Take, for example, the infamously chaotic filming of Apocalypse Now, a movie so plagued by unforeseen setbacks that it almost never saw the light of day. In fact, as the original schedule of 14 weeks ballooned into a grueling 33 weeks of filming, the crew nearly lost principal actor Martin Sheen to a heart attack. To make matters worse, a typhoon leveled the set in the Philippines, causing $1 million in damages and piling on further production delays. In the end, Apocalypse Now cost the production company a whopping $30 million, nearly double the initial budget of $17 million.
It just goes to show you that on set, anything can happen. That’s why insurance is essential for production companies, so they can protect their investment against all manner of risks: from cast risks like injury and disgrace, to location risks like natural disasters. Insuring the movie industry helps to ensure the completion and release of films, for the benefit of cast and crew, production companies… and audiences.
To learn more about this business and its intricate web of risks, we met John Young, Underwriting Manager, Media & Entertainment at AXA XL.
What kind of insurance do you provide for the movie industry?
We offer insurance coverage for producers of high-budget movies, television series, music videos, ads. We cover technical equipment such as lights, cameras, sets, wardrobe. We also provide public liability and employers’ liability cover throughout the time of the production, and cover extra expenses resulting from a delay on production: we indemnify the policyholder if a star actor or actress is unwell or injured, or if part of the set is damaged and has to be rebuilt, for instance.
How do you assess the risk profile of a movie production?
When we consider underwriting a film, we look at all manner of things: the budget, shooting schedules, but also the script and the cast. We consider the locations and logistics involved in the making of the film, and the risks that are specific to them. We review the storyline to understand the production plans for stunt work, special filming conditions and visual effects.
It is important to understand the cast exposure, of course, and this involves reviewing cast medicals and accessing the shooting schedule. We may also look at how the crew is being used, if the team is accustomed to working together or not, etc. It takes a certain knowledge of the industry.
And of course, technology is evolving and this also affects the types of risk we are looking at. For example, many movie productions now use drones, and this also can affect their risk profile.
Do you have any cover specific to the industry?
We offer a wide range of optional coverage, among which a “Disgrace indemnity”. This covers an incident whereby a star, or anyone that is crucial to a movie production, is involved in an incident that would severely damage their reputation and affect the viability of the film. This coverage responds to a specific trigger: for instance, for the disgrace indemnity to be triggered, there must be a criminal act that is reported to the authorities.
And we don’t just cover humans. We can provide insurance for animal cast members.