By Winnie Wong
When it comes to filmmakers, they go “where no man has gone before” to get their story – South Africa, Brazil, China, Russia, India, Bulgaria…Space? There are evidently no “final frontiers” for film. Filming abroad can be very challenging…the language, customs and being in constant motion can result in potential risks even for the most seasoned film producer. Wouldn’t it be great if filmmakers could “beam down” to their destination, conduct their filming and “beam up” in time for supper? I wish it were possible; it would make my job much easier.
As an insurance broker, it is my job to secure a variety of coverages to protect my clients while filming abroad. The policies are as follows:
- Production Package – provides coverage for cast, faulty processing, props, rented or owned equipment and third party locations. This policy will provide coverage for damage, destruction, theft or vandalism.
- Foreign Package, which consists of:
- Foreign General Liability – covers occurrences of bodily injury and property damages that the insured is legally obligated to pay.
- Foreign Auto – covers occurrences of bodily injury and property damages due to the use of non-owned vehicles.
- Foreign Workers’ Compensation – pays for medical care and rehabilitation for employees who are injured on the job or contract a work-related illness. Coverage is only provided for US hires and third-country nationals.
- Guild Travel – provides accidental death and dismemberment coverage for 24-hour business travel. This coverage is required by signatories of guild associations – DGA/WGA/SAG – Aftra.
- Kidnap and Ransom – provides coverage for kidnapping, extortion, wrongful detention and hijacking.
For a quotation, you would need to provide the following information:
- Provide the number of US citizens and third-country hires
- Filming locations
- Length of filming
- Stunts/Pyro techniques
Before selecting the country you will be filming in, please check the U.S. Department of State travel.state.gov website. The State Department issues Consular Information Sheets for every country that provides helpful information on vaccinations, currency or entry requirements, safety concerns, areas of instability, local laws and the location of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Presently, insurance companies have concerns with any filming that takes place in hostile, unstable countries where terrorist attacks and violent crime can occur. The insurance carriers rely on the travel warnings that are issued by the U.S. State Department.
If the intended country is dangerous to foreigners and there is a possibility of bombings, carjacking, kidnapping, home invasions or burglary, you can anticipate a more lengthy underwriting experience and a higher foreign workers’ compensation premium, since the well-being of your film crew is the underwriter’s primary concern. As it is not the underwriter’s intent to stifle the vision of the project, risk management tools such as being accompanied by a bodyguards or security guards. You may want to consider providing Kidnap and Ransom coverage as producers, directors and cast members can be targeted. This coverage will cover ransom payment, loss of income, and interest on bank loans. In addition, this coverage provides crisis management to assist in any hostage situation.
Plan ahead and utilize a production service company or production studio in the country to locate reliable production personnel. Take caution when hiring locals to assist you with the language, directions and accommodations. We have had reports that locals are occasionally responsible for lost or stolen property.
In addition, you must find rental houses that can supply production equipment. For instance, if your camera or special lens is damaged you may not be able to find a suitable replacement from a local rental house, or you may have to wait a couple of days for a replacement camera or lens to get to you.
If your film involves stunts or pyrotechnics, it is recommended that you utilize experienced technicians. An experienced technician should break down the stunts/pyrotechnics exposures, conduct safety meetings and rehearsals. It is important to establish safety measures to protect participants, the public and equipment.
Besides man-made perils, there are natural perils of which filmmakers need to be cognizant. Proper care should be made when your project involves filming on or near water, climbing high elevations, enduring extreme weather conditions and working around wild animals.
You are not alone when you have insurance coverage in place. The insurance company can provide:
- 24-hour claims assistance
- Emergency medical evacuation – arrangement for medical transport to an appropriate medical facility or to return home in order to receive care.
- Repatriation of remains – arrangement of transportation to return remains in the event of death
- Crisis Management – designated team to negotiate with kidnappers.
What kinds of losses have been reported on films? See examples below:
- Car accident occurred and insured had to be transported to US for treatment.
- Production equipment was stolen out of the car while parked in front of a local restaurant.
- Camera equipment was stolen out of the hotel the production crew was staying in.
- An illness put a crew member in a hospital on a ventilator. It was later determined that the illness was viral and was contracted from rat feces in the hotel room.
- Production equipment was stolen at airport.
Let’s face it, filmmaking is hard and arduous work – but in the end, it’s worth it because your film has the potential to impact and influence an unlimited audience. So, as they say on the Starship Enterprise, “Live long and prosper.” Time to beam me up, Scotty!