Production Accounting

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Production accounting is one of the most thankless but important jobs on any show. Whether you're shooting a music video, a TV commercial, pilot episode, or feature film, once that show wraps, your balance sheets should reflect no discrepancy. While this is in fact a rare phenomenon, it's not altogether unheard of. Usually, though, there are a few dollars unaccounted for that get chalked up to "petty cash" expenditures or are taken from the overages and contingencies account.

With a trusty production accounting program, the odds are far increased that you'll wrap your shoot with a surplus instead of a loss. This is because budgeting software allows accountants, producers, studio bosses, and lawyers to keep a tight hold on the purse strings. Each budget is managed with the same care, yet all of them may be taken together via bid form or "top sheet" for a holistic view of a production's finances.

Unique Features of Production Accounting Packages

There are literally dozens of different budgeting software suites in "off-the-shelf" varieties, but few of these are designed specifically for entertainment. Many will allow you to customize your fields to reflect TV- and film-production standards, but these still tend to be inferior to specific applications such as Movie Magic software or AICP Actuals. These latter programs are tailored for the independent producer with the Herculean task of overseeing umpteen separate accounts simultaneously.

Good production accounting software will allow you to track bids, contact vendors, calculate your actuals, and print job listings and folders. By using a central database that aggregates all your production's expenditures, a great program has no trouble importing and exporting that data to other applications. You might, for instance, need to link your budget to your call sheets. Or you may want to tie them to your script breakdown, one-liner, stripboard, or shooting schedule.

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