Other Concerns—Legalities, Permits, International Travel, Insurance, Workers’ Comp

Video, like any business, has its fair share of legal issues. Experienced companies know what is required and when to turn to their legal team for assistance.
Your video production company should have a lawyer, insurance agent and valid business license at the bare minimum.

As we continue with our series on experience versus not, we have covered all creative aspects of production which you can read here. Now, let's turn our attention to the business responsibilities.

Here are some other items a reputable company should have:

Insurance—This is a basic requirement. Every company should carry insurance to cover its equipment, people and space. But video production companies need insurance that will travel with them into the field and on location, not just in the studio. Insurance should also cover theft of equipment and data.

Inland Marine Insurance—This insurance covers equipment in transit. Should a camera be damaged in route to a location, it’s covered. Inland Marine Insurance covers all equipment, including rented pieces, as well as any trailers used to transport the equipment and accounts receivable.

Business Operation/General Liability Insurance—This type of insurance covers the company, its employees and business in the case of a claim of harm or injury. It protects the company and its assets from injury or damage in the studio and on location.

Worker’s Comp—Worker’s Compensation Insurance covers workers in the studio and on location. It pays for medical bills and some lost wages for workers injured on the job or who suffer a work-related illness. This is essential to protect those who work for the production company.

Additional Insurance Coverage—If the production crew is doing international work, additional coverages in terms of Inland Marine, Worker’s Comp and General Liabilities are also required during the out-of-country time.

Business License—Every jurisdiction requires business licenses to legally operate a business within its boundaries. This is a basic requirement for doing business. Every company should have a license without exception. Depending on where the company is located, it may require more than one license.

Business License Tax—Part of having a business license is paying taxes on the business. This is a necessary part of doing business.

Business Property Taxes—Some cities and counties require taxes on property. Alexandria is one such city. We pay property taxes annually. It keeps us in good standing with the city.

Sales Taxes—most states require the collection of sales and use tax on physical media and the use of equipment in generating motion picture content. If, however, the content is strictly delivered digitally and no physical delivery of copies exist, sales tax is not required.

Overhead—Not every company has overhead. Some operate from a basement or garage. For those of us who have dedicated studio space, overhead is a part of business. It includes rent and utilities and other related fees. Having two editing suites, a broadcast quality narration booth, insert studio and office space costs, but it allows us to deliver broadcast-quality videos to our clients and professional grade videos and audio too. We believe being able to provide the best quality services to our clients is worth it.

Errors & Omissions—This is required for larger projects, like theatrical releases and television shows. It is not a general requirement, but companies should be well versed in its use and when it is needed.

Permits—Many locations require a permit to film. In Washington, DC, getting a permit is harder than in most places because of the number of permitting agencies. In some places, you need a permit for the sidewalk, a different one for the street and yet another for the gutter. Yes, I said gutter. It pays to know people in the film offices to help guide you through the permitting process and to know when and where to apply for the various permits. Each area is governed by a different agency. Some can take months to obtain and none are guaranteed, particularly those involving federal agencies.

International Permits—If you think getting a permit in DC is difficult, try getting one in a foreign country. This is when experience helps. Some countries require permits. Others don’t. It pays to know the legal requirements for every location. It also helps to hire a fixer in foreign countries to help navigate the local legalities and crews.

Carnets—A Carnet is an international customs document that acts as a passport for merchandise. It allows for the temporary importation of equipment, like cameras, lenses, lighting, microphones and other filmmaking equipment. Most countries require an ATA Carnet for the transport of professional equipment. Each carnet contains the serial number and identifying details for each piece of equipment, including each lens, cable, tripod, camera, etc. These take time and attention to detail to complete, but are essential for traveling with equipment. Without a carnet, the equipment could be subject to duties, value-added taxes and extensive customs procedures, not to mention temporary import bonds.

Experienced companies know that licenses, permits, insurance and taxes are part of doing business. They know that having insurance could save the company from folding should someone be injured on set. They know that paying taxes is the law. They recognize that knowing the law and following it is prudent business practice and not a choice.

We at Video Solutions are proud to be a fully-licensed company that pays taxes and carries all the necessary insurance to protect our business, client work and staff. We offer our clients two editing suites; a soundproofed, professional-grade narration booth; insert studio and more.

To explore our capabilities or discuss the production process, please call us at 703-683-5305 or contact us either through this website, or via Our eMail.

Our last blog in this series will talk about what to look for in a production company and red flags in the proposal process