I is for Insurance.
If you are not willing to personally come out of pocket to cover losses resulting from your production – get insurance. Besides, if you plan to rent gear, get a permit in most cities including NYC, or rent commercial locations it’s required. It’s just that simple. I is for insurance. The good news is production insurance may not be as expensive as you think. The decision whether to insure or not is one of the most important you will make as a producer.
Short Term Production Insurance
Many indie productions rely on short term production insurance. It lasts at least two weeks and is likely underwritten by a company called Empire Fire & Marine. The policy amount of will vary depending upon the level of coverage and inclusions you chose. When working with an insurance broker ask questions. They are selling you a product and you should fully understand the product before you sign on the dotted line and cough up payment. Every time I increase coverage or renew, I also have new questions. What does this cover? What does that insure? What happens if…?
In some instances, production companies will chose to buy an annual policy. This is reserved for ongoing projects, such as documentaries, industrial, commercials and education (DICE). DICE policies typically last for one year. But recognize, Insurance does not always cover all instances of loss.
Let me tell you a story…
A Story of Loss
When producing King of Paper Chasing, the AD convinced the EP to let her drive the gear van home (against my objection might I add). She parked the van on the street and somehow a generator disappeared. To make a long story short, this was bad news because not only did we have to figure out how to shoot our night exterior street scenes with no power, but we also had to contend with an insurance policy that made clear “leaving equipment overnight in an unattended vehicle may result in a denied claim.” Sucky situation to say the least.
So – before you begin to shoot, think it through. If you are shooting with rented gear, sometimes it’s easy to be less careful. There is no one on set at night who is particularly invested in responsibility for that gear except those you either make responsible ahead of time or by default YOU. Mostly likely your name is on the rental contract so be sure you have a plan for keeping the gear safe at all times. Leaving it in a van unattended at night may be a recipe for disaster when you have to keep your shoot on budget and on time the next day, and when you have to explain the loss to your insurance broker.
Sometime you gotta pay to play. Just like you can’t drive a car without gas, you can’t get into the show without a ticket and you can’t rent gear without a COI (certificate of insurance) you gotta pay to play. It’s just that simple.
Locations / Film Permits
When seeking a New York City film permit you will be required to produce a certificate of insurance. This is a document that listed the city as an “additional insured” in the case that something goes litigiously wrong on your shoot…say for example a grip light falling on a pedestrians head. Wow – knock on wood that never ever actually happens.
Depending on the type of policy, most General Liability coverage will not cover injuries to cast and crew. That type of insurance is covered separately in a workers comp policy. So no matter how mad you might get on set, trust and believe you do not want to take it out on the nearest crew member thinking, “hey I got insurance”. Number one you might get your ass whipped and number two insurance might not be there to help with the medical bills.
All in all insurance is a damn good thing, but like any contract, there are loopholes.
Bottomline, don’t be afriad to step your game up. At the very least, get a quote. There’s an Arts Insurance Program at Maury, Donnelly and Parr that should cover your needs while being sensitive to your budget. If you do call over there, ask for George Close. Tell him Huriyyah sent you.
The Black TV & Film Collective a 501c3 organization that operates as a NYC film collective. In our work, we support all artists of color including but not limited to black filmmakers. We are a collaborative platform that represents diversity in film and supports inclusion in Hollywood and TV. Our professional network of New York City filmmakers gives knowledge to those who want to learn how to produce film, how to make a web series, how to budget film projects and more. We host NYC film workshops that welcome a variety of experience levels from first time filmmakers who are either students in film school or to notables within the television and film industry. See how you can make a difference in the world of cinema by becoming a member of our NYC film collective.
Huriyyah Muhammad is the Founder of the Black TV & Film Collective and Managing Partner of Infinite Wings Media. As an independent feature film producer, she has led the production of multiple independent feature films from development to market, and most recently completed filming projects in Nairobi, Kenya and Madhya Pradesh, India. Works she is most proud of include her documentary, Her Song, currently in post-production and Soko Sonko, Swahili for Market King, which continues to win awards. Huriyyah will soon make her narrative directorial debut with the supernatural series, Keloid. In addition to these projects, her filmography includes over 14 other works. It has not been easy, but it has certainly been fun.
Huriyyah is an avid writer, director and producer who is passionate about creating long-lasting opportunities for people of color within film and TV. She holds an MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business and a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Computer Science from Spelman College.