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Old June 17th, 2010, 07:42 PM   #1
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Insurance for Short Film and Worker's Comp

I was told by the City I wish to get permits and film in, that I need general liability and workers comp insurance.

General Liability of 1 million dollars costs us about $600.

Worker's comp for (I think up to 15 people) costs about $1600.

Does anyone know of any good insurance places, or ways to get out of worker's comp?
(everyone is working for free)

Advice would be grand.
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Old June 19th, 2010, 01:24 AM   #2
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You may be able to find a production company that has insurance that would be interested in being a co-producer on the project and put you under their umbrella. I think that's the second most common way for shorts to deal with this issue. The most common way is to simply not get permits.

If you were paying people, you could hire a payroll service like NPI in Burbank and they would include Worker's Comp as part of their package. I don't know if they do payroll for shorts but depending how long a shoot you have planned, it might be the cheapest way to go.

Here's their link just in case you don't find another way:
NPI Production Services, Inc.
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Old June 21st, 2010, 09:34 AM   #3
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going the 'official' way on short films is spending money that's not going to end up on screen.
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Old June 21st, 2010, 05:42 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Sareesh Sudhakaran View Post
going the 'official' way on short films is spending money that's not going to end up on screen.
NOT going the "official" way is a great way to get sued if something goes wrong. People in North America and specifically the US are very litigious or "lawsuit happy"... What MAY work in one part of the world certainly may not in another. And yes, I have been to India... on a documentary with both "official" and "non-official" segments.
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Old June 21st, 2010, 05:44 PM   #5
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People in North America and specifically the US are very litigious or "lawsuit happy"...
I resent that accusation and you can expect papers from my lawyer to that effect. See you in court.
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Old June 21st, 2010, 05:48 PM   #6
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Adam: AGAIN?!?!?!? <wink>
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Old June 23rd, 2010, 12:18 PM   #7
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Hey Silas-

I'm working on a feature right now, and I've found the most inexpensive insurance to be through "Fractured Atlas." They are a non-profit of of NYC, they are not an insurance broker per se, but they work with insurance companies to find you a good deal on insurance. You do have to be a member to use this service, which costs $95 a year. But there quotes to me have been lower than anyone else- $425 for general liability, $495 for equipment. Because you are only using volunteer labor you should be able to get a "volunteer accident insurance policy" through them for about $175.

I should also say that I have found them to be very easy to communicate with, and really on top of things when it comes to answering questions and addressing concerns.

Hope this helps.
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Old June 24th, 2010, 10:41 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Shaun Roemich View Post
NOT going the "official" way is a great way to get sued if something goes wrong. People in North America and specifically the US are very litigious or "lawsuit happy"... What MAY work in one part of the world certainly may not in another. And yes, I have been to India... on a documentary with both "official" and "non-official" segments.
It's a short film. The chances of it being a 'commercial hit' are almost zero.
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Old June 25th, 2010, 07:01 PM   #9
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Sareesh: my concerns were MUCH more on the worker's compensation side of things and I would argue that on an indie, accidents or incidents are FAR more likely to happen than on a major production due to the fact that there are unlikely to be set safety people on set. And "Liability" also covers damage to other people's property or person, such as a passerby tripping over a power cable and breaking their arm.

Again, this sort of thing in North America leads to lawsuits that bankrupt people.
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Old June 25th, 2010, 11:33 PM   #10
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i agree Shaun...
I guess each production is different and each producer needs to evaluate his/her situation correctly before proceeding...
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Old June 26th, 2010, 11:02 AM   #11
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The thought process that many take with short films or similar projects is that it costs too much to properly cover the production for such a limited amount of time (whereas a feature is longer, has more opportunity for failure and the costs can be amortized over a higher budgeted shoot). The resulting risk, however, is exactly the same. It's basically going about things with the giddy hope that nothing will go wrong, not wanting to consider what the consequences could possibly be.

Having seen a few things go badly especially on the equipment side of things, it's not pretty when there is no deal in place. I brought a friend's camera to a shoot a couple of years ago and without going into details, it got run over. There was no insurance and the resulting strained discussions ended up damaging several friendships as it got ugly.

Thankfully I haven't yet seen bad accidents happen to people on non-insured sets, but of course it can happen at any time.

Skirting the law is one thing, but when it's simply "optional" to have insurance, it can be hard to justify as a line item. The question you need to ask yourself is: when you ask your pals to help you out on your latest epic, and they bring their gear along, are you prepared to cover damages out of your own pocket if things get screwed up? After all, that's the right thing to do. What if they get hurt in any way? Even a basic emergency room visit for an person without health insurance costs a thousand to walk in the door--gonna make them pay for it? Even if you had everyone sign releases, would you feel OK about turning your back on them, people who donated their time for your vision?

Tough questions, but remember that any given day can turn bad very quickly.
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Old June 26th, 2010, 12:02 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun Roemich View Post
I would argue that on an indie, accidents or incidents are FAR more likely to happen than on a major production due to the fact that there are unlikely to be set safety people on set.
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The resulting risk, however, is exactly the same. It's basically going about things with the giddy hope that nothing will go wrong, not wanting to consider what the consequences could possibly be.
I'm not sure if Charles was addressing my above statement here or not. To be clear, let me explain my statement:

I'm not sure if this is commonplace in other geographic locations but in Vancouver there seems to be a rash of "no budget" indies popping up that request crew from a Craigslist ad for no compensation except a free DVD (not even mention of craft services...)

My point was pretty specific to THESE styles of indies - ones where the crew have probably never met each other and possibly met the director ONCE before showing up on set with an untested director who is EAGER to make his/her mark on the industry and has a number of effects shots set up without properly trained personnel and who may not have THOUGHT about the risks and liability or just ASSUMES that nothing bad will happen.

Hope this is a little more clear.
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Old June 26th, 2010, 12:11 PM   #13
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Sorry Shaun, that wasn't in response to what you wrote--true enough, it is more likely that accidents will occur on no-budget shoots due to lack of experience and safety knowledge.

What I was referring to is that someone mounting a feature may be more inclined to think about insurance whereas for a one or two day short, it's probably more rare. My point was the work is the same, the risks are the same.
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Old June 26th, 2010, 01:51 PM   #14
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I think this is one of the places where the industry needs to take a look at the cards and step up to the task. The fact of the matter is that liability and worker's comp is really expensive for a director who just wants to shoot a short over the course of a few days. But the fact of having insurance opens the door to using SAG actors and hiring professional crew.

There isn't nearly as much work in big projects as there was a few years ago. I have friends who were doing big studio projects just a few years ago, who are now paying the bills by shooting tiny little features in Eastern Europe. An odd day's work is something that a lot of people are going to appreciate in the future. And heck, with real actors and real DPs on board, we'll all enjoy those shorts we get lassoed into watching a lot more.

I know this is a digression but finding a way to allow indie filmmakers to buy workers comp for a handful of days, and sufficient liability for permits would serve us well.
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Old June 26th, 2010, 02:25 PM   #15
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I know this is a digression but finding a way to allow indie filmmakers to buy workers comp for a handful of days, and sufficient liability for permits would serve us well.
AND would protect the folks WORKING on a set.

Unfortunately, Workers Compensation/Insurance models look at the Risk associated and try to formulate a way to NOT lose money by offering insurance. Much the same as a Universal Healthcare system (I don't want to get into a debate about models here...) is supposed to SHARE the overall risk over a large contributory base.

The larger the base paying INTO an insurance system/scheme, the lower the OVERALL risk to the insurer, which is why the rates quoted by the insurer may seem high to a small production company (or individual freelancer).

The double edged sword here is that MOST "correct thinking people" would LIKE millions of dollars in liability and workers compensation insurance BUT would like to pay "just pennies a glass". Insurers would like to make money, not lose it. This is a balance that has some way to go to find a system that works for both. HOWEVER, BOTH PARTIES need to come to the table - filmmakers need to find a way to make the "numbers" part of the game make sense to the insurers (whether by industry associations or other means of "grouping" and sharing the overall burden and risk) if they want the protections offered by insurance.

I'm not arguing one way or the other but a LOT of people starting out in this industry seem to feel they are ENTITLED to rich protections but have no interest in contributing to the systems that make such protections work.

As a workplace safety and health activist and advocate for the past 15 years, this is VERY close to my heart. The problem seems to be that many small producers don't want to see their set as a workplace.

I personally would like to see EVERYONE on a set/in a studio/on location protected but the reality is SOMEONE has to pay for it SOMEWHERE. As a freelancer, should I be carrying my own? If so, does it make sense for a director to ask me to work for free or for less than a living wage? It would follow that by providing my own insurance, it is COSTING me money to work for free.

This post is meant to start discussion and self questioning, NOT to appear as a "soap box" rant.

It's a difficult topic.
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