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Entertainment Partners Offers Production Accounting Training Courses with AFTRS and ACE

Director of Training, Jill Hewitt, leads specialized programs to educate and place accountants across Australian productions. 
May 8, 2024
Adult students in a training course

In the ongoing race to produce content across theaters, television, and VOD platforms, studios and streamers find themselves in a relentless pursuit of consistency. However, this rapid pace has exposed a critical bottleneck: the shortage of proficient production accountants. These professionals are indispensable for the success of every project, yet the industry grapples with a scarcity of skilled individuals ready and capable to meet the demand.

It takes about two years for a film and TV accountant to become proficient in their role, traditionally by way of a senior accountant mentoring an assistant on the job. While that method of learning is ideal, there isn’t time for such an extended learning process to happen as content is being created under compressed timelines today. 

That’s where Jill Hewitt comes into the picture. Jill is the Director of Training for Entertainment Partners’ Australian operations. A veteran of the film industry, Jill’s career has spanned 30+ years specializing in Production Accounting, expertise that she has provided clients as a member of the Moneypenny group since 1989, and now offers to global clients following EP’s acquisition of the Moneypenny accounting firm in 2022. As training director, Hewitt teaches and manages two production accounting training courses at the Australian Film, Television, and Radio School (AFTRS) and the Arts and Cultural Exchange (ACE) to fast-track accountants to work in the film industry. Through EP’s global training partnerships, she also provides extended production accounting training seminars, and ongoing mentorship to new accountants that she helps to place on jobs. 

About the AFTRS Production Accountant Workshop

Through a five-day intensive course, AFTRS students are trained on both the technical skills that production accounting demands, as well as the soft skills that will help them succeed in an industry that values communication and relationships among the crew. 

“Through guest speakers, I introduce them to all different types of people on a job that they would be working closely with, such as camera operators and costume designers. It's not just how good you may be with your accounting skills” Hewitt explains. “Those [skills] are important, but can you do ten-hour days at the least? Can you deal with stressful deadlines? Can you deal with the gig nature of the role since it's not a full-time position and you might have six weeks off before the next job? It's a different way to think about how to work.”

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Jill Hewitt teaches Production Accounting course with AFTRS

Following the week-long program, AFTRS graduates walk away from their training with the skills and knowledge to start on a real working set, something the industry desperately needs. 

What students learn in the AFTRS Production Accounting Workshop

Hewitt structures her AFTRS course in 4 parts, narrowing from the big picture plan down to the day-to-day tasks of working on set:

1. How to create a budget and finance plan

⁠“A budget is what they are going to spend, and a finance plan is how they plan to pay for that budget,” says Hewitt, “Given the variety of people and organizations involved, a finance plan becomes quite an important document.” In Australia, government money, private investors, and different state bodies all are avenues that help pay for productions. 

2. Structuring Cash flow

⁠The key duty of a production accountant is accurately estimating spending to complete a shoot and post-production without going above or below budget. For this reason, Hewitt dedicates special attention to teaching students how to handle this responsibility and understand the pacing. “If it’s a $10 million film, the investor just doesn't give you $10 million and off you go and spend it. A cash flow teaches you how to pace that money,” she says. “Whoever gives you the money, they give it in installments or milestones. So, a cash flow is a plan to pace that money, so you never run out during the project. Production accountants are always asking the question, ‘how much do we still need to spend to get to the end? And are we going to be on budget?’” 

3. Day-to-Day Accounting 

⁠The third stage of the training is dedicated to traditional accounting tasks, but through the unique lens of the film business. “Typically, a brand-new company is created for each new film, and that company doesn't have any credit history, so petty cash is used,” says Hewitt. “It isn't petty cash like in a normal office – it's tens of thousands of dollars, usually. So I take students through the day-to-day workings of normal accounting, including payroll, invoices, and petty cash, but on that larger scale.”

4. Getting Rebates Back

⁠“Just about every country offers tax incentives and that money usually forms part of the finance plan,” says Hewitt. “Productions are banking on getting that money back from the government. So, students will learn how to claim those incentives from relevant governments upon delivery of the project.”

The next AFTRS and Entertainment Partners Accounting workshop is May 20-24. Sign up HERE

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About the ACE Production Accounting Workshop

The other program Hewitt teaches is through the Arts and Cultural Exchange (ACE), a technical college in Dharug Country in Western Sydney with a mission focused on First Nations, Diversity, and Equity. Screen Trades is their job placement initiative for production jobs, including accounting. 

ACE is a less intensive course than the AFTRS program, and happens over two days. But is still packed with practical skills to ensure students feel equipped to start working at the entry level. This program is beneficial for those who choose to bypass the university degree and instead start directly in the film industry. As Jill explains, “We've hired lots of people from those [ACE] courses because of people's flexibility and aptitude for the position. If they want to do more, they can certainly do the AFTRS course. But quite frankly, there is nothing like getting on a job and just learning.”

ACE offers production accounting courses several times a year in partnership with Entertainment Partners. To stay informed about their next workshop, sign up for the ACE email list.

Job placement and on-the-job training 

When it comes to placing students in a job, Entertainment Partners is there 100% of the way!  Should producers need an accountant, clients utilizing the Moneypenny accounting solution can subcontract with Entertainment Partners and Jill will pair them with one of the accountants trained from the AFTRS or ACE programs and be available to mentor those accountants as they gain on-the-job experience. 

“Our goal is to help these new accountants grow in their skill sets, so they can go on to work on their own,” says Jill, “but we do hope they will always come back and use Entertainment Partners services for their project.”

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