Who regulates films

"Making up for a day of shooting can quickly cost 80,000 euros"

04.02.2015
Film insurance

Germany's largest film festival, the Berlinale, is just around the corner. The 400 or so films have long been shot. But something has probably gone wrong with every fourth film, believes Robert von Bennigsen from the German Film Insurance Foundation (DFG). In an interview on GDV.de he explains what the greatest risks are when shooting, how changing from film to data storage media changes insurance and why Robben's winter fur can lead to an insurance claim.

© dpa / Jens Büttner

Mr. von Bennigsen, over 400 films will be shown at the Berlinale. What do you think - everything went smoothly during the shoot?
Robert von Bennigsen:In my experience, the probability that nothing happens in 400 films is almost zero. I would estimate that with 400 films, an insurance company had to settle a loss in over 100 cases. It doesn't have to be in the millions every time because the famous leading actor is absent. A camera can just fall over.

What are the most common insurance claims in the production of films?
from Bennigsen:The media liability claims are the most common. For example, when the production company is shooting in a private apartment and scratching the floor with a heavy prop. Or if the lighting in the listed castle is too close to the curtains and they start to burn. Major losses are less common here, but even if something like that burns down the whole lock, the production company is insured.

And which damages are the most expensive?
from Bennigsen:Delays or filming failures due to illness or accidents of the actors are expensive and even relatively frequent. That is by far the greatest risk. Delays in particular can be very expensive. Making up for a day of shooting can quickly cost 80,000 euros or more. If the main actor should actually shoot the next film again, then the insurance company has to buy him out of the engagement so that the last film can be completed. Damage to the film material in post-production is relatively rare but also very expensive. If, when converting from negative to positive, the original roll is damaged shortly before duplication, then it may be necessary to make up for entire days of shooting. Digitization helps a lot in reducing the risk for us and the insurance premiums for the film producers.

Robert von Bennigsen (59)

runs the business of the German Film Insurance Association DFG. Since 2001 he has been a managing partner at the industrial insurance broker Burmester, Duncker & Joly, the parent company of the DFG. The qualified lawyer and business economist previously worked for Allianz for twelve years.

In the meantime, films are increasingly being shot digitally. Has the change from the film roll to the data carrier changed anything here?
from Bennigsen:Even here, despite the obligatory data backup, damage can occur because, for example, entire scenes are gone with the digital recording. The loss of data is like a loss of an actor: the scenes have to be re-shot with all the effort that this entails. But that falls into the area of ​​image and data carrier insurance. What the digital film age has certainly also changed is that unfortunately more and more films are being leaked on the Internet before the premiere, for example if an employee in one of the cinema chains puts the films on the network beforehand and the cinema operator does not take adequate protective measures against it Has. I could well imagine a claim for damages by the producers here. Something like this would make sense as a cyber risk coverage element for cinema chains, distributors or producers in the future.

An action spectacle is certainly something different from an intimate play for the insurance company. How do you calculate the insurance premium?
from Bennigsen:The premiums for cinema productions are around 0.8 to 1.2 percent of the total production costs. How much exactly is then of course measured in the details. As an insurer, we then look at what should be shot at all. How many people are there? We look at the individual actors. And if there are extreme stunts in the script, then it is more expensive than cheaper. One factor that can also lead to higher premiums is scenes by the water. If you only take a half-hour break and a cloud draws in, then you have a completely different light and the water color in the previous material no longer matches the other scenes at all. This can lead to considerable costs if additional days of shooting are required here.

What was your weirdest case?
from Bennigsen:There are some: We once had an American actress who only had to shoot a film in the water. Despite swimming phobia, she had accepted the role. Our doctor actually certified her to have this mental illness - that's why we took over the delay caused by the search for a new actress who did not have a swimming phobia. Or the seal with the winter fur: the production company reported the illness of the animal protagonist to us. The seal wasn't really sick at all. Because of the hot headlights, however, she began to lose her winter fur, which kept her looking different. There, too, the shooting was interrupted and we paid.

The German Film Insurance Foundation (DFG) secures 1,000 film and television productions per year, including documentaries, animated films, telenovelas and around 40 cinema films. With six employees, the DFG is one of the largest film insurers in Germany - with a premium volume of around ten million euros and a market share in Germany of around 40 percent.

Strictly speaking, the DFG is not an insurance company, but an underwriting agent, i.e. an authorized signatory who himself writes risks for someone else's account, collects premiums and regulates claims. Seven insurers and one reinsurer bear the risk in the background. Overall, film insurance is a small niche market: according to the DFG, the premium volume across Europe is around 100 million euros per year. For comparison: European insurers received a total of around 1.1 trillion euros in premiums in 2014.

Interview: Henning Engelage

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