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Hollywood Studios NOT Willing to Issue Insurance Certs?


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#1 Matt Petrosky

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 01:31 AM

I am currently hired as an operator/Steadicam operator on a feature film that is being produced by Paramount Classics. I asked for an insurance certificate as I will be renting them my Steadicam package and I was told by production (who so far has been honest and reliable and comes with good references from friends) that Paramount does NOT write certs to individuals for personal equipment. I replied, ?Well, they can make it out to my company.? To this I was told that my company is viewed as the same as me, and no, it was against their policy.

I was also told that Fox, Sony and Disney all have similar policies. I have been hearing for sometime now that Sony and Disney in particular are not renting equipment from individuals at all, excepting Steadicam equipment because the gear is so specialized and cannot really be rented from a rental house and the studios don?t own them. My production tells me that my gear will be covered by the studio?s insurance policy. I reply, ?So can I have a copy of the studio?s production insurance policy?? I am told, ?Paramount will tell us to tell you to call them to find out that your equipment IS covered.? I say, ?Well if it is really covered and they are willing to rent it from me, why can?t they just put it in writing??

So as of today, production is going to submit my insurance inventory to some studio executives for approval, or something like that.

Now, it seems to me that if a production is willing to rent specialized equipment -- which they are in my case -- they have to insure it. I know for a fact that Panavision or Otto?s will not let any gear out the door without an insurance cert from the production company, so why should my Steadicam equipment be any different?

What are your experiences of late with the Hollywood Studios regarding insurance and rentals? Do they really make it this ridiculous now? I?ve rented gear to Paramount and others in the past with no problems. I?m not talking about some fly-by-night shady music video production company here, these are the biggest film production studios in Hollywood making union features. I would never walk out the door without getting an insurance cert from a commercial or music video production company, why should the studios be any different? It all sounds like some studio lawyers have found a way to distance themselves even further from responsibility and liability and our rigs are to be put at risk for it.

Any advice or experience, legal or otherwise, would be appreciated. As for now, I am going to see what comes of the ?executive approval,? but I don?t think I can, in good conscious, cave on this one ?- I have too much money, time, and energy invested in my equipment to simply let a massive corporation use it without talking some responsibility for it.

Thanks,
Matt
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#2 Daniel Stilling DFF

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 08:13 AM

That sounds really weird.

I did season two of Wildfire, for Lions Gate, and had no problems there.
I even had my monitor and monitor arm damaged by a horse, when nobody was around, and they were replaced with no problems whatsoever.
Keep on top of it, sounds like it will workout if you keep pressuring them.

Good luck

Daniel
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#3 RonBaldwin

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 10:00 AM

That does sound wierd. Next time ask them if they think Panavision would let them out of their prep bay without a cert. What would happen if the camera truck was stolen with your stuff in it?

I haven't run into a company that wouldn't get me one...just dragged their feet about it. If it's the Acorn cert, read the box in the upper right corner. It basically says that the original policy set up by the prod company cannot be altered, ie nobody can be just "added" to the policy by simply typing the name in the available space at the bottom (like the pa in the production office would do with your name). I learned this after a crash. The company made good because I had a relationship with them, but the adjusters from the insurance co. made it clear that they could have easily refused to cover my repair. The kind folks at Walter Dolle told me they were right, but by having the cert with my name on it proves that they acknowledged me being there with expensive gear under their watch. Bla Bla Bla.

If I run into your situation, not sure what I'd do...maybe have the UPM initial every page of my equip inventory to prove I was there with all the gear. That always makes people uneasy. Once I had a UPM of a Universal tv show tell me that if I fell and damaged my gear (during a running shot, for example), it would be my fault and I'd be responsible! He said that as a highly paid professional I shoul've know it was too dangerous and suggested another way of doing it (meanwhile he'd be on the phone hiring someone who would do the shot). He did say that of course my gear would be covered if it was stolen, just not if it was damaged while I was operating it. Hmmm. I got him drunk and made him sign a blank form incase there were "issues".

sorry for the long post -- need to water down my coffee!

Ron B
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#4 Sean Jensen

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 02:01 PM

Hi all!

This sort of crap really makes me mad!

The show I'm on right now (a low budget Canadian film) had no problem insuring my gear. In fact, the PM told me "No matter what you've been told in the past by others, it only takes about five minutes to have your gear added to the production insurance policy. No problem."
She e-mailed me ten minutes later with it done.

The Panavision point is totally relative. There should be no reason not to insure your gear. My insurance only covers my gear at home or in transit to set.

The whole "we won't cover it if you fall" crap makes me angrier! Try telling that to Panavision. They would pull their gear off the show.

As long as there are operators out there (you know who you are) who are willing to undercut us all in order to get the job and who agree to doing things this way, producers will eventually expect us all to do it that way. It hurts everyone.

Cheers!

Sean
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#5 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 04:04 PM

The only issue I ever had was with Disney, and all they did was make me write a letter requesting insurance and provide them with an equipment list. I thought the letter was strange, but it wasn't anything like what you're dealing with. It sounds like a lawyer has too much time on his hands. Please keep us posted on the outcome, as this sort of thing affects us all.
Good luck.
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#6 brooksrobinson

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 11:12 PM

I've been doing B camera/steadicam on a feature for the past four months over at Universal. They didn't offer any resistance to my agent about a certificate of insurance for my gear, however, they refused to provide the camera assistants and A camera operator with a cert. for their equipment. We've had a couple of things (not my stuff...knocking on wood as I say this) go down, and the assistants have had to pay for repairs out of their own pocket. Our UPM has seen the light recently, and has said that production (out of the kindness of their hearts) will reimburse people for the repair costs of their gear, although they aren't obligated to do so.

I've never had any issues getting production to insure my gear, and I'm a little disheartened to think that this might be an issue in the future. I'd be interested to hear what other people's recent exeriences with the studios have been.

Brooks Robinson
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#7 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 12:34 AM

Never had a problem getting one. It's also a non-negoiatable point with me. No Cert, No Eric
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#8 denis moran

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 12:11 PM

I was on a show where on 2 separate occasions gear was damaged and even with the certs in hand... the crew members were told that the company is hiring you and a "Kit rental" which means that you are responsible for your own damages.

One of the damages was a sound cart flipping causing a sizable amount of damage. The sound guy was told that he was not covered for anything that he "used in his everyday job as a mixer".

I was told by a UPM that you need a corporation and all rentals must go through your corporation.

Be sure that your gear is not being called a "kit rental".
Denis
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#9 Chris Haarhoff

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 11:33 PM

If this is an issue that is taking hold, it is one that we operators can win easily.We can ALL agree not to play this game, and without trying to dig into their logic we can draw a clinical line in the sand. As the discussion about their inability goes back and forth we can let the production know that although our rig is not available without a binder, they are free to bring in another sled. Scenario one has them stringing you out until the first day of shooting, expecting you to cave. When you don't, the egg is on their faces when Steadi is first up and no one knows where the Steadicam is. Scenario two is that they find some lowballer that has not been able to find work who is prepared to rent his rig. The enormous amount of pissing and moaning aimed at the crappy package, can be followed up by a truly liberating, reckless style of behavior that puts said equipment at enormous risk. It's amazing how inop said equipment can become when the tiniest little things happen to it. How cool would it be to just throw up ones hands when the thing stops working and it's not your responsibility.

Seriously, guys... we can nip this in the bud.
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#10 Charles Papert

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 02:39 AM

I had to deal (along with the sound mixer and craft service guy who owned his trailer) with the bureacracy of NBC Entertainment who insisted that they would not insure "personally owned gear" on a pilot this spring, regardless of DBA's or corporate entity etc. A series of customized contracts kept appearing on set which would send back with crossouts, only to re-appear a few days later with new wording--obviously their legal department were busily trying to create a new way to F us all in the A.

I believe this to be a growing concern, and as Chris points out it can be nipped in the bud (much less complicated than the rate issue, as it is either one thing or the other: is the gear insured, or not?).
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#11 nealnorton

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 02:41 PM

I think this is at least in part an attempt by the studios to pass off LIABILITY to the operator or worker in the case of a disaster on the set such as an injury or death. For example, when I was negotiating to work on "Jersey Girl" the studio was requesting that I and the gaffer and the Key Grip provide the company with a certificate of liability insurance TO COVER THEM! I told the producer that I would not buy liability insurance for his job and that if they wish then they could buy the insurance in my name as part of my deal. They gave up and went ahead and hired me anyway. They also insured my gear for loss and damage.

Steadicam is NOT a box rental or Kit rental. We do not have exclusive use of the gear - the entire camera department is working with our equipment and the director and the DP are making decisions about how the gear is used. We don't have exclusive control of the equipment. Studios would love to lump the steadicam equipment in with the 2nd AD's laptop and the hair persons brushes and combs but it is not the same thing at all.

I try to avoid signing a "box rental" agreement and also my agent requires the producer acknowledge liability in my contract by agreeing to provide insurance coverage for the gear.

Personally I have never had a production company refuse to pay for damage that occured on the job. I think much of the insurance crap we are encountering is the production company trying to show that we are responsible for what ever goes wrong with our gear on the job.

Regards,

Neal
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#12 Matt Petrosky

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Posted 27 June 2006 - 01:15 AM

A follow-up?

After sending my Steadicam insurance inventory to production I received a phone call at the end of the week asking me a few more questions and notifying me that I would be added to production's insurance policy and issued an insurance cert. Yesterday I took delivery of the insurance cert and so this particular issue is resolved for me.

I?ll be honest, if they would not have agreed to do this, I would not have rented them my gear. It?s not fair and it?s just not worth it, period. Thankfully though I bit my tongue, held my cool, and let production work out what they needed to, all without making any enemies or making a huge fuss. So all?s well that ends well I guess.

I do think this issue of insurance certs is serious, and I?m glad that other people share my concern. Chris is right, we all simply need to stand our ground on this one and as Charles mentioned, it?s black and white. We need to make a decision and stick by it regardless of rate, location, or production; do we want to work for a company that cares so little that they will not do the right thing and insure our equipment? Absolutely not.

-Matt


P.S. Thanks for all the great responses, this is exactly the dialogue and support that I was hoping for. Neal, you make some great points about others being involved with our equipment and how it is used, and it is most definitely not a box rental.
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#13 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 08 August 2006 - 06:20 PM

I'm up for a show in which the insurance cert issue is a problem. It's "B" camera/steadicam on a Fox show and apparently, they lost their original operator due to the fact that they wouldn't insure his gear, so the DP set out to find a replacement, which he couldn't do because no one would do the job without having their gear insured. So now production is trying to find someone and my name has been thrown into the mix. I'm not planning on caving, but I'm curious what approach everyone has been taking with this matter. What approach has worked? What hasn't? This would be a nice show for me, and I would like to do it, just not on those terms. Has anyone had any success turning this around? If I get offered the show I would like to be prepared with a good argument as to why they should re-consider.
Any thoughts or suggesstions would be appreciated.
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#14 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 08 August 2006 - 07:22 PM

What show is this since it's not Fox policy
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#15 bobgilles

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Posted 09 August 2006 - 09:15 AM

Bill as a production services and rental company, do not ever let them take out taxes for you and copy Panavision's rental insurance requirements to your company name and you will do very well. Ei: Bob Gilles Production Services, tax ID (SSI) and build in your union fees in applicable.

I ALWAYS get a cert! I have used this to get my paycheck from meltdown productions when they flake, also make sure that you have the right person's fax number to get this done, if you act like Panavision or Clairmont ect you will be treated like them. 99% of all front office problems are people going to the wrong guy, I have had PM's tell me "no, we don't do that" only to have the production accountant say " of course we do, fax it over" in the same office.
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