5 Reasons to Hire a Production Accountant

Production accountants act as a liaison with financiers, and/or the studio. They make sure that payments are made on time, and in accordance with agreements and approved budgets. With a comprehensive knowledge of union, guild, tax and other relevant government regulations, production accountants can help you ensure that you meet all the necessary legal requirements for your production.

Hear more from PACS CEO Cheryl Jenkins as she shares in detail five reasons to hire a production accountant to manage your finances.

Access to an expert on unions and guilds. Production accountants are knowledgeable about unions and guilds, and understand how to budget for and pay crews properly. There are many nuances when dealing with a union. The books and contracts are typically pretty lengthy. Of course, we may come across scenarios that we are not familiar with, but we make it our responsibility to research and find out the answers to pertinent questions.

Ensuring you get the full benefit of tax incentives. Production accountants create a system for tracking qualified expenses eligible for tax incentive programs. They are well versed on the tax incentive in each state where shooting will take place. In Georgia and most states, the accounting department will take a look at every financial document – contracts, invoices, petty cash expenses, credit card charges, payroll – and determine if each expense will qualify for the state’s incentive program. After the production has finished, the accountant will go through the auditing process to determine if the books were kept accurately. In Georgia, the auditing company will want to see if expenses actually occurred in Georgia.

Tracking how money is being spent. The production accountant creates special reports for producers so they can see how much money has been spent against the budget on a weekly basis. He or she will analyze each line item of the budget to determine how much more money will be spent to complete the project. This tool, known as a “cost report,” will help everyone know if the project is going over or under budget, and where money can be pulled from in the budget to cover unexpected overages.

Saving your production time and money. Production accountants are well aware of all the rules. They will know how to turn over the books to the auditing company to ensure the production’s records have been kept accurately and the production will get the maximum tax credit possible. Accountants at PACS International have the added benefit of being experienced with productions in Georgia, and know the state’s rules and regulations inside and out. This takes a big weight off of producers, as one mistake with your auditing could potentially cost the production several thousand dollars.

Making your production look attractive to financiers and studios. Financiers want to make sure that a competent, professional is watching over their money and that it’s spent appropriately. They want to make sure that no money is squandered and that proper financial controls are established. Studios will have the same objectives. And this is where production accountants can help. Production accountants monitor expenses and ensure for the line producer and studio that all expenditures have been approved.

To get more information about how production accountants can help your production, email info@pacsintl.com or give us a call at 678-927-9589.

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Recap: Our First #pacschat Twitter Chat

On May 2nd, PACS International hosted its first #pacschat Twitter chat, with expert host Cheryl Jenkins.

We invited film and television professionals to chat with us and share their opinions about planning a film budget. We asked participants questions like:

  • What financial issues do you usually see with productions?
  • What mistakes do you recommend avoiding that would drive up costs?
  • How much time do you allot for preparing a budget?
  • What kind of cost-saving measures do you take before production begins?
  • How do you plan for unexpected expenses?

Here’s a summary of chat responses:

  • Productions usually experience financial issues due to last minute creative changes and not budgeting properly for overtime. Overtime affects the budget across the board including location, catering and equipment.
  • To avoid unnecessary costs, be sure to understand each contract and the rules for each union. Look at labor laws for each state where you may travel.  Don’t waste money paying double time for non-union crew when you’re in a state the does not require it.  Also, schedule each actor’s work days together to avoid paying for unworked days.  For weekly overnight contracts, actors receive four hours on the 6th day whether they work or not.
  • Plan to spend  2-3 weeks preparing your budget. This includes the time needed to create a schedule. Budgets must be created for each project; don’t use templates or percentages.
  • Budget for prep and wrap days. Crew members will only work the minimum number of hours on these days.  Also, look closely at your payroll fringes (taxes) and avoid budgeting excess money in this area.
  • For independent projects, have a 10-15% contingency for unexpected expenses. For studio projects, plan for additional equipment charges or overtime. A contingency line is not allowed.

Stay tuned for the date of our next #pacschat Twitter chat.

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PACS Sets Mission to Grow Production Accounting Industry in Georgia

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Atlanta-based company Production Accounting and Crew Services (PACS) International is on a mission to fill the need for exceptional accounting services in the film and television industries, particularly in the state of Georgia. One way that the agency is accomplishing this mission is by educating Atlanta’s entertainment community about the vital need for production accounting services.

PACS International CEO Cheryl Jenkins regularly shares her production accounting expertise at a number of events around the city. On March 21st, she led a workshop on the Anatomy of a Budget as part of the Atlanta Film Festival’s CINformation series. Class participants looked at a film budget from a union/studio perspective and learned how the numbers are derived.

On March 2nd, Cheryl also led an Introduction to Film & Television Accounting workshop in partnership with Atlanta Film Festival 365 and Women in Film and Television in Atlanta (WIFTA). The purpose of the workshop was to educate the public about career opportunities in production accounting in the film and television industries as well as to begin to cultivate local talent.

Lisa Annitti is the Production Accountant on the hit ABC show Revenge. She flew in from LA  to co- teach the course with Cheryl Jenkins.  From these expert production accountants, students learned about the daily responsibilities of production accountants as well as the importance of their role in the production process.   More than 50 attendees received hands-on training in processing routine paperwork for the accounting department.  One of the attendees, Kiera Sill, commented; “I gained [a] valuable understanding regarding accounting in the Film and Television industry.  I greatly appreciate that PACS offered their knowledge in this growing Atlanta field.”

In addition to the workshops, she has shared her production accounting expertise at a number of events around the city.  Along with Lee Thomas and several other Atlanta experts, Cheryl spoke at SCAD’s aTVfest’s Georgia Entertainment and Tax Incentive Panel.  In addition to speaking to a senior seminar at Emory University’s Goizueta Business, she has also lent her expertise at events held at Georgia State University and Atlanta Technical College.

With each speaking engagement and workshop, Cheryl Jenkins is fulfilling her commitment to growing the production accounting industry in Georgia. Through educational training and the services offered by PACS International, she is providing a valuable resource that will strengthen the state’s film and television industries.

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PACS Visits Meddin Studios

Meddin Doors
PACS traveled with TAG (Technology Association of Georgia) to visit Meddin Studios in Savannah, Georgia right before Memorial Day weekend.

Meddin is a local Savannah studio that prides itself on fostering education and community relationships.  The company has helped provided several student projects and has been a go to source for production equipment, studio space and a post production facility with editing suites and state of the art equipment.

Their goal is to partner with producers and production companies and produce exceptional projects right in Savannah.

The next phase of their expansion is a 110,00 square foot studio right in the heart of the city with all the support incoming production may need- Rent, Buy & Hire All in One Place!

Meddin’s just wrapped on CBGB.  This latest movie is about the transformation of  Hilly Kristal’s CBGB (Country, Bluegrass & Blues) night club into the birthplace of underground rock’n roll & punk music.  Their next project, The Allman Brothers, will be the first project in Savannah that has had distribution set-up before production.  The movie will be distributed by Open Road Films.

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Training

Our philosophy is to employ and train accounting and finance professionals to meet our high standards of customer service and productivity. Our accountants have studied business, accounting, finance and/or film, and bring a passion for the business of production.

With PACS, you get competent, ethical professionals you can trust who are committed to your entertainment project and excel at every task.

Phase I: “Film & Television Accounting Seminar: 101”.

As you probably know, Georgia is the number three state for film and television productions. Our state’s lucrative tax incentive program has made this an exciting time for those in the entertainment industry. In order to meet the demands of the burgeoning Southeast, Production Accounting and Crew Services Int’l will offer a preparatory seminar that will introduce job opportunities in production accounting.

During Phase I of this monumental seminar, attendees will learn the role and the importance of all the positions in the accounting department. Attendees will also learn the day to day responsibilities of each position and how the records they process are used to present important financial information to producers and studio executives. After Phase I, you will be knowledgeable enough to know if the accounting department is right for you!

Phase II: “Film & Television Accounting Seminar: 102”

Through lectures and hands on training, Phase II * will provide a more in depth study of production accounting. Each person in attendance will walk away with enough knowledge and the skill set required to begin working for PACS in the accounting department on a film or television show. Phase II will be broken into two parts that can be taken either together or individually. In Part 1, we will cover the daily responsibilities of a clerk or 2nd assistant accountant. In Part 2, you will learn the duties of a payroll accountant. In this class, you will learn how to process both non-union and union payroll.

* Please Note that attendance in the Film & Television Accounting Seminar: 101 is mandatory for participation in Phase II, “Film &amp Television Accounting Seminar: 102&quot.

Part 1: Clerk & 2nd Assistant Accountant
Saturday, May 18, 9am – 2 pm (with 30 minute break for lunch)
Monday, May 20, 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Wednesday, May 22, 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm

Part 2: Payroll
Saturday, June 1 9am – 2 pm (with 30 minute break for lunch)
Monday, June 3, 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Thursday, June 6, 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm

Registration Now Open for Film & Television Accounting Seminar: 102!

Register for Phase II, Part 1: Clerk/2nd Assistant Accountant – $395

Register for Phase II, Part 2: Payroll – $495

Register for Phase II, Part 1 & 2 – $750


Phase II Session I’d like to attend



* There will be no discounts for professional association membership for Phase II

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Learning the Film Scheduling Process

A film schedule is a document that is prepared to identify all the elements in a script. A producer or first assistant director will preview the script and highlight different aspects such as locations, props, special equipment, etc. Also, as the schedule is created, the number of extras and actors needed and what days they’ll be working will be determined. For example, if an actor can only work on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, it will be arranged in the schedule.

Tip: Take your time and review each scene of the script carefully to identify all the items and actors you’ll need for production.

Why does a film schedule matter?

Additionally, the schedule is the blueprint for each day. The entire crew needs the schedule to see which scenes are being shot dailyWithout a schedule, producers cannot determine how many days an actor will work or how many vehicles to acquire for a particular location for example.  A film schedule allows you to create a budget that’s accurate.

Tip: Use movie scheduling software to create your schedule. Production accountants at PACS International use the latest software programs to provide accurate, comprehensive production schedules for clients.

What are the steps involved in scheduling?

  1. Grab your script and several colored highlighters, and highlight all the different elements. This includes set dressings, props, actors, extras, locations, vehicles and special effects. Identify and color code each element.
  2. Size the script. The common rule in film production is that one page of script equals one minute of screen time. Review each page of your script to determine how long your scenes are. Sizing your script will allow you to determine how many scenes and pages you’re shooting each day.
  3. Enter your production data into a film scheduling software program. The program will supply reports on how each day of production will flow. This generally means shooting about three to four pages per day. However, one scene can take all day to shoot if it’s very detailed and action-oriented.

What’s next?

After you finish scheduling, you can now create your budget. The film schedule is also used regularly during production, as your crew will need to know what to expect each day. During production, the schedule is distributed daily in the form of a call sheet.  The call sheet lists the times when actors and crew are needed on set, what scenes will be shot, and a snapshot of the schedule for upcoming days.

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Proposed tax cuts in Louisiana may impact film incentives

At the top of the year, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced his plans to eliminate personal and corporate income taxes in Louisiana. Governor Jindal is striving to simplify the state’s complex tax code and make it friendlier towards businesses.

Although this tax resolution will put more money back into the pockets of Louisiana residents and business owners, there is great concern about how the proposed cuts will impact Louisiana’s financial structure. Cutting income taxes will mean less funding for state projects, staffing and disaster reserves. Governor Jindal has proposed increasing the sales tax by 1.6% to make up for the shortfall but the increase may not provide sufficient state funding.

The growth of the Louisiana film industry

Within the past decade, Louisiana’s film industry has become one of the most productive in the United States, third to California and New York. Its growth has largely been attributed to the Louisiana Motion Picture Tax Incentive Act enacted in 2002. This generous tax incentive program includes a 30% tax credit on qualified motion picture expenditures with no project or program cap. It has increasingly attracted film and television companies to bring their productions to Louisiana and also to employ local residents.

How will tax cuts in Louisiana affect filmmakers?

If Governor Jinda’s tax cuts are approved, the state may find itself unable to afford providing such a generous tax incentive program for filmmakers. The industry will certainly have its eye on what’s happening politically in Louisiana, in hopes that the state will keep its incentives and maintain its position as a leading hub for entertainment production.

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PACS International Hosts Production Accounting Workshop for Beginners

On Saturday, March 2, Production Accounting and Crew Service (PACS) International led an Introduction to Film & Television Accounting workshop at Georgia State University as part of Atlanta Film Festival 365 year long programing. It was hosted in partnership with Atlanta Film Festival 365 and Women in Film and Television in Atlanta (WIFTA), in order to educate the public about career opportunities in production accounting in the film and television industries.

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Two expert production accountants led the workshop: Lisa Annitti (Production Accountant on the hit ABC show Revenge) and Cheryl Jenkins (CEO of PACS International). More than 50 people attended to learn about the daily responsibilities of production accountants and the importance of their role in the production process.

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The workshop was created as part of PACS International’s mission to fill the need for quality accounting services in the film and television industries, especially in the state of Georgia as it’s growingly becoming a hub for entertainment production.

PACS International will offer Phase II of the accounting workshop for those interested in receiving additional hands-on training (completion of Phase I is mandatory to attend).  Attendees who successfully complete the second workshop will be able to explore career opportunities in production accounting at PACS.

View more photos from the workshop on our Facebook page.

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How to prepare a film budget

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A budget can make or break a creative project. It’s one of the most important tools you will use in ensuring that your production is completed on time and within its financial boundaries. If you’re starting a new film, television or theater project, and wondering what it takes to create a good budget, here’s some insight into the process.

Who’s involved.

Your line producer and production accountant work together to create your budget. They identify all costs needed to make the project happen.

When to start.

The budget must be finalized before any production begins. The production team will get estimates for renting cameras, lights, sound and other equipment. They will negotiate with vendors to make sure the production is getting the best prices. Adjustments in your budget are made based on cost negotiations or how much funding is secured.

The makings of a good budget.

A good budget is well-thought out and thorough. Production accountants consider every detail and resource you will need to complete your project, down to the number of stamps.

What’s next.

When your accountant finishes your budget, you’ll be ready to use it to secure funding from your investors or the network/studio.  Your budget plays a major role in fundraising. Funders want to see that a project is economically viable, and a well-prepared budget makes a stronger case for investment.

Also, after the budget is complete, your accountant will use it to prepare a cash flow analysis. This indicates how much money will be needed to produce your project on a week-to-week basis. Check our blog soon for more information on how a cash flow analysis is prepared.

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Is Michigan’s film industry losing its competitive edge?

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According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, plans to phase out their film incentive program. Since taking office in 2011, Snyder has pushed for cutbacks to the Michigan’s Film Incentive Program. This program was spearheaded during the administration of his predecessor, Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

“Snyder inherited one of the most generous film incentive programs in the country from former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Under that program, the state refunded 40% to 42% of a production company’s qualified expenses— with no limit to how much could be awarded— giving way to what some called a golden age of Michigan filmmaking,” reported Alanna Durkin of the Associated Press.

Michigan’s program still has hope, as not everyone in public office agrees with Gov. Snyder’s choice. As evidence, last year, the Governor’s proposed budget of $25M for film tax incentives was doubled in the legislature to $50M.

For More Information:

Road Funding or Film Subsidies? by Jarett Skorup, Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Michigan, film industry reeling over Snyder’s budget proposal by Alanna Durkin, Associated Press

$25M for film incentives? Michigan moviemakers unimpressed by Snyder proposal by Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press

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