Independent producers vary wildly on the subject of insurance. From “whaaa? I’m hoping my crew doesn’t notice there’s no jelly on the PB&Js we provide every other shoot day and you want to talk about purchasing insurance?” to “I say dear ole chap, shooting without insurance is like a stay at Chateau Eza without an ocean view – simply unheard of! BUTLER! MORE VEUVY POST HASTE!” Ok, maybe we don’t skew quite as far as the second one. However, things have changed in the insurance world in the last couple years so let’s touch base.

When I was in school we were advised to go to get insurance through a certain production company. You go register with them, pay money, become a co-production and they will get insurance certificates for your vendors through their own provider. Basically how it works is they carry the insurance and take your project on (in paperwork only) as one of their productions. This is all fine and good and these were very nice people except (spoiler alert!) this method is a teensy bit illegal. This might be why back then I couldn’t find much info about it online. Filmmakers know it, the production companies that do this know it, and probably the vendors that require insurance certificates know it. What’s illegal about it? The production company is acting as an insurance broker, which they are not licensed to do, and the policy with their insurer is supposed to be for things that they are financially invested in, which does not apply to the low-budget short film for which you just spent a month raising $2,000 on Kickstarter. If you never have to file a claim, this can all proceed just fine- paperwork exchanges hands, vendors are happy and everyone goes on their merry way. But read the fine print on everything you sign and if you can, try to work out on paper what filing an actual claim would mean for you. You’ll no doubt have to pay the deductible, but there can be some pretty crazy fees on top of that, and they probably won’t cover everything you think they will (i.e. ambulance rides).

I’m not saying it’s inherently wrong. This gets into one of the many grey areas of filmmaking- what’s legal vs. what’s right. It’s not my place to judge- as long as you’re not putting anyone’s health and safety at risk, you assess the level of risk you are willing to take on as the producer and prioritize budget items accordingly. Most vendors will charge additional fees if you can’t provide a valid insurance certificate. Some won’t rent to you at all. You absolutely must be aware that if you as the producer are bringing together a group of people to create a project, you can be held financially liable for any accidents that may occur. Confront that reality and if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Or demand a budget that will support legitimate insurance.

"Heeey! Is it illegal in here or is it just you illegitimately acting as an unlicensed insurance underwriter?"

In 2008 the California Dept of Insurance sent a cease and desist letter to one of these co-pro companies. That’s right, they just officially put us on notice that they noticed us. And insurers seem to have noticed, because a new bunch of companies are popping up online clamoring to provide legitimate short term insurance for us. Legal? Seems so. Over the next week I am going to gather a bunch of quotes from different companies and give you all the run down, so stay tuned.

In the mean time, if you have any particular questions about insurance or companies in particular, email me at

P.S. I’m clearly not a lawer (unlike my great friends Pawel and Jiyoung) so don’t take any of this as legal advice, or ask me any lawyerly questions or tell police I wasn’t with you on Friday evening around 12:35am.

Be Sociable, Share!
Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email
Web Analytics