needs to concentrate on FOUR types pf payroll rules:

  • Overtime,
  • Violation of Rest Periods,
  • Violation of Meal Periods and,
  • finally, any Travel related rules and allowances.

All of the Agreements highlight those rules. It’s simply a matter of breaking that ground in an orderly manner, and getting familiar with the rules through practice.

USING AN LMS (Learning Management System) TO CREATE ONLINE COURSES

A couple of years ago I went out of my way to produce two really sparkling online courses from which I’ve received positive feedback. I used an LMS (Learning Management System) called Skyprep. It allows me to use clear mp4 videos, to link easily to downloadable material, and even offer tests and certificates.

Due to the success of those two courses, SAG Schedule A and SAG Schedule B, I decided to use Skyprep to update three more online payroll courses. The new courses are:

 

DGA (payroll for UPM’s, 1st AD’s, key 2nd AD’s, 2nd 2nd AD’s and additional AD’s):

DAG payroll is deceptively tricky. At first glance it would appear to be straightforward, and indeed it is; however, a lot is happening on that timesheet. This course takes you though their salaries, production fees, extended days, rest period violations, completion of assignment and their various “allowances”.

The course includes:

  • 7 instructional videos,
  • links to a bookmarked Article 13 of the DGA Basic Agreement (which covers all payroll factors),
  • a Power Point of the course,
  • a One-Page Cheat sheet describing each element of payroll as well as the reference to the Article 13 of the DGA BA,
  • and Excel time-card templates formulated for your ease of calculating DGA payroll in future.

Watch this short YouTube video to see how it works and what the course includes.

 

IATSE Area Standards Payroll:

The IATSE Area Standards crew payroll covers all television and features over $14.2 million throughout middle America (including Georgia, Louisiana, DC, Ohio, Mississippi, etc).

This course takes you though all payroll related rules pertaining to the payment of crew payroll, including overtime, rest period violations, meal penalty calculations and related travel rules including the payment of “idle time”.

The course includes:

  • 6 instructional videos,
  • Links to all materials required,
  • A bookmarked IATSE Area Standards Agreement for easy reference of each payroll element,
  • a One-Page Cheat sheet describing each element of payroll as well as the reference to the Agreement,
  • and Excel time-card templates formulated for each of Feature and Television rules, for your ease of calculating IATSE Area Standards payroll in future.

Have a look at this short video to see the map that Area Standards covers – it’s a big chunk of production in America – and how the course works.

 

IATSE Low Budget Theatrical is applicable to crew payroll for all feature film productions throughout America that has a budget less than $14.2 Million.

This course takes you though all payroll related rules pertaining to the payment of crew payroll, including overtime, rest period violations, meal penalty calculations and related travel rules including the payment of “idle time”.

The course includes:

  • 7 instructional videos,
  • Links to all materials required,
  • A bookmarked IATSE Low Budget Theatrical Agreement for easy reference of each payroll element,
  • A One-Page Cheat sheet describing each element of payroll as well as the reference to the Agreement,
  • A Power Point of the course
  • and Excel time-card templates formulated for the rules of the agreement, for your ease of calculating IATSE Low Budget Theatrical payroll in future.

Have a look at this short video to see how the course works and how thoroughly the materials are covered.

For more information see www.filmaccounting.com

Online Courses for the west Coast and the east Coast, as well as Teamsters, is in development. I have the Excel Templates made, as well as the one page cheat sheets and bookmarked Agreements, I just need to complete the teaching videos and assemble the elements into online courses.

Note: I continue to deliver weekend workshops when we have a group of 15-20 persons committed to attending.                                                                 For details please contact Helene at heleneworkshops@gmail.com

 

Cheers / John

 

 

Advertisements

Film Accounting – Understanding Union Payroll

For anyone who has ever tried to understand how to pay a SAG Performer, take heart. Know that when you look at the full 710 pages of the SAG “Codified Basic Agreement” you really only need to understand 15 to 20 pages of that tome. This is also true to a lesser extent for the Directors Guild of America (DGA), the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) and the Teamsters working in film.

FILM PAYROLL RULES ARE LOCATED WITHIN EVERY “AGREEMENT”

The film unions and guilds have made “Agreements” with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, generally known as the AMPTP. The “Agreements” state the rules of the contract between the Guild or Union and the Producer, including all payroll rules.

Each Guild/Union has broken down their rules into the following 4 categories:

  1. The “Basic Day” and Overtime Rules
  2. The penalties associated with “Rest Violations” (also called “Turnaround”).
  3. The penalties associated with violating Meal Periods (called “Meal Penalties”).
  4. The various circumstances associated with Travel – whether to a “Distant Location” (i.e. staying in a hotel), or traveling outside of a defined “Studio Zone” (also often referred to in each locale as “The Circle”).

Once you know where these points are in each of the agreements your task becomes one of familiarization and practice.

THE NECESSARY TRAINING AND PRACTICE

I’ve found that a full weekend practicing the feature film payroll rules, followed up by on-line links to all the materials, is plenty for your average person to learn how to calculate the union/guild payrolls to “gross” (i.e. to the gross amount of pay due before union and government benefits/deductions). I also supply timecard templates (yes, with the formulas) which are “helpers”

SCOPE OF THE US FILM PAYROLL WORKSHOPS:

The solution to understanding Film Guild/Union Payroll is to find a central source of contracts for SAG, DGA and IATSE then summarize the four categories of payroll rules mentioned above. Then have someone show you their version of Excel formulas which comply with these central rules. At the risk of shameless self-promotion, I have done that, one union at a time for each of:

  • SAG
  • DGA,
  • IATSE National Low Budget (any feature or TV production in North America less than $13Mil) and
  • IATSE Area Standards (any feature or TV production greater than $13Mil outside of the Los Angeles and New York zones).
  • I have a general Teamster contract for the non-LA/NY areas, but, honestly, it’s child’s play to understand after learning the above.

Actually, it is not a problem for me to say that if you understand SAG, DGA, IATSE Low Budget and IATSE Area Standards payroll rules, you can understand Film/TV payroll anywhere in America – it would only be necessary to get a copy of the local contracts in those higher production centers and you’d be ready in a day or so.

For more information see http://www.filmaccounting.com

Cheers / John

 

Film Payroll Workshops – Video Of How It Works

Here’s a quick video on how the Payroll Workshops are set-up and the general procedure. As you can see there’s lots of practice geared toward actual references to the relevant Agreement.

Film Production Payroll Workshops – Detroit and New Orleans

Hello, all. I have been working on a union payroll workshop for the film production business for a while now. After much time and effort I am now prepared to start delivering it. This workshop has been asked for many times, by assistant film accountants, by those wanting to get their foot in the door as a film payroll accountant and by aspiring Line Producers who need to know how to budget and control union labor costs.

After some time and effort I have now finished a comprehensive, well researched and referenced 2-Day Payroll Workshop for:

SAG Schedule A (Day Performers
SAG Schedule B (Weekly Performers)
DGA
IATSE (all union film productions less than $12Mil apply the rules as set out by the National IATSE Low Budget Agreement – this is our main concentration)
IATSE Area Standards is also referenced for productions over $12Mil – this is relatively easy after the foregoing.
Teamsters

Most of the workshop is practicing to make you fast and competent at working with the key facets of union payroll in film. We also cover the workflow of all payroll, right from the union contract through to the issue of the pay checks. Knowing the workflow is not only vital for aspiring Film Payroll Accountants, but also an excellent way for Line Producers and UPM’s to be able to budget and control union payroll.
The workshop is coming up in Detroit on March 5th and 6th, and the same workshop again in New Orleans in May.
Go to this link to learn more: http://www.talkfilm.biz/filmworkshops6.htm

I hope to see you all there.

Best to all,
John

%d bloggers like this: