You are on a roll in pre-production. You’ve had a table read, casting is going swimmingly, crew are starting to fall into place and it seems like everything is about to go off without a hitch. The time has now come to hunt for the perfect location for one of the most critical scenes in your project. You tell the location you want to book and the contact says:
“And we’ll just need a copy of your insurance policy and you’re good to go!”
I’m sorry. INSURANCE POLICY?! What kind of insurance policy?! I have to BUY an insurance policy to film my show?!
That’s right, you do! Whether it is to cover your dream location rental or to work with union talent on camera and behind the scenes, production insurance is a requirement, and it’s a cost that should be worked into your budget from the beginning to avoid a stomach drop to the floor moment.
Our first taste of navigating production insurance directly as a company came while working on “Brewtown”. “Brewtown” was our first show produced exclusively by VCS. When the time came to clear the production as a signatory for SAG-AFTRA’s New Media Agreement, the union asked us to confirm if we had purchased a production insurance policy to cover our actor working on the series that included a workers’ compensation package.
Excuse me?! A PACKAGE?!
After three days of frantic emails, dissecting insurance language jargon and many tears (from Emm, full panic, no shame) we secured a policy quickly that covered our production perfectly and were able to proceed with filming as planned. But we certainly don’t want anyone to feel this blindside like we did, (on the corner of Greenwich and 7th ave no less) which is why we crafted this little PSA blog to encourage you to look into this NOW and not a week before hitting the road to film. :)
Keep in mind while it is a cost, it’s also something that brings ease and peace of mind to you and your team. These policies cover a wide range of things including damages to property, injuries, rental equipment etc. Having a policy in place demonstrates that you are working to create a safe work environment which any cast and crew member will certainly appreciate and will serve as a safety net in the event something doesn’t go according to plan. Additionally, if you are filming during this pandemic, it is even more crucial that you have a policy and detailed health & safety measures in place to keep everyone safe.
Now we know this is a lot to follow. Believe me when I say, navigating this the first time was stress inducing and confusing (as indicated in the little story above) However, we also know how important it is to understand this and encourage all filmmakers to read up and get the insurance information from the beginning. Some production companies qualify for a policy that covers the entire year, others buy it per project. To buy a policy, most insurance companies want to sell to a company that is operating with a business license, so in most cases the company you hire to produce your work will purchase the policy or have an existing polcy and add that into the budget.
When working with a production company, have that discussion from the beginning about what policy they have or which company they typically work with. And if a production company doesn’t typically carry insurance or tells you “you don’t need it”, we recommend thinking twice before putting your work in their hands. The last thing you want to be worrying about while on set is whether or not you, your crew, your equipment and your location are covered in the event of an accident.
You and your team should walk through the policy together and ensure you are getting the exact coverage you need given the nature of your program. The insurance company will ask you a long list of questions that include the project genre, overall budget, cast & crew size, union affiliations, whether the project will incorporate stunts, travel, pyrotechnics, heavy machinery etc. You answer these questions honestly for the company to assess any inherent risks and they build a policy based on your answers that will cover your project appropriately.
When it comes to choosing an insurance provider, we turn to Wrapbook for all of our insurance needs. They are incredibly helpful and are very transparent when it comes to our coverage. We know we are getting the best price and the best plan for our clients. Wrapbook worked with us from day one and helped us understand our policy in full. Additionally they provide resources for production companies beyond insurance that we have taken advantage of including real time production updates throughout the pandemic, tools for securing permits, webinars and more. They got us the coverage we needed for all of our shoots thus far, and we look forward to continuing our working relationship with them in the future!
As always, we are more than happy to answer any of your burning questions about this and other production topics we cover on our blog! Visit our homepage and fill out our “Contact Us” form, and we will get back to you as soon as possible! Happy Filming!