Pay It Forward: Payroll Services Help You to Help Yourself

Pay It Forward: Payroll Services Help You to Help Yourself


If you’re still cutting checks from your personal bank account to pay the cast and crew of your production, it’s probably time to think about hiring a payroll company like Entertainment Partners (EP). Currently an industry leader, the company boasts a significant majority of the market share in production management services for television, feature films and commercials. In addition to payroll processing, EP provides residuals and talent payments, production incentive financing, consulting and administration, as well as accounting system and productivity software.

Entertainment Partners started out with just five employees in the late 1970s when it was known as Independent Information Services Corporation (IIS). Over the years, the company grew with several structural changes, and, in 2004, Entertainment Partners employees purchased 100 percent of the company through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) under the leadership of President/CEO Mark Goldstein. Headquartered in Burbank, Calif., EP now has offices in 11 states and employs more than 700 people. “Every encounter with one of our employees is an encounter with an owner and that is really reflected in our dedication to our clients,” says Ron Cogan, VP of corporate communication. “Trusting relationships with unions and guilds also enable us to provide the most up-to-date, accurate wage information.”

For productions in the early stages of budget planning, Cogan urges these filmmakers to do their research to get the most updated fringe rates. He also suggests a review of Entertainment Partners’ paymaster rate book in order to know the current union wage scales, and a consultation with the company’s Financial Solutions group, which can inform filmmakers about the world of production incentives and the most cost-efficient locations for their projects.

Another top-notch payroll company is Cast & Crew Entertainment Services, which offers payroll processing, labor relation services, 24/7 customer hardware and software support, tax incentive guidance, and a planned services group that works with clients to make sure they’ll have everything they need. “We also provide workers compensation insurance,” says Eric Belcher, senior VP of sales and marketing. “We deal with the risk management associated with that. In other words, if there is a workers comp claim, the studio or the production doesn’t need to deal with the claim. We absorb that responsibility.”

Established in 1976, Cast & Crew began by working with musicians who scored music for television. As the company expanded with musicians hired for videos and feature films, it continued to grow to become the second-largest payroll company in the business. “Payroll is a lot more than just handing checks out,” says Belcher. “And you want to make sure you’re with a reputable company, someone who has longstanding relationships with bankers and clients alike. If you have a trustworthy accountant, you’ll have a more efficiently run project, and you’ll get your rebates or incentives back in a timely manner.

“One of the biggest breaks for filmmakers out there right now are the tax incentives,” notes Belcher, who adds that Cast & Crew offers a tip guide that is sent out to clients three or four times a year, giving details on all the incentives for the U.S., Canada and, most recently, the U.K. The company’s Website also has a comparison tool with tax incentive states with an easy, at-a-glance look at what each state has to offer and how it compares across the board.

One of the youngest and fastest-growing payroll companies is Ease Entertainment. Only in its fifth year, the company is headquartered in Beverly Hills, Calif. with eight offices across the United States and Canada. Ease Entertainment offers top-of-the-line production accounting software and is the only bonded payroll company in the business, working well with major studios and smaller independent and commercial producers alike.

Garrett Hauenstein, Ease’s director of marketing and business development, knows a thing or two about how filmmakers can lock down the best locale and incentives for their production. “Throughout your production and the incentive application and audit process you will have the need for a variety of reports,” notes Hauenstein. “Make sure the vendor you choose can provide those reports in a timely fashion, and in the exact format you, your auditor or the taxing authority prefers. If the systems being utilized are antiquated, that can make report generation tedious and difficult.

“From a creative standpoint, don’t eliminate options by relying on geography lessons from school days,” Hauenstein continues. “You’d be amazed at the breadth of locations [and] topographies available in many of these attractive tax incentive states. You’ll also be amazed by the rapidly growing quality of facilities available to you. Just keep in mind the timing of your schedule to factor in seasonal variances.” And Entertainment Partners’ Cogan notes that costs can vary widely from region to region. “Make sure your script breakdown is as close as possible to how you will actually shoot,” says Cogan. “And it is a good idea to consult with a local UPM or production accountant to verify your costs. Plan for variables, such as foreign currency, local qualified spends, special effects and locations.”

Another very important part of payroll involves following the many union rules and regulations, pay classes and benefit contribution requirements, all of which can often be complicated and tedious. “Paying a production is an extremely complex endeavor,” says Entertainment Partners’ Cogan. “When you use our payroll services, our industry-leading specialists become your back office and help you pull it all together.” Entertainment Partners and many other reputable payroll companies offer a wide range of services that can leave filmmakers feeling stress-free. EP’s service package includes accountant resume services, production incentives specialists, petty cash management systems, in-house labor counsel, payroll tax experts, production products and system support, residuals forecasting and processing, workers’ compensation, and a range of production employee services. “Unless you are an expert in payroll, it’s best to leave it to us,” says Cogan.

When it comes to payroll production software, Entertainment Partners’ Movie Magic Scheduling and Movie Magic Budgeting are two of the industry’s standards, and they’re designed to work together. “If you are new to budgeting or scheduling, come take a free Movie Magic training course at our facility or watch one of our many succinct, focused YouTube instructional videos,” offers Cogan. “Bottom line is to make sure you do all your homework and preparation.”

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