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Make Sure the Project You're Hired for Has Insurance!

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Ryan Domis
Make Sure the Project You're Hired for Has Insurance!
on Jun 8, 2008 at 4:44:14 pm

I showed up on set yesterday with almost 10,000 dollars worth of lighting and camera equipment for a small student/independent film shoot. Half of the equipment wasn't even mine, but a friend's who let me borrow it under the guideline that "Insurance must be present on set."

I asked the producer, before the production ever took place, whether or not "insurance" would be present to cover any damaged equipment. He told me "yes, we can have all the paper work ready for you."

Now remember, I do not own an insurance policy on my HVX. If I break it, I pay for it. That's a guarantee I am willing to risk (I am shopping around for my own personal insurance coverage rates..i dont want to risk it for ever!) I never bothered with an insurance policy of my own, because I always made sure one was present whenever its used on set. (big mistake)

Long story short, (YESTERDAY) I show up on set, and no one knew about any insurance policy. The producer i spoke with didn't show up until later in the day...and by that time..we had already wrapped. I called him this morning ( an hour before call time) to ask him if he had insurance. he said "Yes." Then I proceed in asking why everyone is telling me "NO?" He fired back with... "well uh..NO... we dont have insurance...but we can write up a document saying we are liable of your equipment?" (THE ALARM IN MY HEAD GOES OFF) . So, i told him that I knew he was lying. I refused to bring my equipment and work any longer on set for them. It was obvious BS.

If you dont have a contract with an insurance company to cover liability... you dont have insurance! Plain and simple! I don't have insurance on my camera...they knew this...I knew this. I told them that they needed liability coverage in case anything gets damaged. All they had to do was go through our film department here on campus and receive a student liability clause. THEY DIDN'T EVEN BOTHER.


Lessons learned...

1. Don't show up on set with your own equipment until you see documentation explaining Insurance Liability Coverage

2. Insure your camera YOURSELF...just in case they LIE to you about insurance coverage (then pray to god no one breaks it or loses it in a way that isn't insured)

3. When someone tells you they have insurance....ask that you SEE the insurance.

4. Surpisingly enough....people will lie in order to take advantage of your resources


I've never did anything that resulted in a project being shut down entirely.....however....you can't really blame me on this. I was clearly lied to and taken advantage of. They actually expected me to stay with the crew and help out if they were able to accomodate other equipment. What were they gonna do...lie to someone else about an insurance policy?

We get what we deserve....lesson learned


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Make Sure the Project You're Hired for Has Insurance!
on Jun 8, 2008 at 5:36:17 pm

Ryan,

I blame the university in cases like this. Schools with legitimate communications programs either provide proper coverage for their students or insist that students obtain proper coverage, at student rates, which are commonly available. And, legitimate programs typically have a zero-tolerance policy for those students who do not comply, disqualifying any student projects that break the rules.

Clearly, the school you were helping does not bother to check to see that its students play by the rules. They are opening the themselves up to huge liability issues if someone gets hurt or if expensive property is lost or damaged. You should write the dean.

David


David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, and Indie Film & Documentary forums.


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Ryan Domis
Columbia College is to blame in MANY areas...
on Jun 9, 2008 at 2:30:14 pm

As a Columbia College Student in my final year...I am horribly displeased with our current efforts here at Columbia College. While our administration promises to bring a great education experience in the future when they build their state of the art Media Center(it will be finished in a couple years)...our current students suffer with bad equipment and a loss of opportunities.

Here is some insight of just what equipment and access you get at columbia.

Freshman Year

Access to Wind-up Bolex Cameras & Black and White Film. No Sound equipment. No sound in your film. Film editing is done by splicing film with razor blades by hand...not machine. You literally grab a razor blade by the hand and cut it, retape it...old school style.

Sophmore Year

Access to Wind-Up Bolex Cameras & Colored Film. Post Synch Sound (ONLY!). Yay...40,000 later...and we can finally edit on a computer now! Avid! yay!

Junior Year

Access to Wind Up Bolex Cameras & Colored Film. Post Synch Sound (ONLY! with film). Access to Sony PD-150's & 170's. Avid & Final Cut access. Finally..sound equipment.

Senior Year

Wind up bolex, colored film, post synch, live synch, avid, final cut, Sony-PD150 &170's, Arri-S, Arri-BL, SR-2, SR-3, Aaton 35mm

5th Year Students

(most students stay an extra year because its sooo hard to get access to the equipment. By the end of their 4th year.. they've barely even qualified for the upper echelon of cameras. By that time, most students graduate disappointed at the horrible access of equipment. )

Wind up bolex, colored film, post synch, live synch, Sony-PD150 &170's, Arri-S, Arri-BL, SR-2, SR-3, Aaton 35mm, HVX200, HPX500, Panavision GOLD(School rarely lets out the HPX, HVX or Panavision....politics, of course.) Access to Panavision, HPX, & HVX requires you take the school's Digital Cinematography Course....which only lets in 8 students a SEMESTER!(Most students, who are seniors, end up waiting too long to get in and up graduating before they can get a spot in the class.) You can also use an HVX in the Directing III class...which only accepts 8 students a YEAR!.

That means, only 24 students a year, total, get to use any video equipment that's actually worth using. Imagine going to a school for 4 years and NOT getting access to the good cameras JUST because there are too many students who fight for those 24 spots.


Does that seem like a tuition that's worth almost $20,000 a year? Nope!





1.The school issues out liability insurance to 3rd party locations...but NOT to individual students.

2. Medical and Equipment liability insurance simply doesn't exist here at Columbia. Not only do we have to come up with our own props, sets, locations and budgets, but we are liable for anyone who gets hurt on our production. yippie!

3. Shitty equipment for the majority of students... a small selection of good equipment for the few that are lucky enough to fit into the 24 spots per year (Directing III=8 students=per year) x (Digital cinematography=8 students=per semester)




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David Roth Weiss
Re: Columbia College is to blame in MANY areas...
on Jun 9, 2008 at 7:09:50 pm

[Ryan Domis] "Does that seem like a tuition that's worth almost $20,000 a year? Nope!"

I feel your pain. As a film school grad I suffered similarly at both Boston University and The American Film Institute. When I was at the AFI it would have been much more appropriate to call it "The American 3/4-inch Video Institute."

That being said, teaching filmmaking skills with a super-8 Bolex and a razor blade is not an entirely bad approach. It's how I learned my craft and how many generations of filmmakers have gotten their hands-on experience too.

My best-ever photography teacher told a story about a time when Popular Photography Magazine held a contest in which they gave ten pin-hole cameras, made from shoe boxes, to ten of he world's great photographers, giving each one of them just one shot at producing a single still image using the most rudimentary technology possible. When all was said and done, each of them had produced a world-class photograph that astonished everyone who saw them.

As my photography instructor used to say, "there is no photographer as good as the worst camera, and no filmmaker as good as the worst filmmaking equipment." If a would-be artist is able to rise above his or her peers without the benefit of technology, it says an awful lot about their innate talent and their ability to tell a story. The people running a lot of schools know this and use it to their benefit when people complain about their crummy equipment. When you visit UCLA or USC and see their state of art facilities and equipment it does give one another perspective...

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, and Indie Film & Documentary forums.


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Bob Zelin
Re: Columbia College is to blame in MANY areas...
on Jun 10, 2008 at 1:54:06 am

I enjoyed reading Ryan's post on this subject. Not only did I waste my parents money sending me to Polytechnic Institute of NY, where I learned nothing about electrical engineering, but I have since observed similar things - to this day - from almost every school (I am in the same town as infamous Full Sail - need I say more).

I wish you the best of luck.

Bob Zelin




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Bill SerGio
Re: Make Sure the Project You're Hired for Has Insurance!
on Jun 8, 2008 at 7:20:13 pm

Hi,

I agree with you about insurance. Back in the old days most people never thought about it but in today's world it is a different matter. But I think the most important reason to have insurance is when somebody trips over a cable---nowadyas they sue you!

I have put over 100 celebrities in infomercials that I produced for myself and in every case they had in their contract that I had to have insurance and they always required a fax of proof prior to filming.

Bill SerGio

Bill SerGio


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Bruce Bennett
Re: Make Sure the Project You're Hired for Has Insurance!
on Jun 8, 2008 at 7:28:27 pm

Ryan,

With all due respect, if think you should be more concerned with your own coverage versus worrying so much about every one’s insurance policies/coverage. If you had your own general liability policy, this wouldn’t be so much of an issue.

Since you did not fill out your COW profile, I have no idea how you’re doing business (DBA, LLC, inc.) but I’m guessing you’re biz is a DBA. If this is the case, I think the vast majority of seasoned professionals on this site will agree with me in that you should get some insurance to cover your actions, your equipment and your rented equipment. DBA + major accident = you get sued and you lose all your personal property.

I really don’t get why some people in this biz do not get general liability insurance. It irritates me very much. It is a very small annual cost when compared to many other operating costs (salaries, taxes, health insurance, more taxes, etc.). Two of my best clients simply do not hire companies without proof of insurance. When I sub out out-of-state location shoots, my hired Videographer must have insurance or I don’t hire him/her. I almost always get the certificate emailed/faxed before the deal is sealed. If the Videographer subs out other crew members who do not have insurance (grip, audio tech, etc.) then I request that all invoice via the Videographer so that Videographer is “more responsible” for them killing the CEO. I say “more responsible” because when any injury related accident happens, typically EVERYBODY gets sued.

Thank goodness there were no accidents on your shoot.

Good luck,
Bruce

Bruce Bennett
Bennett Marketing & Media Production, LLC


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Ryan Domis
Re: Make Sure the Project You're Hired for Has Insurance!
on Jun 8, 2008 at 8:45:08 pm

I am a student with no business whatsoever. I am volunteering with my own HVX to work on other student/independent films. If I were to get my own insurance policy...I would still be screwed...because the policies I am familiar with ONLY cover personal use and it must be me who damages it. As an AC...I would be breaking my own insurance by letting someone else use/break it. I generally operate the camera...but in some cases..I will volunteer as an AC if they need a camera. Yet...I admit...Lesson learned.



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Rich Rubasch
Re: Make Sure the Project You're Hired for Has Insurance!
on Jun 8, 2008 at 11:35:23 pm

One clarification about liability insurance is that it is not all about the camera you own. It does cover the gear, but liability insurance can also cover losses incurred if YOU trip over a cord and it tips a light stand that crashes into an MRI machine and the place starts on fire.

Don't only consider your gear when it comes to production insurance...consider anything that might possibly go wrong that might, in the end, be your fault.

Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media



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Mark Suszko
Re: Make Sure the Project You're Hired for Has Insurance!
on Jun 9, 2008 at 12:00:43 am

See, this is one area where universities and colleges should be doing a better job, they teach media as some kind of hybrid between a trade school and n academic lab, and everybody is interested in playing with the camera and throwing terms around... but do they teach stuff like insurance, business practices and and legal clearances?

Mostly, no.

It should be a full-on course in the second year curriculum. If I was a student shopping for a com arts program today, this is something that would be a deal maker or deal breaker, because it separate the working practitioners from the dilettantes.


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Ryan Mast
Re: Make Sure the Project You're Hired for Has Insurance!
on Jun 9, 2008 at 12:15:56 am

Hi Ryan,

I'm in a similar situation -- student, trying to run a business while in school. Seriously dude, it's worth it to organize as an LLC and get general liability insurance. I posted about 7 or 8 months ago about what I should do to improve my business and such, and that was one of the big things that the pros at the COW recommended.

I don't know what personal liability insurance polices look like -- you may be right about it, that it only covers what you directly do. The policy that I got for my business covers my actions, and anything or anyone that is in my possession, care, or control. For example, I break a rental camera, someone breaks my camera, I drop a camera on someone's head and they sue me, or one of my people does any of the above, the insurance will (theoretically) cover it. It's not expensive -- if you have $10,000 of gear, you can afford annual insurance payments. Take an hour this week and call insurance brokers in your area to get quotes, so you know what to save for.

Even if you're working on your own, it might be a valuable learning experience to go through the process of creating an LLC and getting insurance, learn what's involved, and figure it out. Even if you end up working as an employee of someone else and you discontinue your own business, it may make you a better employee if you are knowledgeable about business/insurance/legal stuff.

At the very least, having your own insurance policy may make you less nervous about going out for a shoot. Or keep you from having a heart attack when you accidentally break something. Been there, done that, was very, very thankful that the COW members advised me to get insurance. Thanks, guys!

Bruce and Bill, what is required to show proof of insurance? Do you send them the whole policy (pages and pages)? Is there a statement you get from your provider/broker? Does it suffice to get a PDF of it and email it, or are you always faxing papers?



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Bruce Bennett
Re: Make Sure the Project You're Hired for Has Insurance!
on Jun 9, 2008 at 1:49:10 am

[Ryan Mast] "Bruce and Bill, what is required to show proof of insurance? Do you send them the whole policy (pages and pages)? Is there a statement you get from your provider/broker? Does it suffice to get a PDF of it and email it, or are you always faxing papers?"


Your insurance provider can provide you with your Proof of Insurance. It's a very common practice. It's not too big of a document, so I usually email it as a PDF (snail mail paper scanned to PDF for best clarity).

Bruce

Bruce Bennett
Bennett Marketing & Media Production, LLC


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Steve Wargo
Re: Make Sure the Project You're Hired for Has Insurance!
on Jun 9, 2008 at 6:15:33 am

We've had insurance through The Hartford since 1990. It was only about $1200 a year back then for a million bucks worth of liability and $20,000 worth of equipment including a rider to cover $50,000 worth of rental gear.

It seems as though companies are a lot more prudent about asking for insurance proof before hiring us.

Insurance is one of the first things you'll need when starting a business. One incident and you're finished.




Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
2-Sony EX-1 HD .


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Tim Kolb
Re: Make Sure the Project You're Hired for Has Insurance!
on Jun 9, 2008 at 2:58:56 pm

In this case, there are a couple of notable factors...

1. The 10,000 dollars worth of equipment would seem like small change if an inexperienced gaffer put an ENG-type tungsten instrument too close to a fire suppression sprinkler head in say...a library (don't laugh, I know someone who was on such a shoot...)

2. Now that you are going to consider insurance for your own gear, it's important to look at achieving some balance.

I know that a 6,000 dollar HVX is hard to replace for someone just starting out. However, make sure you carefully examine any policies for rates vs. deductibles. The closer to the first dollar the insurance company has to start paying, the more the insurance coverage costs...and it's an extreme difference in many cases.

You may be able to set aside a thousand dollars from your fees for emergencies...and have a 1000.00 deductible on your equipment coverage, which will lower the cost of the insurance...possibly putting significant money back in your [pocket in exchange for you assuming the lower (sub-1000.00) risks.

**Also, be sure to inform your insurance agent that you need "all peril", often also referred to as "inland marine" coverage so your equipment is covered no matter -where- it is or -who- uses it (with your permission of course).

On liability insurance...as others have stated, it's not very expensive for what you get. It can be relatively inexpensive to buy a rider for a given day as well...that way you don't pay for coverage for a month when you don't even shoot, or you are shooting one-man band in a park with no major power issues or exotic carnivorous animals.




TimK,
Director, Consultant
Kolb Productions,

CPO, Digieffects


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Mike Cohen
Re: Make Sure the Project You're Hired for Has Insurance!
on Jun 10, 2008 at 4:17:31 pm

just last week we were on a shoot in a medical office. We turned on a 1K tungsten light, and the circuit for much of the office went out. Why the office had so many plugs on the same breaker is one question, but when the power was restored, we found out a few days later, a computer was damaged "beyond repair." Our insurance is liable apparently.
Insurance is a must for any business - yes even for independent contractors.
Mike


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Tim Kolb
Re: Electrical
on Jun 10, 2008 at 6:05:47 pm

[Mike Cohen] "just last week we were on a shoot in a medical office. We turned on a 1K tungsten light, and the circuit for much of the office went out."

Ah-good point Mike, this is another thread in itself...electrical awareness. You simply can't go into any facility and start plugging in high surge, high draw electrical devices like video lighting without looking over the facility.

I always request a building maintenance person be available for any facility we weren't familiar with or at least have someone on my crew who checked out the breaker layout as best we could determine. We used to hold up the shoot as long as necessary to determine if we could properly distribute our light current draw.

No commercial office space (or even industrial space) is wired to accommodate everything needed in the office, then have enough figured in to supply a video shoot on top of that...

We took down a server at a small insurance company once...the server's 220v power supply had one leg tapped to provide a 110v outlet in some stupid place in the office. A boneheaded electrical move...my liability was $0.00 however as the building maintenance guy never suspected that outlet was pulling from there and we tapped that outlet at his direction...unfortunate for them (30 peaople got a couple days off), but we weren't at fault.

Most medical facilities (and even many newer office buildings) will have orange outlets and neutral (white or bone) outlets to separate IT-safe or backup power circuits, and that can be useful in staying out of trouble.

...on the other hand, any office that doesn't have a 70.00 UPS on every critical desktop computer in the place (or sxomething much beefier on a server) is playing with fire anyway...

Getting in the habit of scoping out electrical on an unadvanced location is a really good habit to get into...













TimK,
Director, Consultant
Kolb Productions,

CPO, Digieffects


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