One of my least favorite activities was paying bills and doing payroll. Early on, I thought I would tough it out and do the accounting alone and without software, but discarded that notion as soon as bills started piling up before pre-production even began. And, as I pored over the IRS reporting requirements and things like state taxes and 1099s for vendors, I knew that I needed an accountant’s help as well.
I interviewed about 5 or 6 local accountants to see if they could fill the job. None were experienced with movies, which was not good because the the accountant should categorize expenses in a standard way as done in the film industry.
Eventually we found a person who was willing to do part of the job on a part-time basis remotely from Austin, Texas. I was unhappy about having him not be present, not least because I didn’t like paying the hefty auto expenses for him to come up once a week. But I also felt that the production would have been less expensive if we’d had an on-site accountant overseeing expenses. As it was, there were some expenses that shouldn’t have been allowed, some cheating on timesheets, problems with data entry to the accounting software, and errors in record-keeping. I think those would have been avoided with an accountant present.
My role in the accounting process was threefold. Every week I would write payroll checks by hand (another thing that should have been automated, but I didn’t have the time to learn), a process that took an entire afternoon. Then I would pay bills and keep records. Then, after production was over and our accountant was off the job, I took over all accounting activities including filings with the IRS and state tax agencies, printing and mailing 1099s, reconciling bank and credit card statements, records-keeping, and filing income tax. Even as I write this, the accounting obligations go on and on, as today I spent reconciling expenditures. Ugh.