Note: Great Society has posted the final part of my "Horror 101" essay. Can you pass the quiz at the end?
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Cindy Marie Martin injured her shoulder and I have this weird throat thing going on so I guess now is a good time to talk about insurance.
I want to start out by saying that no one should trust ONLY my insurance advice. I worked with a qualified lawyer to help decide the types of insurance Women's Studies would require and why. Any would-be filmmaker would be advised to do the same.
The concept of insurance tends to freak out some filmmakers, but it's pretty easy to deal with. Film insurance works just like car, life, or home insurance. If your car is insured and you get in a car wreck, the insurance company will pay for most of the damage to your or another car. If you're not insured, the money comes out of your pocket. So, if there's some cataclysmic screw-up on your film that requires damages to be paid, you're personally responsible for them unless your film is insured.
On the low-budget level, there are basically two types of insurance to be worried about:
Production Liability Insurance - This covers things like injuries on set or damage to a location or property being used for a film. A lot of locations won't even consider letting you shoot there if you don't have production insurance. Same with that guy whose vintage 1956 Chevy Bel Air you want to use in your movie. He'll sleep a little bit better knowing that if something happens to it, it'll be paid for. (You will too.) Rates for liability insurance vary depending on the script and budget. If you have lots of stunts in your film, you'll probably have to pay a higher premium.
Errors & Omissions Insurance - E&O insurance is necessary for a lot of reasons, but the main one is to cover legal fees and damages if any lawsuit is brought forth against the production concerning libel, slander, and/or clearance issues. For example, say you accidentally get a Marlboro logo in your film, and the film gets successful. Well, Marlboro will come at you with a lawsuit saying that you didn't pay them a licensing fee to use their logo. E&O Insurance would keep those damages from coming directly out of your pocket.
Or maybe one of your characters has a line of dialogue that says, "You drive as badly as Paris Hilton sucks dick." Well, if your film is successful, Paris and her little dog might not be too happy about what you said. And trust me, she's got the money to sue you for it. Having a lawyer go over your script and your final print to catch these types of things can help you avoid these lawsuits, but you'll still require E&O Insurance. Most distributors won't even begin to negotiate a deal without it.
Filmmakers freak out and say, "I can't afford insurance!" Trust me, you can afford it a lot more than you can afford to go up against Paris Hilton's legal team. Conventional wisdom states that whatever your budget is, 3% of it will go towards liability and E&O insurance, and the quotes I've gotten have reflected that.
Unless you live in New York or L.A., finding a company who handles production insurance can be tricky. However, just call up your local home or life insurance broker. They should be able to refer you to someone who does. Keep in mind that insurance requirements can also vary from state to state.
Get insurance. Otherwise your chances of getting of your film out there are about as good as the way Paris Hilton sucks dick.