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    Accountants Spill Tea on Remote Work, Software Training, and Studio Expectations

    We recently held a webinar where S. Brett Gantt, GreenSlate SVP Head of Accountant Relations, and Jenna K., Accounting Training Manager took (and answered) questions from a diverse group of production and payroll accountants. 

    There’s a lot to be learned here whether you’re an accountant or hiring an accounting team and setting expectations for them.

    We sparked the conversation with the following questions:

    • Do you have the tools to be able to work remotely in an efficient manner?
    • Are studios expectations from the accounting team realistic?
    • Do you think legacy software training is adequate? 

    Do you have the tools to be able to work remotely in an efficient manner?

    Since the pandemic, remote work changed the world of work forever. And it’s no different with production accounting. This is an area where opinions can vary greatly, and it benefits to be aware of the different points of view.

    Accountant 1: “I actually prefer working in the office. For me, it's an easier way to control the narrative because if I'm out of the office and I'm working with maybe a difficult production team and I'm just being open and honest guys, I've been in this for maybe 20 years now and depending on who your production team is, it can be very challenging being out of the office. So it is better for me to have at least half the team in the office.

    I will always be there in the office six or seven days a week and I do allow some staff, depending on where they're located, to stay at home. But for me it's better to be in the [actual] space.”

    S. Brett Gantt: How do you coordinate staying in communication and syncing with the people that work remotely?

    Accountant 1: “So with my biggest challenge, at least for me and for my staff, that's working remotely, phone, text, DM, Zoom, video, Facetime, whatever they may need.

    And it is difficult because on the last production I did we had to use nine different applications and that was just really painstaking for me because I'm sorry, I don't consider myself a techie, but I don't think anyone wants to learn nine applications for a job that's only going to last 4 to 5 months. So I thought that was outrageous. The majority of my time from 8 am to maybe 8 pm was just managing my staff in-house and remote on these different applications.

    Everything was so archaic. It was like trying to make fire with rocks and it was just really frustrating.”

    Accountant 2: “I've been working from home for the past three years and I feel like I've been extremely productive. I get up early. I'm very dedicated and diligent. So I feel like after working from home for three years, having a child, and having to pick her up from school and things like that, now I see a lot of jobs are [no longer] remote.

    So for my situation that's going to be a tough transition, having to go back into the office. I know a lot of people may not agree with that. But just for me in the way that I work and the way that I have structured the past three years, it's [WFH] been really productive. So I'm hoping to be able to continue with [WFH].

    I do like working in the office, I like communicating. I like being in the mix of things but just logistically for my family situation, it’s going to be tough for me to figure out how to navigate [going back to the office].”

    S. Brett Gantt has a GreenSlate solution: “All of the these departments are going to be working in the same app you are [with GreenSlate]. Let’s say the location department needs to generate a check request, they go into GreenSlate, create the check request, it’s in there and you don’t have to worry about what’s stacking up on everyone’s desk. Everybody has visibility on that. The GreenSlate app can open up remote work tremendously.”

    Are studios expectations from the accounting team realistic?

    Accountant 3: “It all depends on who you are being led by. If you have a line producer and UPM who don’t know how to manage a set and if they’re not as well versed with payroll, you could spend a lot of time doing this back-and-forth, back-and-forth.”

    Accountant 4: “I had one producer who argued with me even though I showed her the whole set up, that our daily rate is divided by 8. This is pretty much non-stop with any new production I do.” 

    Jenna K.: “You can’t control who your lead is or the experience of a producer. But something we can control is what we’re working in. If you’re working in our system the opportunity for mistakes decreases. And if you’re no longer having to shuffle paper or work in multiple systems, mistakes are even less frequent.”

    Accountant 5: “I feel that studios do, in fact, have unrealistic expectations from the accounting staff because they don't understand the department. Therefore, you end up wearing way too many hats and you're spread too thin. That's how you end up working 80-hour weeks. I just feel like the hats and responsibilities are usually cast all on maybe one or two people and it doesn't work. It creates more stress and more room for error when there's more added stress and more responsibilities on one individual, rather than delegating out the responsibilities to multiple individuals. While some software may have the opportunity to streamline some things, it is still necessary to have more than a couple of people in an accounting payroll team."

    I've used GreenSlate and Cast & Crew over the last couple of years, and GreenSlate has really come a long way since the first time I've used it, and I've been very impressed with how it's grown. The rush approval feature is very beneficial and it's really come a long way. There's a lot of positives to it.”

    Learn more about GreenSlate’s beneficial Rush Approval system

    Listen to Jenna speak about how your advice while working with us has an impact on our development cycle. 

    Do you think legacy software training is adequate? 

    Respondents were pretty evenly split on this one with some feeling legacy training does the job while the other half feels it’s lacking in general. When you're choosing a payroll provider, what -- and the kind of -- training they have available matters.

    Jenna K.: “One of the things that I felt was missing with training for me over the years is that I've been trained by basically software people. I haven't been trained by people that know what we do on a database day to day basis and how we do it. And with our training, we're training with people like Brett and myself who have been in the industry. We know what it's like to be in the trenches. We’ve encountered almost everything that's out there in the combined years we've been doing this.

    So it adds a different element of understanding and it adds a different element of being able to understand what you [production accountants] do because we're all on the same page.”

    Become a GreenSlate power user with these time-saving tips

    Questions from Accountants

    Q: What’s the best way to learn skills outside of your main role? I’ve been in payroll for years and would love to learn about the accounting side and budgeting so that I can expand my knowledge.

    Jenna K.: "Well of course training. But if you’re talking about budgeting knowledge, those’ll be covered in our accounting class later this year. But honestly, take any class you can. You're going to learn something from everyone and you're also going to learn from the other people in the class. So I highly recommend taking training… taking training for anything."

    S. Brett Gantt: "And then it's really about the team, right? If you're with a good team they're going to want to promote your growth. So tell them, make sure people know that you want to enhance your skill set."

    Q: What’s the next position after payroll accountant?

    S. Brett Gantt: "RETIREMENT! No, no, no. This is actually a really common question! A payroll accountant starts off as an onboarding clerk, then moves up to an assistant, and then moves up to a payroll accountant, and then how to become a production accountant? 

    Training is number one, sitting in through classes, learning what other positions do. In between projects, I told my payroll accountant, 'Look, if you're ready to move up to be a Key or 1st assistant, take a little pilot project, work on the AP side, so you can see what they do.' 

    Everything is compartmentalized and people don't really realize what others are actually doing. Once they see that, their eyes open and they're like, 'Whoa, I had no idea this was going on.' 

    A payroll accountant is one of those areas where you're going to be in high demand. But if you want to move up to a production accountant, you really need to learn the AP side. Start with training, get on a small project."

    You’re welcome to join any of our upcoming training webinars. You can sign up for the latest updates on what’s coming up here. 

    January 25, 2024

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