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    Industry Contraction...Now What? Here's What Accountants Said

    Our latest quick take webinar, “A Call for Innovation: Navigating Industry Contraction” touched on many challenges production accounting and payroll teams are facing today. 


    • Why is the industry in a period of contraction, and how long will it last? 
    • When you have less headcount to work with, how can you be more efficient? 
    • What kind of expectations should production accountants have when it comes to work-life balance, remote, hybrid, and full time in office work? 
    • And through all of this, is it possible for production accounting teams to influence payroll software choices?

    Let’s dive in with SVP, Head of Accountant Relations S. Brett Gantt, Manager of Accountant Training Jenna Kaye, and the perspectives from the production accounting professionals themselves. 

    Why is the industry in a period of contraction, and how long will it last? 

    During the webinar, Brett Gantt said he thinks where we’re at now began several years ago when Netflix and Amazon started developing a new distribution channel rather than through traditional networks and cable. “When they first started, they were licensing content from the big providers, but then they soon determined that they needed to build up a library quickly. So, there was this big explosion in production. Everyone was working. Everything was getting green-lit. There were even memes about ‘I have an idea; it’s green-lit.’”

    Gantt said that after this period of growth, the streamers were competing for subscriber bases. "Now, they have to show profitability to their stockholders."

    Gantt continued, “Then the SAG and WGA strikes happened and the industry came to a screeching halt. Now we have the IATSE negotiations going on. As a result, there’s  fewer projects in the US and  more international work coming up.”

    Here’s what production accountants thought about how long it would last when we put up a poll on our GreenSlate LinkedIn Company page, which had a similar result as the webinar audience.

    LinkedIn Poll

    So we’re in a contraction and things aren’t ideal, how do we deal with it now and into the future?

    On being efficient regardless of team headcount

    A common conundrum on productions is that a producer might push for fewer people on an accounting team, but to meet their reporting requirements for tax credits, that team needs to have enough people to get the job done efficiently and effectively. 

    We asked accountants how they felt their department was affected on their last production. 

    One accountant stated that they're not so much affected, but they push back because productions now realize the strength of CACHé and PEX, which involves a lot of data entry.

    Accountant 1: “The crew does a decent job coding, but we still need to clean things up and make sure things are done properly. It’s not the crew’s job to worry about the tax credit; that's a back-end job that we do. So, we've been fortunate to work with producers that understand that. And if they don't give us enough time or there isn’t enough detail, then we mark things as non-qualified. If we don’t have the information now, there’s no way we’re going to get it in several weeks, and forget it if it’s months later during an audit by the State or the CPA. More than likely, they’ll pick a bunch of things for which we’re missing receipts, and the audit just goes sideways.” 

    ✅ Jenna Kaye noted that there are innovative ways in GreenSlate that help to keep things from going sideways. 

    Benefits and drawbacks to working remote, hybrid, or full time in office

    Is there a “best way of working” when it comes to being fully remote, hybrid, or in-office full time?

    We asked, and here’s what a few production accountants had to say.

    Accountant 2: “I like a hybrid. I've been doing remote or did remote a lot during the COVID years. So, I am a little tired of remote, but I do like the idea of a hybrid because work-life balance, as we all know in this industry, especially years ago, wasn’t a thing. I think now we've gotten used to it a bit more. If I can have a mix of both, that'd be great.”

    Brett Gantt: “Do you think that producers and UPMs and other department heads can work with a remote accounting team? What kind of challenges have you experienced with that when you were working remotely and a department head needed to get in contact with you?” 

    Accountant 2: “Yeah, I think it has been a challenge, and a lot of producers feel that especially accounting shouldn’t work remotely. There's a bit of annoyance there. But I think there’s a way to do both. That's why I think the hybrid might be a better way because there really is no need for us to be in the office five days a week. But I think if we're there for three days and we work remotely, I know I get more work done remotely than in the office because people are always coming in and out of the office. So, I feel like there’s been pushback on it. I think it's a little easier now. I know the opportunities that I’m getting now; no one wants anyone to work remote. But there should be a way to accommodate this new world as well.”

    What about productivity when the crew has to be handled for the accounting team to get their work accomplished? 

    That can make a production accounting team’s job harder. But Jenna Kaye says, “There are ways within GreenSlate so that you don’t have to hold their hand. We’ve also developed ways to enable the crew to work more the way they normally do, and we share that when you're getting set up with us. But we have figured out a way to get our jobs done, still having the crew do what we basically need them to do and not hold their hand.” 

    Another accountant explained how they initially saw more value in being in-person, but that they’re learning to “accept being remote,” and the benefits it can bring. 

    Accountant 3: “I think I was the last person on the planet to want to go remote. I believed in being in the office. What you hear in the corners of the hallways and stuff is always the best place to get information. But accounting is always stuck in an office, and producers and department heads are running around planning for the next scenes, scouting, and stuff like that.

    We’re not actually chasing them down where they are. So I think I’m learning to accept remote, but I believe the hybrid option gives us a chance. If these software tools are improving vastly, we don’t have to be in Australia to do this job. What we have to get the market to understand is that we don’t need to go to South Carolina, we don’t need to go to Indonesia to do our jobs. We can do it from our desks in LA as these products continue to get smarter.”

    Brett Gantt replied that, “It’s up to us to set the high bar in conjunction with picking the right tools.” 

    ✅ Here Brett talks about setting that high bar.

    Can accountants influence payroll software choice for a production?

    Many might think that, “We're stuck with whatever the studio and the producers start with.” 

    Not true, said Gantt.

    “I think if we, as a craft, say that we want the best tools, the studios would listen.” 

    Who are the decision-makers? Who gets to decide what software production accounting teams use? 

    ✅ Brett believes it’s the accountants who have the biggest say. 

    Still, there can be hurdles as one accountant attests..

    Accountant 4: “I find that sometimes, the studio dictates a lot which is very hard to overcome. You walk into a show, and they say, ‘This is what you use, and if you don’t like it, take a hike.’ And it’s understandable. Where I'm having a huge challenge is that producers used to say, ‘What do you want?’ If it's a non-studio, I can pick what I want, and they’re very easy. It's the line producer and the PM who will kick and scream if they don't know the software.

    Since COVID, I've been on quite a few productions, including a huge pilot where we were back in the Dark Ages with the accounting because the line producer and the PM didn't want to learn the new system. It was a circus. They didn't want to go with [our software choice] since they didn't understand it. It's really sad and put pressure on the accounting department, which led to them not having enough staff. I had to put in a complaint because the PM walked through the hallways one day and said, ‘This is the worst accounting staff I’ve ever dealt with.’ Meanwhile, we were back in the Dark Ages. So, it was really sad, and I find the pressure comes more from the line producer and the PM.”

    ✅ Jenna Kaye agrees and has some ideas on how to help with this.

    ✅ One way to tackle this is instead of meeting resistance with resistance, meet resistance by presenting an advantage

    Want to learn more about how production accountants can payroll software choices? Read this.

    GreenSlate is an innovative solution

    We always appreciate a kind word from those who use our software, and know it helps validate and give confidence to those who are looking to advocate for the most innovative production accounting and payroll software on their next production, so we’ll leave you with this unsolicited testimonial:

    Accountant 5: “I just wanted to mention how amazing it has been to have GreenSlate as our communication tool. It’s helped as we move to remote work and have crews that travel. It's made the crews and producers be open to communication with the accounting team while having everything backed up. It has been helpful instead of coming into the office asking for information. It makes everyone be specific and clear about their needs. It’s been such a helpful tool in processing through this new world.”

    Want to hear more insights from production accountants? Check out our last webinar recap where accountants spilled the tea on studio expectations, software training, and remote work.

    Interested in attending upcoming webinars? Sign up here for updates on what’s coming and when.

    Topics: Accounting
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