What Type of Insurance is Needed to Protect My Film Location?

by Ariel Penn

Insurance: What’s Required

A lot of film location owners are nervous when they first start hosting filming. They worry about needing to file an insurance claim if their property is damaged or anyone is injured.

They frequently ask, “What type of insurance is needed for my film location?” The insurance required to protect a film location includes general liability, auto liability (hired and non-hired) and proof of worker’s comp at statutory levels.

What is the amount of coverage needed for film location insurance?

  1.  $1 million dollars in General Liability coverage
  2. $500K  in Auto Liability coverage
  3. Proof of Worker’s comp coverage or a waiver from the State indicating their employees are independent contractors not subject to worker’s comp laws.
  4. Naming you and/or your company as additional insured in the endorsement section of the insurance certificate.

How do I know that I’m covered on the film company’s production insurance?

Prior to hosting filming activity on your property (this includes any prep or preparation days), request that the film company name you as additional insured on their insurance certificate.  The company should have their insurance provider issue a certificate in your name, the name of any of your employees or contractors who will assist you during the filming, and any business entity of yours that might be involved with the filming.  There is a box three quarters down the certificate where this endorsement should appear.  Basic language you should ask for is “XXX, their employees and contractors is named as additional insured as respect to this production.” 

Companies may want to limit this further by stating that you are covered only for specific production dates.  This is fine as long as they are actually conducting their activity on those  days. However, if there are any production delays, they may need a reissued certificate to reflect that you are covered for the new dates.

Companies may limit the days of coverage to decrease their premium payments with their insurance provider.  Traditionally, companies used to obtain certificates that named others as additional insured for the entire term of the policy (typically a year). But in recent years, some companies have found it financially advantageous for their premiums to cover locations only for the time that they’re actually on the property. 

You need to be mindful and check all dates on the certificate.  Review the dates of the policy term overall to make sure the policy covers your filming dates.  And check the additional insured endorsement to ensure that it’s covering your location for all dates the company is conducting activity on your property.   

Request that the location department provide this certificate to you prior to their first day of activity.  And to be safe, you may want to call the insurance companies listed to confirm that the company’s coverage is in full effect.  

What is general liability insurance and why is it so important?

General liability is one of the most critical types of coverage you should request of filmmakers. It should be requested every time there is filming at your location, even from student and non-profit shoots.  Students will typically get this insurance from their school who will insure the student on their behalf.  And non-profit agencies may provide this insurance for any film companies working on their behalf such as a company filming a public service announcement for the American Heart Association.

General liability covers any property damage that can occur on your property.  Of course, you should request a damage deposit to cover any  minor damage (a check for an agreed upon amount) provided in advance of activity at your location. This allows you to draw down on monies from the company immediately after filming without needing to file a claim.  This can benefit both you and the filmmakers by allowing you to fix things quickly and shield the company from their premiums going up. 

However, some damage could be more extensive and wouldn’t fall within the limits of a damage deposit.  Because of this it’s critical the company has general liability insurance.  You may need to file a claim to restore your property to its pre-filming condition. But first of all,  you should do a walk through with the location manager in advance of the shoot to determine your property’s pre-filming condition. And document, document, document.  Take photos and videos  of all floors and walls and provide a copy of this documentation to the company in advance of the shoot, so everyone is on the same page about the pre-filming condition  of your property.

General liability insurance could also cover third party damage resulting from your filming. For example, it could cover any assessment from your local city if the company hit a city tree with a truck while pulling onto your property.

General liability insurance also covers any third party bodily injury.  This doesn’t mean it covers the crew for their injuries.  They should be covered by worker’s comp insurance which we cover later.  But it does cover everyone else who could be affected by your filming.  For instance, it would cover a neighbor who walks by your film location and trips on a cable and breaks their leg.   It would cover a neighbor if a truck destroys their sprinkler system while parking on their property. 

General liability coverage can help cover legal costs to represent you, witness fees, evidence costs and any legal judgments or settlements. 

What is auto liability insurance and why is it needed at my location?

Proof of auto coverage should be included on the insurance certificate the company provides. The auto coverage should include both hired and non-hired autos.  Hired autos means any production vehicles rented or bought by the company to conduct their filming activities.  This includes large production trucks, generators, crew cabs.

Non-hired autos means the personal vehicles driven by the crew to your location.  All crew members should have proof of insurance. But the company would be liable for any accidents by their employees when using their personal cars for company business hence the need for non-hired auto coverage.   For example, you want to ensure there is no liability to your location if a tired crew member accidentally hits your neighbor’s parked car.

What type of protection does worker’s comp coverage provide me as the homeowner?

Most productions will be required by State law to carry worker’s compensation insurance.  This covers the employer (and, by extension, you) for any injuries incurred by the employee on location.  Most production companies with more than one employee will need to have this insurance.  You should check to see what the requirements are for your state because this law varies a bit state to state. 

Independent contractors working on a production are exempt from this requirement and the state may issue an exemption declaration for these workers. The independence with which the employee does the work will determine if they are independent contractors or not.  For instance, most crew members receive their marching orders from the film company director or producer and are considered employees even if employed for a short period of time.  This also includes students and volunteers.  However, a film company might hire concrete contractor to fill in a hole in a driveway.  This would be an independent contractor in relation to the production.  But the concrete contractor should have their own worker’s comp coverage for their employees. 

So if a company claims they don’t need this insurance, require that they provide exemption paperwork from the State or insurance carrier to prove this. 

What other things do I need to look for when examining production insurance?

Make sure that the insurance companies and policy numbers and dates of coverage are included for each form of insurance listed on the certificate.  One company may provide the general liability coverage while another provides the auto insurance.  Both company names along with policy numbers and dates of coverage should be included on the certificate.  Always check that the policy term covers the period of your production.  Make sure that the insurance isn’t on the verge of expiring.  And also make sure the coverage limits are listed.  For worker’s comp, it will probably say “statutory” which means it meets the state requirements for the number of employees and payroll.