PGGB Membership Focus is our new monthly series designed to shine a light on our talented members, and the roles they perform in our film and high-end TV industry. In this second instalment, we explore the role of the Production Accountant, and we spoke to Miguel Pariente, Jennifer Griffin and Dominique Tucker about their experiences in the industry.
Production accountants do all the things accountants do, but they do it on filming locations amidst the fast-paced and ever-changing world of film and high-end television. They calculate finances, work out the cost of a production, talk to the completion guarantor and control the cash flow, or spending. They help the producers and production managers prepare budgets and estimated final costs, and oversee all payments, manage payroll and provide cost reports, while importantly also evaluating the impact production changes will have on a shoot.
“Everything is part of the package” says Jennifer Griffin. “It’s not just cost reports, petty cash, spreadsheets – it’s about considering everything that will make the production happen, and understanding how all the costs relate to one another and the knock-on effects they might have.”
“A Production Account role is much more than just numbers” Jennifer continues. “It’s a juggling role. Scripts and production requirements constantly change. It’s also an HR role – you have to be mindful about what’s happening with your crew, and any problems personal, financial or otherwise that may occur.”
Being a Production Accountant takes a certain kind of person, argues Dominique Tucker. “I think there’s definitely a type of personality that helps – very organised, efficiency driven, a bit of a logical thinker. It’s about problem solving, looking at the information, the numbers, and being able to interpret what they mean for the production. If you can follow order, make sense of patterns I feel like it stands you in good stead.”
For Miguel Pariente, passion is just as important. “Being a Production Accountant is something you need to love, because it’s not easy” he says. “The accountancy department roles are some of the hardest in the whole production, and if you don’t love it, it’s impossible to do a good job.”
Miguel continues: “You’re always listening and understanding the whole picture, and the love of the job makes you more curious – and with an open attitude to learning you’ll thrive. If you bring something to the table you’ll be rewarded.”
On this open attitude to learning, Jennifer is very much in agreement. “My rule of thumb is that you should learn something new on every production – you should always be learning, always be open to new ideas. What this profession gives you is the joy of travelling, the joy of meeting new people on new shows, and collectively sharing ideas and experiences.”
For all three Production Accountants, the route into the industry has been far from straightforward.
“I never planned to work in the industry” says Dominique. “I studied law. I was given a job by a lovely lady called Diane Twiddy, and it spiralled from there. It’s a really welcoming industry.
People don’t think about accountants as being part of a film – they think about the cameraman, the people in front of the camera – but somebody has to look after the money! My first job was Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit in 2014, at Pinewood. You walk in and you can feel the history. It really was like stepping into another world.”
Miguel studied business administration, before becoming a financial advisor, but it wasn’t for him: “I had some friends working in advertising, and I moved into the art department – but it wasn’t long before my degree came to light! I talked about having studied and worked in finance in a bar on a Saturday night, and on the Monday I got a call about a film called Is Harry on the Boat? Rennie Spiolek, the Production Accountant, liked the way I worked, and we then worked together on BBC’s New Tricks.”