Lights, camera, insurance! The ‘reel-ities’ of insuring feature films

Lights, camera, insurance! The ‘reel-ities’ of insuring feature films | Insurance Business Canada

Lights, camera, insurance! The ‘reel-ities’ of insuring feature films

The movie industry is buzzing with excitement and speculation ahead of the 90th Oscars Academy Awards ceremony taking place on March 04. Will The Shape of Water rule the roost, or will Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri continue its winning streak after swooping five accolades at The BAFTAs?

Award-winning pieces of cinematic mastery would not be in existence without extensive insurance coverage. Every single item that graces the big screen - whether that’s Meryl Streep or the reading glasses she idly toys with throughout Oscar-nominated movie The Post - all need insurance.

Specialty brokerage, Chesterfield Insurance Brokers, has an expert film, television and media team enabling film makers worldwide to say those three special words: “Lights, camera, action!” The Lloyd’s insurance and reinsurance broker is a subsidiary of H.W. Kaufman Group, and is based in London, UK.

Insurance Business caught up with Derek Townshend, film and media executive at Chesterfield Insurance Brokers to find out more about the key role insurance plays in getting our favourite movies on to the big screen. Here’s what comes in a production package policy:

Cast Insurance

“The director and the key cast are insured with cast insurance. This gives the production company coverage for disruption caused by actor or director being unable to work in the event of an accident or sickness,” Townshend explained. “The worst-case scenario is if an actor or director dies or has a long-term sickness or injury. This could cause a production to be completely abandoned and result in a very large insurance claim.

“Cast insurance is one of the most challenging elements of film coverage. To get the director and the principal staff insured, the relevant people need to take cast medical examinations. A lot of film financial guarantors will not allow a cast insurance policy to have any exclusions. If something crops up in the medical which results in the cast insurance having an exclusion, we need to do everything we can to get those exclusions removed. This might include getting additional medical information, outside medical advice, and even buying the coverage back off Lloyd’s of London.”  

Negative Insurance

Production companies need to protect what the film is being kept on. In the past, films were kept on negative reels, but these days it’s more of a digital affair. If anything happens to the negative or digital record, it could result in a re-shoot situation, which can cost significant time and money.

Property insurance

“Props, set and wardrobe all come under the umbrella of property insurance,” Townshend told Insurance Business. “This also covers all of the behind-the-scenes equipment, such as the lights, camera and sound systems. If a production loses or damages items or equipment – including locations (for example, if there’s a serious fire) – that would be covered under extra expense insurance, and business interruption coverage.”

The weird and the wonderful

All items on screen and set need to be covered. This might include any sort of animal, stunt equipment, boats, trains and aircraft.

Townshend explained: “Each production needs to be looked at individually. If it has a lot of animals, then the insurance broker needs to think about adding animal mortality coverage within the production package policy. Smaller items of aircraft or drone technology (which are being used by the entertainment industry more and more) can be covered by the package policy, but special items like jet aircrafts or huge boats may need additional insurance coverage.”  

Other bits and bobs

Every cast and crew member needs to be insured with employee liability coverage or workers’ compensation.

General liability coverage is also needed to cover damages to third party property.

All productions are required to carry errors and omissions insurance to cover libel and slander.

Major productions are often shot in multiple locations, and require cast and crew to travel outside their home countries, thus making travel insurance a major consideration in the entertainment business.


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