Finance and accounting is a huge part of getting a film or TV drama made. From funding to budgeting to expenditure, production accountants, key assistants, assistant accounts and accounts trainees all work to make sure a production is legal and financial managed to budget. A finance controller oversees the accounts team.
Skills needed to work in accounts
- meticulous bookkeeping and accountancy skills
- thorough knowledge of production processes
- organisational and interpersonal communication skills
- ability to prioritise jobs effectively
- discretion and confidentiality
- expertise in accountancy software packages (Movie Magic or other budgeting software)
- knowledge of Inland revenue and government regulations and insurance
- good IT skills
- numeracy skills
Ways into accounts
Production accountants are typically freelance accountants with a degree in accounting. Trainees or assistants may also have vocation training (NVQs or SVQs) in bookkeeping or have completed the Production Guild's assistant production accountant training scheme (APATS).
The National Film and Television School (NFTS) also offers a course in production accounting.
Jobs in accounts
Finance controllers tend to only exist on very large film and TV productions. They are often put in place by the film studio or broadcaster that is investing in, or commissioning, the production. They have a high level of authority, to the extent they can even override a producer with their decisions.
Production accountants are responsible for calculating finances, costing productions, liaising with financiers and controlling cash flow. During production, they evaluate and approve purchase requirements and organise VAT and PAYE registration. Depending on how a production is financed, they may have to deal with bank and completion guarantors. They will work with the producer and line producers to manage costs and prepare weekly cost reports. At the end of the production, they must prepare a statement of account detailing all income and expenditure and may arrange an independent audit of the production. On larger films, the production accountant will have a direct relationship with the completion guarantor, sometimes known as the completion bond. This is an insurance that the financiers take out to ensure the film is delivered on time and on budget.
Key assistant accountant
Key assistant accountants are responsible for the accurate accounting up to the 'trial balance' stage. This is liaising with banks and maintaining records with receipts of all transactions. They must maintain records of all cast and crew on payroll and determine individual and aggregate payments. They also monitor and maintain pretty cash systems.
Assistant accountant (second assistant, third assistant)
Assistants help with the day-to-day running of the accountancy office. This may involve keeping records of invoices and creditors' payments and the preparation of accounts payable, invoices, purchase orders and petty cash and payroll calculation. They process cheques maintain filing and invoice monitoring systems, and audit petty cash envelopes. On bigger productions where there are multiple assistant accountants, one may carry out the duties of the central cashier while the second assistant may be responsible for all the accounts payable.
Accounts trainee or cashier
Trainees are responsible for making and recording payments, processing documents relating to goods and services received, processing authorised payments, preparing ledger balances and otherwise helping to control accounts. Daily duties may include sorting and distributing paperwork, stuffing envelopes, delivering per diems, inputting data, making phone calls, photocopying documents, replenishing forms and mailing out cheques and other documents.
Find out more about working in accounts
Organisations and websites:
Some other job roles in management and logistics
From chefs to dishwashers, the catering crew is responsible for the large-scale operation of feeding everyone involved on a big-budget film or TV set
Health and safety
Film and TV sets and locations can be dangerous places and health and safety advisors, nurses and paramedics need to be ready when things go wrong
Line producers, production managers, coordinators, secretaries, assistants and runners all work together to run the business side of making a movie