From small independent productions to international blockbuster movies, the UK is home to a diverse and exciting video production industry. The BFI found that film and television production accounts for more than 180,000 jobs and contributes over £12 billion to the economy every year.
There are plenty of challenges working in the fast-moving production sector, and managing expenses often tops the list of frustrations. Teams need to juggle the costs of everything from costumes to coffees and travel to trailers – all while carefully balancing dozens of other factors to ensure that the shoot runs as smoothly as possible.
Each of the countless moving parts of a shoot costs money, so there are several factors to consider when forecasting cast & crew expenses. Some areas where teams can often trip up include:
- Providing local currency for international crew members.
- Coordinating spending for multiple departments, including make-up, costume, runners etc.
- Accounting for accommodation whilst on location.
- Unexpected client meeting expenses.
- Per diems for all relevant staff.
- Paying for transport, including taxis.
Since the industry’s start over a century ago, teams have used one blunt instrument to address expenses: cash. Simply handing out wads of cash does the job but isn’t modern, accurate or efficient.
Gathering receipts and organising them is a time-consuming, manual process, and it’s often only possible to understand spending after the fact. Using cash also limits agility, making it hard to provide additional funds for last-minute purchases. And that’s not to mention the security risks – a manager may be handing out thousands of pounds to crew members, some whom they may have never worked with before.
Cash isn’t the answer – there’s a better option for production teams.
A smarter way to manage expenses
By comparison, prepaid cards for business expenses, such as Equals Spend cards, give everyone involved far more control over spending while also saving the finance team time on admin, too. Each team member who is expected to make purchases receives a card, which the team manager or financial controller can pre-load with an amount in accordance to their budget, directly from the app or online account. No more paying out of pocket, no more headaches and no more excessive amounts of cash.
“now we’ve got instant access to see the spend day by day”Cliff, Production Accountant
The system also provides real-time oversight into spending, making it easier for productions to stay on budget. Managers can use the app or online account to see how much money has been spent on each card and review each purchase. “Rather than before, when they’d go off on location, be away for several weeks and then come back with this big pile of receipts, now we’ve got instant access to see the spend day by day” says Cliff, the production accountant at Objective Media Group.
The app also provides a range of powerful tools to control how each card is used, including budgeting per diems by department, team and individual. Managers have total control – they can activate, block, cancel and order new cards, all at the touch of a button. Cards are free to load and spend at the point of sale or online, and they even offer cashback rewards of at least 3.5% at major retailers and supermarkets.
For team members using the cards, the app provides a clear view of their transactions, card balance and allows them to upload receipts and categorise spending to make their production accountant’s life a tad easier. And with expedited account opening and rapid card delivery available, being flexible with who needs cards and where they’re needed is never an issue.
Managers can also top up cards remotely– “once the balance is getting a little bit low, we keep an eye on it, and we top it up with an advance request that comes from the production team” says Cliff. Remote access also provides safety benefits. “If they lose the card, it’s ok. I can clear money off the card instantly or block the card,” adds Sarah, film production accountant at Smuggler London. Managers can also block ATM withdrawals.
Equals Money supports cashless spending worldwide. “We have used the Equals Spend card in South Africa, in Russia, in America, in Canada,” says Sarah. The cards are available in GBP, USD and EUR as base currencies but can be used in over 190 countries, wherever Mastercard is accepted.
“bank reconciliation is done right away”Jean-Frederic, Managing Director
The app and the card use common data formats and processes, making it simple to share with other accounting software; “I export what’s on the website, upload it on my software, and bank reconciliation is done right away,” says Jean-Frédéric, managing director at The Location Guide. Transfers between the cards use “faster payments”, which allows funds to be transferred rapidly and securely between UK bank accounts at any time (learn more about how faster payments can benefit your company).
Equals Money also differentiates itself as the best choice for film and TV expense management by offering dedicated customer service and industry expertise. “It’s about the support that we receive as well,” says Cliff. “When I’m on the phone, they’ll tell me what it is right away or they’ll give me a call back within the hour”.
Ultimately, says Jean-Frédéric, “using Equals Spend allows me to save money, it allows me to save time – and it makes me look good as well.”
Find out more
Keen to discover how your production can get more for its money? Learn more about our expense management and international payments solutions today. We’ve worked with a number of award-winning productions including After Life, Line of Duty, Bridgerton, Downton Abbey, Fighting with My Family and more.