US Filmmakers: Entertainment Insurance 101 (for Budgets < $100K)
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So you wrote a killer script, put together a budget, found your talent, and you’re ready to shoot your first project. You set the dates, bright-eyed, excited, and you go to rent some production equipment, and maybe a couple of props or costumes.
You get the quote from the prop house, and it requires insurance. You call your personal auto insurance agent, and they don’t know how to help.
You scour blogs, resource pages, and ask your friends whom they talked to for their production insurance. Once you talk to a broker, it’s like they’re speaking a different language. You feel confused, frustrated – “I just want to rent some cameras and shoot!”
WHAT IS FILM PRODUCTION INSURANCE? | FILM PRODUCTION INSURANCE USA | US-BASED FILM PRODUCTION INSURANCE
At Front Row, we understand how confusing production insurance can be because many of us were filmmakers (in prior lives) and have been there ourselves!
Every film production insurance policy needs to be tailored to the company, or to the project if a short-term film policy. A film insurance policy is based on the best offerings from insurance companies that provide entertainment production coverage.
A SOLID FILM INSURANCE POLICY WILL PROTECT THE PRODUCER FROM:
- liability related to injuries on set
- accidents in working vehicles
- loss and damage of rented and owned equipment
- can also protect producers from libel or copyright infringement claims
Pro Tip: If you are a producer on a project, you carry the majority of the responsibility if something goes awry. This huge responsibility can have financial, legal, even criminal ramifications to you personally.
So, now we know what production insurance is, or at least get the general idea. But just because you purchased insurance, don’t think that everything you touch will necessarily be protected.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE FILM INSURANCE POLICIES OFFERED BY FRONT ROW FOR US FILMMAKERS:
PRODUCTION EQUIPMENT INSURANCE
Covers against risks of direct physical loss, damage or destruction to cameras, camera equipment, sound & lighting equipment, grip equipment, portable electrical equipment & generators, mechanical effects equipment and similar miscellaneous equipment.
This coverage also typically includes loss of use of property of others for which the renter or producer is legally liable. The limit of coverage for production equipment should be sufficient to cover the replacement cost of ALL equipment being used on the project. Most equipment rental houses will include in their contract a statement confirming the renter’s requirement to fully insure the equipment in their possession.
This coverage may also be known as Inland Marine, or Rented Equipment coverage. If there is a loss for an item you rented, the insurance company will pay the amount to replace it. When your broker asks you for a replacement value, they are not referring to how much you are paying to rent, but how much it would be to replace this item. If you ask most rental/prop houses, they will add it onto your invoice if it isn’t already noted. Note: When Rental Equipment Value is greater than $25K USD, General Liability is mandatory and cannot be removed.
If you own more than $5,000 USD in production equipment, it’s best to purchase a separate Annual Equipment Floater Policy that covers your Owned Equipment Worldwide. It’s much more cost effective than purchasing the coverage for one project.
SHORT-TERM PRODUCTION INSURANCE (SHORT SHOOT)
Short-Term Production Insurance is perfect for the new or indie filmmaker who may not have more than one project scheduled in the next six months. This coverage is ideal for singular projects and can satisfy insurance requirements from film schools, rental houses, permit offices, prop houses, and/or studio location rental space.
Pricing starts at around $500 USD for minimal coverages. The premium amount for 1-10 days of coverage is the same price and it will increase with the more days you add, but 60 days is the maximum coverage period for short-term policies.
DICE INSURANCE (ANNUAL)
Q. What's the difference between short-term production insurance versus annual?
A. Short-term production insurance covers your productions on a project-by-project scale. Purchased on this scale, short-term policies can cover as little as one day of production (although you should cover your prep days, too).
Planning to shoot multiple times throughout the year, and have an estimated budget over $15K USD? Then you’ll want an annual (DICE) policy. This coverage can be much more cost effective than Short-Term Production Insurance. Pricing starts around $2,500 USD for the year. Financing may be available.
Although DICE policies can be completely customized to fit your productions need, the following coverage options are available:
FILM PRODUCER’S E&O INSURANCE
If your project is being sold or distributed, Errors & Omissions (E&O) coverage may be for you; in fact, most distribution contracts will require this coverage. All television, streaming services, and feature films will require this coverage.
E&O coverage protects your production and covers any legal cost if another party accuses you of an unoriginal idea, e.g., title, characters, plots.
Pricing starting around $3,000 USD for three years of coverage.
OTHER FILM INSURANCE COVERAGES TO CONSIDER:
Although film policies vary widely, you’ll always need general liability. General liability covers bodily injury and property damage that occurs during the course of filming. Cast and crew are exempt from this and covered separately through a workers compensation policy. This coverage is required by most city/county permit offices.
The standard minimum policy is $1 million USD, and when the location is open to the public or sells tickets, it quickly jumps into a $5 million USD umbrella. The umbrella covers the possibility that more than one person gets injured in the facility during filming or live shows.
Example: you are filming on a sidewalk and a bystander walks by and trips on a cable; this would be a loss that would be covered by general liability. Now, if a cast or crew member trips, that would not be covered under general liability; that would be workers compensation (see below).
Workers compensation protects you should something happen to your employees on the job. It's important to go over how you are covering crew (employees) and independent contractors.
YOU NEED A WORKER COMPENSATION POLICY IF:
- You work as an independent contractor or freelancer
- You are paid full rate, no taxes withheld (from a provided invoice)
- You provide the production with a W-9 for labor or labor & gear
YOUR WORKERS COMPENSATION POLICY:
- Can cover your payrolled cast & crew, 1099 freelancers and volunteers
- Can cover your working crew in periods outside of general production
- Protects you from claims arising from injuries to your crew
- Provides for you in the case of injury on the job
- Covers medical costs, loss of work or death benefits if injuries occur on the job
Note: If there are Hazardous Activities/Scenes (e.g., animals, stunts, guns, fight scenes, car chases, water scenes, aerial shoots), then Workers Comp is excluded and cannot be added. You must obtain Workers Comp either through a payroll company or through your local State Fund (if in California, contact https://www.statefundca.com). This will take extra time, so if you have a shoot this weekend, you may want to reconsider how important that stunt is to the project.
THIRD PARTY PROPERTY DAMAGE
Legal liability for damage to or destruction of property belonging to others (including loss of use of the property) while the property is in the care, custody or control of the production company and is used or to be used in an insured production.
Physical damage to your location or other rented premises is not included unless Third Party Property Damage (TPPD) is purchased. If you are filming in a studio or using a platform like Peerspace for your project, this cover will most likely be required. Note: TPPD excludes the home/property of the producers, cast and crew of the project.
Hired/Non-Owned Auto Liability covers damages and injuries sustained by other motorists that your production rental vehicle accidentally hits when your production is considered “At Fault”.
Hired/Non-Owned Auto Physical Damage covers accidental damages of the rental vehicle itself. The personal vehicles of the named insured/company owner and its officers are excluded. Personal auto insurance of cast/crew is primary coverage and Hired/Non-Owned Auto Liability of the production policy is excess/secondary coverage.
This policy provides additional limits to the general liability, auto liability, employers’ liability (under workers’ compensation policy) and third party property damage coverages. Some locations will require higher limits than the standard general/auto liability policy of $1mil USD.
GUILD/UNION TRAVEL ACCIDENT
Provides travel accident coverages (accidental death and dismemberment) as required by the guild or union contracts to which the producer is signatory. Coverage is blanket and the limits of liability meet all signatory requirements. Coverage may be extended to non-union employees, usually with a benefit limit of $50K USD each person.
A production package is an accumulation of coverages to protect multiple or singular projects such as features, TV series, or documentaries. If you have an annual gross production cost over $100,000 USD and are looking for annual coverage, a production package will be necessary.
Note: Most carriers do not sell just the production package; you most likely will be required to purchase general liability as well. Minimum premiums start around $6,000 USD. Some coverages available in a production package are:
- Negative Film/Faulty Stock
- Miscellaneous Equipment
- Third Party Property Damage
- Extra Expense
- Office Contents
- Cast Coverage – Provides coverage for net loss sustained or extra expenses incurred due to death, injury or illness of an insured artist/director. This coverage can also be extended to include kidnap and family bereavement.
Cast Coverage Example: the lead actor of your feature is running three hours late and may not come in because they have food poisoning. Your cast, crew, makeup artists have all shown up and are waiting. Cast Coverage would cover any loss associated with the actor not being present; expenses for that shoot day would be covered.
Negative Film — direct physical loss, damage or destruction of raw film or tape stock, exposed film (developed or undeveloped), videotape, matrices, lavenders, positives, inter-positives, working prints, cutting copies, fine grain prints, color transparencies, cells artwork and drawings, hard drives, software and related materials used to generate computer images, and soundtracks and tapes, up to the amount of the insured production cost.
Negative Film Example: you just wrapped up all the post work on a TV series and are running late to go meet a potential investor for coffee. You ask the new PA to hand-deliver the hard drive to the network, which is a few blocks away. The PA receives a phone call, leaves the hard drive on the roof of the car, and drives away… Negative Film would cover up to the gross production cost in the case of a loss.
Faulty Stock — loss, damage, or destruction of “negative film” caused by or resulting from fogging or the use of faulty materials (including cameras), faulty sound equipment, or faulty developing. Faulty coverage does not include loss caused by errors of judgement in exposure, lighting or sound recording; from the use of incorrect type of raw stock; or faulty manipulation by the cameraman unless a separate extension is included in coverage.
Props, Sets, and Wardrobe — provides coverage on props, sets, scenery, costumes, wardrobe and similar property against risks of direct physical loss, damage or destruction during the specified production period, subject to certain policy exclusions. Coverage for jewelry/furs/fine art is included with sub-limits. Animals can also be added. Coverage may also include loss of use of property of others for which the production is legally liable.
Miscellaneous Equipment — covers against direct physical loss, damage or destruction of camera, sound and lighting equipment, portable electric equipment and generators, mechanical effects equipment, grip equipment, and similar equipment for which the production company is legally liable. Coverage may include loss of use of property of others for which the production is legally liable. This coverage generally extends to cover physical damage to rented vehicles also.
Extra Expense — indemnifies the insured for extra expense incurred as a result of interruption, postponement or cancellation of a declared production as a direct and sole result of loss of (including damage to) property or facilities contracted by the insured (props/sets/wardrobe, miscellaneous equipment, third party property) in connection with the production insured. Coverage extensions are available for civil authority, ingress/egress, imminent peril, power interruption and strikes.
Office Contents — provides coverage on office property and computers, including laptops and similar property against risks of direct physical loss, damage or destruction during the specified production period.
Money & Currency — provides coverage for actual physical loss of funds during production (i.e., petty cash) against robbery, theft, embezzlement, or forgery of checks.
Q: Still have questions about your project, or have a specialty risk? No problem. US-based filmmakers can contact the LA office:
14156 Magnolia Blvd., Suite 200
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
PH: 424 529 6701