Lights, Camera, Accountants!

Photo (Courtesy The Bahamas Weekly): L-R: Priscilla Delannay, FEMI film festival; Patricia Monpierre, APCAG; FilmTT General Manager Nneka Luke; Bahamian filmmaker and ‘The Cinema’ series host Travolta Cooper at the Cannes Film Festival

Source: Newsday

By Lesley John, ACCA Caribbean. Published on June 1st 2017.

The film and TV industry has always been seen as a glamorous career choice. With its chance to work alongside big movie stars, shooting action packed scenes, this highly creative industry epitomises imagination and all its fun.

In the US alone, the film and TV industry supports over 1.9 million jobs and generates $121 billion in wages, including $50 billion in wages for jobs directly related to the industry according to the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) latest data, showing its vast contribution to the economy., In the Caribbean, it seems Trinidad and Tobago has caught the eyes of many producers in the industry as interest in the country as a location has been steadily increasing. FilmTT is the state agency responsible for developing the local film and audio-visual sector, and for promoting the country as a location through the film commission. According to their latest data issued in March, the country has hosted more than 320 separate international productions in the last ten year, including feature films, one-off programmes and episodes of television series. At the start of this year alone, over 14 overseas film crews came to film across Trinidad and Tobago, including teams travelling from the UK, Canada, Germany, France, Barbados and the US. 

Most recently FilmTT, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and state investment promotion agency InvestTT have been looking into proposals to strengthen production infrastructure and further raise Trinidad and Tobago’s TV and film industry’s international profile. Ideas under consultation include building a production facility with between three and eight sound stages ranging in size from 2000 to 20,000 sq. feet, alongside workshops, backlot areas, equipment repositories, storage units and offices, the proposal comprises post-production and animation facilities capable of supporting the development of up to four feature films at the same time. 

These plans would increase Trinidad and Tobago’s human resources and infrastructure to support the film and TV industry and add to its competitive advantage as a prime filming location. 

Filmmaking is a creative process, with the majority handled by creatives, who tend not to have finance as their core area. Film financing can be an incredibly complex process. The complexity means that recruiting excellent finance professionals is of crucial importance to production companies as many rely very heavily on accountants who understand those realities and can raise funds for them, and in turn raise the credibility for them. 

Traditionally, the finance functions within film and TV companies have supported the business by providing core accounting services such as accounts payable, payroll, credit control, management accounting and client accounting. There has been a significant increase in the demand for commercial accounting skills such as commercial analysts who support production companies in terms of developing more sophisticated reporting tools such as WIP (Work in Progress) tracking, assisting with the bid and tender process for new work, and trying to add value internally and externally. 

Another big strength of the film industry for a country is tourism. Take Ireland for example, the Creative Capital report suggests that 18% of visitors to Ireland are there because they have seen the island on TV or at the cinema. That effect has been particularly noticeable with Game of Thrones, which has generated its own mini-industry of guided tours in and around County Antrim. Many Caribbean islands are reliant on tourism and increased interest would certainly be welcomed. 

Additionally, the industry tends to have the knock-on effect of encouraging growth in ancillary services, such as hospitality, catering, transport and logistics, and financial services. 

Accountancy, truly sits at the heart of one of the most fun and creative industries. It is a sector that seems set to grow much larger and which is likely to play an ever more important role in the Caribbean economy. Finance professionals most definitely have a starring role in this lucrative industry.