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Doing the job

This section offers a breakdown of the range of competencies required for the role of production accountant – what you need to know and what you need to be able to do.

It is useful for any assistant production accountant to be aware of the full range of competencies involved in the more senior role – not least to enable them to benchmark their existing skills and identify gaps if they are considering moving up the ranks.

But not all these competencies will be relevant to any given assistant production accountant role, as this will depend on the exact expectations of the particular role, which in turn will depend on the size of the production accounting team and the scale and complexity of a particular production.

When experienced production accountants and financial controllers/heads of finance speak about what skills and knowledge are needed for the role of production accountant, the consistent response is that there are three main areas:

  • knowledge of how film and television is produced
  • analytical accounting skills
  • soft skills

The following section synthesises the required soft skills, production and accounting competencies for the role.

Production competencies

Understanding how film and television production works means understanding a range of concepts. production accountants need to be able to demonstrate the following competencies:

Understand film and television production

  • Understand the importance and applications of set etiquette
  • Understand the culture of film and television
  • Understand the organisational framework of film and television production 
  • Understand the roles on a production
  • Understand the relationships between these roles and the hierarchy of these roles
  • Understand the relationship of the various departments and how they work together
  • Understand who to report to in any given situation and how to adapt your style of communication based on what role they have

Understand the life cycle of a film or television production and what is involved in taking a product from script to screen

  • Understand what the different stages are, what activities happen in each and what restrictions and opportunities there are in each stage

Understand production financing

  • Understand the differences between project-based production accounting and corporate accounting
  • Understand the roles and hierarchy in the production accounting department
  • Understand how the production accountant and accounting process fit into the hierarchy of the overall production team
  • Understand how production financing works and how to work with producers, senior executives, funding agencies and studio representatives, insurance companies and completion guarantors
  • Understand the differences between various production formats (one-off versus series) and different sizes of production (small versus large budget productions)

Maintain effective working relationships on film and television projects

  • Contribute to the effective working of the team
  • Maintain effective working relationships with colleagues, production teams and suppliers
  • Clarify roles and contributions to the production process
  • Work with colleagues to benefit productivity

Contribute to health and safety on film and television productions

  • Contribute to maintaining a healthy and safe production environment
  • Contribute to maintaining the security of the production environment
  • Identify hazards in the workplace
  • Assess the level of risk and recommend action
  • Review your workplace assessment of risk

Accounting competencies

The role of production accountant requires skills and knowledge in production-specific accounting processes and practices. Depending on the size and complexity of the production budget, the production accountant may be expected to oversee or be responsible in full for the following tasks:

Prepare and manage a budget

  • Identify the resources required to meet the production brief
  • Estimate the costs of the production
  • Plan the production budget
  • Prepare critical assumptions 

Set up all accounts and systems for a new production

  • Record the production’s income and expenditure
  • Collect and collate information for the preparation of final accounts
  • Prepare the extended trial balance

Confirm eligibility for funding and ensure work complies with requirements

  • Establish the potential eligibility of a production to qualify for film or television tax credits
  • Prepare and submit tax credit application

Maintain an effective flow of cash and foreign currency

  • Maintain an effective cash flow for television and film projects
  • Set up and maintain a petty cash system
  • Manage arrangements for foreign currency and foreign receipts and payments

Process production-related payments 

  • Process documents relating to goods and services received
  • Prepare authorised payments
  • Make and record payments on the behalf of the production
  • Prepare VAT returns
  • Identify if returns are monthly or quarterly, set up with cash-flow in mind

Conduct payroll

  • Maintain records of individuals on the payroll
  • Determine individual and aggregate payments
  • Make authorised payments and submit returns

Administer floats and petty cash

  • Administer payments from floats and petty cash
  • Prepare and present reports on the expenditure of floats and petty cash

Monitor production costs

  • Monitor and control production expenditure against budget
  • Prepare and present reports on production expenditure against budget

Analyse production costs

  • Record and analyse information relating to costs
  • Revise forecasts of production costs
  • Prepare and present standard cost reports

Control production costs

  • Set up financial monitoring and control systems
  • Control production expenditure against budget
  • Monitor and manage budget variations

Use tools, systems and equipment

  • Know how to use the four main accounting software packages
  • Understand the various styles of filing used in production accounting departments and develop a system that works for you
  • Understand the various uses of spreadsheets and how to use these within the context of production accounting
  • Use word processors
  • Understand how to use a scheduling software and how to read production schedules
  • Use a budgeting software
  • Contribute to the quality of the computerised accounting system

Ensure compliance with laws, regulations, contracts and agreements

  • Contribute to the establishment of the production entity
  • Monitor and control compliance with legal regulations and non-statutory requirements
  • Keep abreast of changes to HMRC guidelines and legislation

Prepare and pursue insurance claims to completion

  • Establish the potential for claims against insurance cover
  • Prepare insurance documentation
  • Prepare estimates of costs associated with insurance claims
  • Negotiate settlements with insurers for claims against insurance cover

Finalise and close production accounts

  • Complete and submit claim for UK tax credit
  • Ensure paperwork is complete for audit
  • Submit all final tax payroll returns
  • Archive accounts
  • Report to funders regarding compliance with funding requirements

Soft skills competencies

Industry experts often say that once learned, the accounting side of the production accounting role is relatively straightforward and that experience as a bookkeeper will provide a very good background for someone applying to become an assistant production accountant.

It is, however, the accounting skills and production knowledge combined with well-developed soft skills that makes someone stand out in production accounting. Productions are full of curve balls and knowing how to adapt or react, how to communicate and how to problem solve are the skills that will allow you to successfully make use of your accounting competencies.

The soft skills listed here draw on the Competency Profile for Production Managers by the Cultural Human Resources Council, various syllabi and the Creative Skillset’s National Occupational Standards for Production (Film & TV).

The soft skills required a production accounting role include the ability to:

Demonstrate communication skills

  • Give and receive feedback effectively
  • Adapt language and/or jargon according to the recipient or audience
  • Communicate effectively in writing, verbally and in person
  • Select the medium or format of communication appropriately
  • Interpersonal skills; such as:
    • listening and interpreting skills
    • give clear directions
    • persuasiveness

Demonstrate personal skills

  • Demonstrate flexibility, resilience and resourcefulness
  • Manage stress and work under pressure
  • Demonstrate attention to detail and thoroughness
  • Take responsibility for yourself and your work
  • Demonstrate integrity and exercise judgement
  • Be positive, approachable and optimistic
  • Take initiative and demonstrate an understanding of what would benefit the team
  • Demonstrate a ‘can do’ approach to challenging or new situations

Demonstrate effective performance

  • Check for gaps in own skills, understanding and knowledge
  • Acknowledge if mistakes have been made and suggest solutions
  • Complete and provide work to agreed deadlines and standards
  • Communicate a positive attitude towards work, the team and the wider project
  • Refresh knowledge of any film or television-related technological developments
  • Regularly assess own understanding of key technical aspects of the accounting role
  • Clarify role and the expected outcomes and standards of work with the relevant people at the beginning of the project
  • Seek feedback from relevant people to confirm performance is meeting standards
  • Sustain motivation towards work in challenging situations

Demonstrate management skills

  • Plan, organise and prioritise
  • Delegate tasks
  • Exercise leadership
  • Anticipate, prevent and solve problems
  • Mediate conflict and negotiate
  • Exercise authority
  • Allocate, agree and monitor work objectives and activities of others
  • Assist others in their learning and development
  • Exercise management of those reporting to you
  • Ensure compliance with law, legislation, contracts and agreements during recruitment and termination of employment

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