Making Friends with Production Accounts – The Basics

IMG_0856Working in accounts in film you tend to notice people making the same mistakes over and over again. In an attempt to try and get more information out about how accounts need things, and also to give those people starting in the industry a basic understanding, I have put together this post.

The first and probably most crucial thing to understand is that nothing can happen instantly. We are here to help and will certainly endeavour to get you things when you need them, but we have processes that need to be followed and our systems tend to be tedious, laborious and involve numerous signatories before we can make a payment.

Remember that we not only have to adhere to the instructions of the Producers but also the rules set out by the studio (or financiers) that are essentially paying everyones wages. On top of that we also have to follow tax law. When we ask for something a certain way, its not because we are trying to piss you off, its because it is a requirement of one of these organisations. The quicker you deliver us what we need the quicker we can make payment – everybody wins.

Invoice Requirements

  • All invoices need to say ‘Tax invoice’ not proforma, not quotation, not delivery slip – ‘Tax Invoice’. If the company you are buying from cannot supply a tax invoice for payment please discuss this with your accounts team.
  • Anyone charging GST should have a GST number on the invoice (or receipt if it is petty cash – we cannot claim the GST without this).
  • The invoice should be made out to the production company name, not the name of the show, your name or the previous company you worked for (trust me it happens).
  • If there have been changes to the order (or something on the invoice is wrong) we need the supplier to reissue. Legally we are required to pay what is on the original invoice. It will not be unusual for most companies to supply a credit note, otherwise they can reissue. If there are any problems please speak to your accounts team.

Urgent Payments

  • Putting urgent on everything is like being the boy who cried wolf, we won’t believe anything is urgent which won’t be a problem until something actually is.
  • If you need something paid urgently because it has been sitting on your desk for a week and you forgot about it admit it. It’s generally pretty obvious when the invoice is dated over a week ago anyway.
  • If you approach accounts in a respectful and friendly manner, then we will be more inclined to help you out. A little bit of respect (and chocolates if necessary) go a long way.

Time Sheets

  • Please send this in weekly. It is actually a real pain for the payroll accountant if you don’t.
  • If you don’t understand the timesheet, make a time to speak to someone about it to make sure you are filling it in correctly.
  • If your using an electronic template, do not mess with the equations. If you delete numbers out of a cell you might be deleting equations – save the template blank and always use that if you need to make changes.

Petty Cash (PC)

  • It will always pay to check what will be accepted as a receipt for cash purchases – particularly with regards to TradeMe. This will differ from production to production.
  • ALWAYS tape your receipts down to A4 sheets of paper (if the receipt is A4 it can be submitted as is). Make sure these are numbered and the numbers correspond to the numbers on the front of the envelope.
  • If you know that items on one receipt belong to more than one account code split them out on the front of the envelope – your petty cash accountant will really love you for this.
  • Don’t worry about calculating GST on the envelope. The accounts team are happy to do this part and generally have a system to do it much quicker then you could.

Purchase Orders (PO)

  • Put as much information as possible on the purchase order – if you have a quote you don’t need to write everything on it out, you can attach it. If you don’t have a quote then the more information we have the easier it will be to match it to the invoice later.
  • If you are hiring something make sure you include the following information – dates of hire, (if not obvious from the dates the number of days hired), the rate per item of hire, any other costs (i.e. delivery, servicing cleaning etc) and a description of what is being hired.
  • If you do not know what something is going to cost put an estimate on it (accounts work with numbers, we can’t enter a purchase order without a figure into our system). Just clearly state that you are estimating.
  • If you receive an invoice that you know is different from your PO then write on the invoice why the amount differed (i.e. held onto items for extra few days for pick-ups) and deliver the invoice to accounts.
  • If you have created a PO and you know that the amount has changed (you picked up more items, or hired an item longer than you initially thought) make sure you ask the accounts team how to amend the PO. This will differ from show to show.

LASTLY – the most important thing you can remember is, if you don’t know ask. If you do ask, listen to the instructions given. The accounts department want you to deliver the best paper work possible and even though it might seem like hard work, once you get the hang of it, it will be surprisingly simple and save everyone more time in the long run – which will make you look like a superstar.


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