They’re NOT the Same
Many make the mistake of thinking these two positions are one in the same. They hire one thinking they can do the responsibilities of the other. This is wrong.
On larger productions, there are entire accounting departments that still do not include payroll. They hire a payroll company. But on smaller shows, producers think they can take on one or both of these hats.
This ends up being a major mistake. The production accountant is there to make sure producers don’t go over budget. Self-regulation isn’t something producers should rely on. Hire someone else to keep you in check.
Production Accountant Responsibilities
These are the responsibilities of the accountant:
- contributes to preparation of budget
- monitors all costs
- one of the signators on the bank account
- create cash flow charts, daily hot costs
- familiar with incentive programs
- opening vendor accounts
- processing check requests and purchase orders
- paying production bills
- dispersing petty cash
- making sure company accounting procedures are adhered to
- making sure all state, federal, union and contractual obligations are met
- play a role in preparing insurance claims
- processing payroll
- This is not the same as acting as payroll. This means they work with the payroll company.
“The payroll service depends on the Film Payroll Accountant to submit the timecards calculated to “Gross” per the various Union/Guild rules and regulations. THAT makes the Film Payroll Accountant the one who must be expert at applying the union and guild rules related to payroll.”
~ John Gaskin
These aren’t even all the responsibilities production accountants have to deal with. They are a major asset to the production and should be considered a key position on feature films.
Production Accountant Rates
Ok, so the majority if not everyone reading this is in the indie world and not the studio world. But to give some perspective, a union production accountant working on major studio productions demands about $2500 – $3500 / week. I know that seems like a pretty penny, especially for us indies. But I think it’s good to know how much a good production accountant is worth so you can make sure you are not insulting anyone by offering them $150 / day.
On a non-union low budget feature film, you’re not going to be hiring the heavily experienced union guys. However, you definitely want someone who has enough experience to not screw you and your film over. This position has a lot of power, so hire wisely. Offering anywhere from $200 – $300 / day depending on the size of your budget is reasonable.
Don’t Hand Off the Wheel
I know I mentioned earlier that you don’t want to be a producer who wears 50 hats. At the same time, you also don’t want to be an oblivious producer. It is imperative that a producer has a good understanding of EVERY JOB ON SET. You must know a little about accounting to be able to determine if your accountant is doing their job correctly or not. You also want to be involved in all email correspondence and sign off on everything. Remember, this person has a lot of control over the money. Without the money there is no shoot.