By Christie Mattull

For all the rewards of a creative venture – whether for television, the big screen or streaming purposes – there are going to be risks. Some are bigger than others. Some are less obvious, others, more so. Any way you look at it, though, if something goes wrong with your project, there’s a steep price to pay. It makes a comprehensive production insurance policy mandatory.

Production insurance is the heart of the broad category of entertainment insurance. It goes deep into the production itself, covering just about every facet where something can go wrong. It’s not something you want to leave to chance, and, in fact some of its protections may be required by your business partners. 

Your best bet is to have a risk expert like your insurance broker or your lawyer examine your script and study your budget to plan your coverage adequately to ensure your production is a hit while avoiding getting hit in the process. 

Here are the key components of a production insurance policy:

  1. Cast insurance. For any type of scripted production (versus reality type programming), cast insurance protects against actors, directors or other critical players becoming incapacitated due to illness, injury or death. It covers additional costs for a production delay or if an artist needs replacing with more expensive talent.  
    True story: Actor Paul Walker’s death in a fiery car crash in 2014 occurred as Universal Picture’s Fast and Furious 7 was underway. It triggered a record-breaking $50 million claim as the producers scrambled to save the footage already shot and cover the various costs of the extended shooting schedule, from keeping key players onboard in the interim to screenwriting revisions. 

  2. Negative, film and faulty stock. By today’s standards, “film” is an archaic term, but the insurance remains relevant to today’s digital media. This type of insurance doesn’t cover the equipment itself, but does cover the output. It’s mainly triggered as a function of camera error.
    Consider this: It could come into play when, after a day of shooting, the dailies reveal an issue with fogging that requires a reshoot. Another instance? If a faulty digital camera causes the day’s footage to be erased.  

  3. Equipment, camera and lighting. This is the coverage that protects the production equipment itself against loss or damage. 
    True story: One client stored all its equipment in a vehicle overnight at a shooting location. An electrical short set the vehicle on fire, destroying it and everything inside it, and triggering a claim.

  4. Props, sets and wardrobe. Whether the shooting location is a stage or a home, and the props are owned or rented, this coverage protects against physical loss, damage or destruction during the production. However, certain items like boats, planes, antiques and artwork are usually restricted or excluded for physical damage coverage when being used as props, but can be added by endorsement to insure they are properly covered. 
    Consider this: Losses can result from acts of God, like fire or flood, accidents, or human error, like mishandling the transfer of props. 

  5. Third party property damage. This protection is essential for productions with location shoots, and is required in order to secure necessary permits. 
    True story: As part of a stunt for one project, a vehicle crashed into a fire hydrant, sending water into the air and onto the roof of an adjacent building. In the time it took to shut off the flow, water poured from the roof throughout every unit in the multi-level building, leading to a claim of several hundred thousands of dollars.

  6. Production insurance add-ons: While the above are standard elements of a production insurance package, some additional coverages may be required as special endorsements. One is family bereavement and life threatening illness, which comes into play if a close family member dies or is seriously ill during a project and the actor needs personal time away from the production. Another, kidnap and ransom insurance, could be called for if the shooting is taking place in a politically unstable location.

There’s a lot at stake when it comes to entertainment productions. Getting the right insurance coverage makes the risk more manageable.

HUB International’s team of Entertainment Insurance experts are ready to guide your team on all the risk considerations that should be factored into planning for any type of show.