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Production insurance: the basics

Film rolls - movie insuranceSo many things can go wrong during film and TV production that getting the right insurance is essential. A number of firms offer packages that cover all eventualities. But below we provide a summary of the main things that should be covered and provide a few hints and tips to make the process run smoothly. So all you have to do is remember to be careful out there.

People-Related Insurance

Employer’s Liability:  This covers cast and crew for bodily injury and harm in the event of an accident on production. Producers need employer’s liability to cover all individuals working directly for the production company, whether paid or unpaid.

Public Liability: As its name implies, public liability insurance provides cover against claims made by members of the public who have suffered injury or damage to property as a result of your production. This insurance covers loss of earnings, future loss of earnings, damages and legal costs so the sums involved can get very high. The cover is recommended to be in the region of £5m.

Producer’s Indemnity: This tends to refer to two scenarios. Firstly, it protects producers from the negative financial consequences of a postponement, stoppage or abandonment of the shoot brought about by accidental damage to, or the theft of, the equipment, sets, buildings or of any other good that is essential. Secondly, it protects them from the financial downside of accidents or illnesses affecting key personnel (eg main cast members). In the latter situation, the producer will agree certain “named persons” with the insurer before starting. Some insurers refer to this as non-appearance or cast insurance. Cast insurance can come into play during the pre-production period, when production investment has already been made with a specific director or principal actor(s) in mind.

Freelancer Insurance: A lot of the industry’s talent base is now freelance, so it’s no surprise to see so many companies offering freelance insurance (see Allan Chapman & James’ Solo policy for example). This kind of policy covers job functions such as camera operator, sound recordist, make up artist and producer. It can cover the equipment you’re using and areas such as illness, injury, travel insurance and home working.
 

Equipment-Related Insurance

Negatives & Video Insurance: This covers loss or damage to negatives or video that causes extra expenditure for the insured in re-shooting or repairing the damaged footage. If the footage is completely lost at a late stage of production this could cause a total loss. Insurance in this category usually also covers: faulty stock, faulty camera and faulty processing. Check to see if the policy covers post-production. Some firms provide cover right through to hand over of the final cut.

Technical Equipment (hired & owned): All shooting and sound equipment, transmission, reproduction, lighting including lamps, generators, special effects equipment, equipment vehicles and mobile studios used can and should be covered. By extension of this principle, all sets, costumes, accessories, furniture, and similar (hired or owned) should be covered. Hired equipment insurance is important because hire firms will expect you to have it. If you don’t then you will have to pay for a policy they have arranged.

Loss Of Hire Insurance: If a producer hires a piece of equipment and it is stolen or damaged, this means the company that hired out the equipment will lose money during the period necessary for reinstatement or repair. Loss of hire insurance is designed to cover this eventuality. To secure this kind of cover, insurers will need to see a hire agreement and be given specifics such as the cost to replace the piece of equipment in question.

Other: Anything related to production can (and should) be covered for damage or loss. So this might include items in the production office or vehicles, whether during production or while being moved from place to place. As part of a generalised insurance agreement, many companies will also cover money (for example if production funds are stolen from a nominated member of the production team) and luggage (for example if someone in the production is mugged or if bags go missing while being moved from place to place on public transport).

Extra Expense Insurance: Another important consideration, this protects the producer from additional expenses incurred following loss or damage to equipment. Extra expense means additional costs necessary to maintain production, such as a move to another studio or location if agreed with the insurer.
 

Other Important Insurance Headings

Weather Insurance: US-based All Weather Insurance Agency (AWIA) says producers “can benefit from utilising a structured weather insurance programme to help hedge against financial losses due to certain weather conditions. Rain insurance can protect your production from weather related delays costing your production company money due to rain.” And it’s not just rain that producers need to guard against either: “Alternate products like excess or lack of wind, snow, temperature, fog or rain are widely utilized,” says AWIA.

Dangerous Scenarios: Most productions avoid trouble spots because they recognise the risk of disruption to production. But news and documentary teams will need to ensure they have some cover for eventualities such as war, political risk, kidnap and ransom. Terrorism also needs to be included on this list, with the added observation that terrorism isn’t necessarily limited to faraway locations. Specialist marine and aviation insurance are also essential for productions involving sea or air shooting.

Errors & Omissions Insurance: This is to protect the production company and distributors from claims for libel, slander, defamation, plagiarism, breach of copyright, invasion of privacy, theft of rights and includes fees incurred in the defence of the claim. Distributors in the US will demand this cover.
 

Key considerations before signing on the dotted line

  1. Production insurance is highly specialised with each production carrying different risks (and therefore premiums). Shop around to make sure you get all the requisite insurance cover at the right price. Don’t be tempted to cut corners on levels of coverage because the downside risk is potentially significant.
     
  2. In a similar vein, different industries (film, TV, online, commercials) need uniquely calibrated packages. Look at whether insurers have policies specifically suited to your modus operandi. For example, HCC Specialty has developed a set of policies aimed at the advertising industry. It has also developed products such as image protection insurance and transmission interruption coverage, the latter for broadcasters that have experienced disruption during live events such as fights and concerts. Transmission coverage will guard against lost revenue that may arise from this scenario. Another example might be Media Insurance’s cyberliability/social media insurance to cover developments in digital content distribution.
     
  3. Check whether you need to be the one buying insurance or if it is the responsibility of suppliers working on your production. For example, animal handlers can secure their own insurance cover for film, stage and TV work from insurance companies so check if they have done so.
     
  4. If you’re filming in more than one country, make sure your cover crosses territories and has no onerous restrictions.
     
  5. Make sure you know the deductibles/excess on your cover. Ask your insurer and check what it says on your policy.
     
  6. Keep your insurance paperwork handy because you’ll need it when dealing with third parties such as location owners, equipment hire companies, local authorities and studios.
     

Resources

A number of general and specialist firms can advise on production insurance (see KFTV listings). These include Aon and Allan Chapman & James, whose client list includes Sherlock and The Jonathan Ross Show. IMS Film & Media Insurance also has a useful website which can be found via our sister website The Knowledge.

The Indie Training Fund offers a useful course on production insurance, covering everything from how to work with a broker through to more unusual scenarios such as war & terrorism: check out their website for further details.



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