With so many career options in the film and television industry, it can be overwhelming to figure out where you should apply your skills. Our industry Q&As with local crew provide an introduction to the different career paths available in the industry, helping you find what you’re passionate about and providing advice and tips that’ll help you land that dream job.
While it may not seem like the most glamourous job, production accountants provide a crucial service to productions; after all, without them, your cast and crew wouldn’t be paid. Not only are they responsible for payroll, accountants handle all financial aspects of productions, including cost reporting to help producers stay on budget. Production accountants are currently one of the most in-demand positions across the country, so if you’re very organized and good with numbers, it’s one worth considering. We asked Nicole Viens, production accountant with Ottawa’s Fireside Pictures, to tell us about her work and career path.
Can you start by telling us what a production accountant does?
A production accountant looks after all of the finances for a production. Their full duties can include but are not limited to setting up the new corporation/company name for the production, opening the bank accounts, facilitating financial drawdowns from the financer(s) and/or tax credit loan, managing all accounts payable and payroll, filing GST/HST returns, and most importantly, cost reporting to the producers on where their actual budget is in relation to their projected budget.
Did you always want to be a production accountant? How did you get started?
I attended Loyalist College where I achieved an Ontario College Advanced Diploma (OCAD) in Television & New Media Production, with a specialization in producing. I knew that I wanted to do something in a production office, as I’m a hyper-organized and great at managing multiple projects and coordinating details.
After graduation, I started my career as a business coordinator for a website in Toronto. My move to Ottawa landed me a permanent position as a production coordinator and office manager. In 2013, I decided to make a go of it as a freelancer in the growing film industry, and it has been non-stop ever since!
I started as an assistant production coordinator, and in that role, I also assisted the production accountant, and I liked the work. I was hired as a DGC trainee assistant accountant in 2016 and started at Fireside Pictures in 2017.
What skills or training does a production accountant need to be successful?
You have to like budgets and numbers, that’s for sure! Experience in a production office is very beneficial. You need to be familiar with the paperwork that’s flowing through. Attention to detail, being very organized, and respecting deadlines are a must.
Knowledge of accounting practices is an asset, however having a CA, CGA, CMA or CPA designation is not mandatory or necessary. I work on smaller, non-union films, so we use QuickBooks and Excel. I was trained on QuickBooks by a certified trainer.
Higher budget projects that have multiple unions involved typically use a payroll services company like Entertainment Partners or Cast & Crew. I have some training on these programs as well. Being familiar with the unions, as well as their rates and rules, is also helpful.
Is there anything you wish you knew before starting in this field?
I do wish that I had a bit more formal training on the business affairs side of things, as well as more accounting principles. But I have learned, and am continuing to learn, along the way!
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Balancing the cash flow and financing and making sure that every one of your payroll deadlines are on point, especially when you are balancing two to three projects at one time.
What advice would you give to others in Ottawa who wish to pursue a career as a production accountant?
Just get your foot in the door of a production office wherever you can, work hard, listen and learn. Production accounting is a field that has a ton of opportunities… we’re a very sought-after bunch!