TV and Film Cost Managers Part 1: The ProblemJamie Allen
In order to ensure TV and Film Productions run as expected the industry has long relied upon Cost Manager Schedules, a standard coding structure and relatively similar format used to keep a real-time view as to how productions are progressing against a pre-agreed budget. Often Production Managers may add some artistic license to their schedules but in terms of the core structure and coding, this is pre-set into schedules and sub schedules.
These Cost Managers are maintained by the Production Managers with various pieces of documentation then being handed to the finance team in order to prepare the accounts. The theory is then that the production schedules and accounts should reconcile but often some documents can go missing.
A classic structure for a Cost Manager would record actual costs to date, estimated costs to completion (with backing detail), a total Production Cost, a pre-set fixed budget and then a variance column comparing total and budget.
Production Managers will often maintain these schedules daily to make sure they are completely on top of the numbers and tracking to budgets. Indeed, access to these schedules is likely to be protected to ensure there are no unexpected entries or adjustments to the data. At intervals, there would then be interaction with the finance team to ensure that the financial accounts are matching the data being maintained in the Cost Managers. Any changes would then be made should there be a reconciliation issue.
The issue with this approach is that it can lead to timing differences and/or misunderstanding and relies on a continuous stream of communication between Finance and Production Managers, which is not always possible.
This can mean there is potential for different numbers to be reported in different locations, which can be misleading to the Management team. It can also be quite a long-winded process going through these schedules to find and agree on any differences.