The magic of the movies has the power to transport theater goers to distant lands, faraway places and, in some cases, entirely different planets. Television shows are no exception, and the power of set design is a contributing factor to why we’re currently living in the age of “Peak TV.”
In many cases, productions—both film and television—have been able to achieve these visual effects by going outside of Hollywood sound studio walls and filming on-location. While some productions are heading overseas, many are moving to the Gulf Coast, including Florida and Louisiana. Enticing these productions is the region’s natural beauty, but also the state-issued tax incentives, which can bring down the cost of a production.
But, with the fall production season here, these financial incentives can be literally blown away if production companies do not properly prepare for hurricane season—the height of which aligns coincidentally with the fall production season. Despite the significant threat, however, producers often overlook the risk, leaving it to agents and brokers to help fill in any gaps. With NOAA recently upgrading the threat for hurricanes to “above normal,” here are three things production companies and their insurance and risk management advisors can do to safeguard productions from the potential consequences of hurricane season.
1.) Cast Your A-List (Hurricane) Celebrity
The critical first step is ensuring that every production has a designated hurricane and extreme weather lead in place.
This person—ideally located on-site—will be responsible for monitoring weather advisories and, should the need occur, activating a response plan. An additional job function will be liaising with civil authorities who issue and manage local filming permits. Should a hurricane approach, local authorities are the ones responsible for making evacuation decisions. If an evacuation is ordered, filming permits will be pulled, and productions must comply with local mandates.
Failure to have a single point person that is empowered to lead the production before, during and after a hurricane can disrupt even the best laid emergency preparedness plans. The hurricane and extreme weather lead is the star of the hurricane preparedness and response show, and production companies and their insurance and risk management advisors should ensure they have the resources they need to succeed.
2.) Rehearse for Disasters
Once a hurricane and extreme weather lead has been assigned, it’s important that production companies and their insurance and risk management advisors sit down with this person to discuss what type of insurance is required to transfer some of the associated risk.
This discussion should start with the understanding that, in the event of a hurricane, the primary financial impact to productions is lost filming time, as opposed to physical property damage. While the group shouldn’t overlook property insurance entirely, understanding your average daily cost of production is critical to ensuring the right business interruption limits are purchased. To factor the average daily cost of production, consider the cost of renting equipment, cast and crew payment, and lodging – just to name a few.
Getting this number right is imperative. Too low and it means possibly purchasing an insurance policy with inadequate limits—leaving a production exposed to out-of-pocket costs in the event of a weather-related delay, which could jeopardize the overall endeavor. While it is impossible to know how many days (or even weeks) a production might be delayed, it’s important that limits are also high enough to address whatever that down time may be.
3.) Put the Writers to Work—On An Emergency Response Plan
With the insurance safeguards in place, it’s then important that production companies and their insurance and risk management advisors work with the hurricane and extreme weather lead to create an emergency response plan.
No matter where in the Gulf a production is filming, all plans should detail evacuation protocols. What those protocols are, however, will differ. For instance, based on local geography and topography, it’s important to determine which areas are most likely to flood first and how that impacts evacuation timing; simply assuming the cast and crew can take the main road out of town isn’t a sure bet. Working with local authorities ahead of production can help production companies, their insurance and risk management advisors, and the hurricane and extreme weather lead account for such nuances.
Plans should also account for where cast and crew will be evacuated, ensuring they have a safe location to ride out the storm. This includes lodging accommodations, which often means working with hotels in other parts of the state or region ahead of time to ensure accommodations in the event of a storm. For production companies, their insurance and risk management advisors, and the hurricane and extreme weather lead, the worst case scenario would be a well-developed evacuation plan with nowhere for the cast and crew to go.
Finally, an emergency response plan should include protocols for distributing disaster kits—regardless of whether an evacuation is ordered. Such kits should include, at minimum, enough cash for three days, first aid and medicine, flashlights and spare batteries, bedding, and food.
Even the best screenwriters can’t predict Mother Nature’s behavior and storms will continue to form and the Gulf will continue to be a high-risk area. Coupled with the knowledge that two of the top five costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have hit the region in the past two years alone, productions can’t leave it to chance. It’s not too late to help media and entertainment clients prepare to enter this production season, but the time to “act” is now!
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