Today’s topic is… ACCOUNTING!
Seriously, though, people seem to be confused about accounting. Maybe it’s because most of the crew doesn’t see the accountants every day like I do. At most, you’ll see one of the accountants on Thursdays.
But, like most departments, accounting1 is divided up among specialties. There’s usually a head accountant (or just “production accountant), a 1st assistant accountant, a 2nd assistant account, a payroll accountant, and maybe another assistant payroll accountant.
At least once a day, I get someone calling for “accounting,” when they really mean payroll. It’s not that big a deal, but you will get bounced around the phone system, put on hold, and possibly hung up on any time you ask for the wrong person.
Payroll, obviously, handles paying the crew. They also generate and process the start packs for new crew. Which probably doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you realize every single day player must fill out start paperwork. On days with second unit work,2 payroll probably has to process twenty to fifty new start works.
The assistant accountants, meanwhile, have to make sure everyone else gets paid– vendors, rental houses, locations, etc, etc, etc. They’ll process purchase orders, pay the payroll company (who, in turn, pays the crew through the payroll accountant), balance petty cash, issue reimbursements, and do a hell of a lot more that I don’t understand or want to.
The head accountant has particularly demanding job, because she is one of the few people on the production who actually talks to the studio. In advance of shooting, she has to make sure each department is on pattern (meaning: the amount of money they’re spending on this episode is 1/22nd of their total budget for the season), or if not, why not. During and after production, she has to track all deviations from the budget, and then explain to the studio why they went over budget.3
It’s a difficult and daunting task, and one I don’t envy.
Lastly, please don’t call on payday to ask if the checks are coming. Yes, they’re coming, but answering the phone is slowing their arrival. You shouldn’t be that hard up for cash, anyway.