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Ep.
38
June 14, 2024

Emily Rice’s The List & New Accounting Community

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Welcome to On Production presented by Wrapbook, today I'm joined by Emily Rice, who is in my opinion, a very pivotal figure in production accounting, and Emily is also the CEO of Emily Rice and Co. From her early days in Seattle watching foreign films to helping reshape the landscape of post production finance in Hollywood. I think Emily has seamlessly woven her love for cinema and numbers into a thriving career. She's here with me on On Production to share her insights from her journey, her role in mentoring upcoming talent, and her collaboration with Wrapbook on initiatives like The List and Room Tone. Emily, welcome On Production.

1:02  

It's nice to be here. Thank you.

1:04  

Well, I want to know Emily, you, if I recall correctly, you started working in studio finance. And then you ended up killing your first feature film and landing a key role in a series in Europe, what inspired the move for you for working from the studio system to kind of venturing off into your own adventure here on the production accounting side,

1:29  

I had a friend in Seattle that moved to LA to be on the development side of film. And he has gone on to do a lot of amazing things gotten a Golden Globe and maybe an Oscar for writing. But at that time, he was reading scripts, and he just thought that my ability to do math, and while my interests would come together, and so he actually I came down to LA to help a friend of mine move here to be a production designer. And he got me an interview, to be the assistant to the person that oversaw the production accounts. And that guy was a super great manager. But he didn't know computers all that well. It was really early we had people coming in from the field that did the books on ledger paper. This is 1986. So he was making the transition to computers. And I was pretty good with them. And so I just managed the wrapping of all the movies over time, he just let me learn everything I could learn. And after I'd learned to wrap the movies, then he just after a while I don't know, he could just see that I needed more. So we he put me on a show. And then I did three or four features with them in sort of $6 million non union range. And then I was offered something to go to Europe on a TV series. And so I left and my boss told me that I would never work in Hollywood again when I left him. But he's a friend. Still though that forecast was wrong. Yeah. He went on to be a big producer. He's doing great. But it was a crazy time. It was a really do it yourself studio with a lot of low budget things. And then you can learn a lot in those opportunities. Yeah. Well, you

3:17  

walk me through the evolution from setting up your practice. Many people will have known your practice as Rice Gorton pictures to Emily Rice and Co what were the challenges and triumphs of growing your business from your backyard?

3:31  

Well, then, yeah, the nicest thing was the low overhead at first, you know, it was just me in a computer. And pretty soon after I started I hired a camera assistant who was working with my husband, who thought he might be interested in accounting or just needed some extra work. And he's been now every season hired me he's been in production accounting. And he works on really big movies now. But yeah, so it was easy to build, just labor costs, really and computer costs and and then I had a really good connection at Lionsgate meant that some of the people that were at my very first job ended up at Lionsgate. And we reconnected at that time, and I started doing their started with a couple of their shows, and then got all their shows. After time. Yeah,

4:25  

that's wonderful. Now tell me about Emily Rice and Co. I mean, I believe that some big news from your corner of the world is that you now have sort of support across the US on the west coast, the East Coast. Tell us the makeup of

4:41  

Yeah, we are about 12 people right now. We have someone who just recently moved to Albany and opened up our New York office. I've got someone in Austin, Texas, Boulder, Colorado, New Orleans, where you are right, that's right, and then the rest of us in the LA area. And that happened During COVID, you know, those years before COVID, it was really hard to find good people. So then when COVID happened, and people started work online, you could find help, you know, pick up help anywhere. And that's really been a great thing. We just have some wonderful people in different areas. And we've had someone in Georgia, Florida, I just want to Seattle, that it was really the COVID changes that made that happen. Well, actually, and yeah, the two employees were able to move out of LA, and keep working the one and Heather and Austin and Albany. So that's been good for them to

5:38  

write, and you have great coverage. I'm curious, Emily, you know, with your experience and your company's experience with working in projects that are small pilots all the way up to like major features or series, how did you approach the diverse needs of different scales of production?

5:59  

Right, we have something big coming in pretty soon, we've worked on the Hunger Games movies. While I just make sure we have enough talent, I have a team that really specializes in those shows, and has worked with Lionsgate as a client for a long time, most of those shows are coming from Lionsgate, we've had a dedicated payroll person, what's nice with working with one client for a long time is you're you're in that you're in their ecosystem where everything's filed on box, and everything's going it's usually through a certain software. And that makes a really, and they're just a super good team to work with. The post people are great production, people are great. So it's a very smooth meeting. And I'm lucky to have had people that worked with me for 10 years on Mike staff. So that's, that makes it easier for sure. That we just kind of assess the needs of each show. And then make sure we have enough people and bring on people and we need, we just brought someone on to be a clerk to do a bunch of work. We're doing audits, while things are kind of slow in Hollywood, we're, we're cleaning up all the audits,

7:01  

I want to shift topics a little bit, Emily, which is I'll share a story that I thought that was really inspiring to me and to the team here at Wrapbook. But, you know, a couple months ago, you and I were able to share dinner in New Orleans at Superior seafood. And you brought along with you a bunch of new friends and old friends. And something that was really striking to me, I haven't told you this was just how much these people love and respect you and appreciate the opportunities that you had given them sometimes 20 years previously, where then maybe they don't work with you or Emily Rice and Co. anymore. But they've been build a career and a life in this industry from having worked with you or with others who've worked with you. And it's really powerful, not only are you able to help these films get made support these been able to support many people through your career, establishing their own careers. And so I want to ask, you know, how important is it to you? Or how important just broadly is mentorship in this field of production accounting? And I'm curious, what qualities do you believe are essential for success?

8:15  

I think over time, I realized how the most important thing is working with people, whether it's the clients, but but especially the people that work for me. And you each individual comes in with their quirks and you figure out what is their? What are their skills? And what do they like to do? What are they best at. And that's just been a really nice thing for me to do to to work with people. And not everybody sets either, like some people. And I don't mean that my personality hasn't always been the best fit for everybody. So you're looking at the people that really stuck with it. Because I'm always I've just been really driven and driven to keep the business afloat driven to give the clients good service and but over time, I've gotten a lot more into the relationships and mentoring people, the woman that just moved to Albany, she came in as a second. And she's so good at it. It's like it's so many different things. You got to have math skills, but you got to be good at tech, more or less, you know, good at Excel, but you have to be curious. And something else that's really important to me is honesty is like, you know, tell me what's going wrong. Tell me what mistake happened. And then you just learned I mean, everybody makes mistakes all the time. So it's been really just really fulfilling overtime to work with different people. And yeah, that was a great dinner. Those are some people I've worked with. Yeah. And a long period of time. One of them I hired as a payroll person out of entertainment partners to work on a series before I started the business. Yeah. And she's amazing. She's the key accountant on huge things. Yeah.

9:53  

Yeah. It's amazing to see how many lives your business has touched the opportunities that you've created and the impact of those people and I think I have been digging in and becoming more aware of and participating in the community of production accounting, it's just been super awesome to get to meet so many wonderful people who work really hard to do this critical work. You know, Emily, a lot of people in the community of production accounting and film, knoq you for your invention and curation of the list. Could you explain the concept behind the list

10:30  

back in 2005, the main way to get jobs in production accounting was either through your contacts that you've already worked with, or email your resume to the marketing person at one or two payroll services. And if you knew them, and they liked you, maybe you've seen them networking, or maybe somehow you had a connection, they might more readily put your resume out to people. So they would get a client and they would have a feature going to Philadelphia. But if you didn't have features on your resume, at that time, you wouldn't get put up for the job. So there were two things going on. One I wanted to keep, wanted to create something where people had a shot at any job. And then the other thing was that I was doing cost accounting, I was a few years into post accounting, and we would get shows that were not very well done on the account. And so I wanted to give my clients a way to find better people, because they too, they were getting, they were on the receiving end of those resumes. And they weren't getting good people, but they weren't seeing everybody know what's vengeful about things. It's done a lot of fun.

11:35  

It's incredible. You know, I've yet to meet a production accountant that hasn't heard of the list, or even used the list for posting a job or even getting a job. That's great. All sides. And it's really exciting, obviously, that Wrapbook and Emily Rice and Co. are working together to bring the list to the community through Wrapbook. And it's been awesome. But I know that we're also doing something else with you, which is this production accountants community called room tone. I'm curious, what are your thoughts on room tone as a community? And you know, how do you think something like room tone sort of enhances the community for production accountants,

12:14  

in most everybody's freelance, you know, and they're learning their job, on the job, and then moving up in the ranks. And so someone who has been a first might be put into a production accounting position, and they don't know everything. So I'm hoping to create with you a safe space for people to ask questions. That's my favorite thing about it. But also, you know, you're doing a good job of putting resources up there. And so to create a place where people would feel safe enough to ask questions, and I'm not going to be the only one answering those questions is really important to me. And we just need a place to collect resources. And then the added bonus of being able to DM people that I know but might not have had their email address. That's pretty fun. Yeah. So mainly that we're all freelancer, we're all at different levels of education and experience. And if we can help each other, I think that'd be great. And then also, for those other post accountants out there who are getting shows like if sometimes you'll have trouble setting up an international show, or a show with multiple companies and currencies. So I'm just hoping that I can help people that the group can help people get those things straightened out in pre production instead of later. So that's my main interest. And we need it we do get a lot of support. Really, there's some studios that are good at supporting and get was good guidance. But a lot of people are working independently.

13:37  

And you have a fragmented industry, we're different. We're using different tools. So this place for production accountants to come together to share fundamentals or effects on different systems is is great.

13:48  

And it Yeah, it's really fun that we can talk about different software in one place.

13:53  

That's awesome. Emily, I have to change the subject a little bit. I'm curious, looking back on your career. Is there a project or moment that stands out to you as particularly memorable or transformative?

14:06  

I think going into post production accounting was the main thing, I was able to really make a shift from a lot of TV and indie features into bigger projects, which is what I really wanted to do. I think, if your resume at that time didn't show a ton of big projects, it was hard to get them. So going into post there aren't that many people in post so I could start working on the much bigger projects. So that's been fun.

14:31  

So, Emily, I am curious, you know, in this podcast On Production, we cover all kinds of topics. And we have all kinds of listeners, people who are very seasoned or very new for listeners that maybe you're thinking of career change or entering into the field of production accounting. What advice would you offer based on your experiences?

14:52  

Right? Well, my usual advice is when you submit a resume, you want to make it concise because the person's quite busy. And they're gonna imagine that the way you're writing that resume is how you're going to be communicating in the office. And we aren't very formal. And we try to be friendly and to the point and get on to the next thing that we're doing. So just assume the person that's getting a resume is busy, the resume should be one page, it should be very organized looking, because we need organized people. But the other thing that's going on now is just that we don't have a lot of work, we're in a bit of a recession of production, and maybe that'll clear up come August. But if you are looking to transition, I would wait just a beat. I would wait till August. But the main thing is to just be concise. Oh, and also to be, say, you're willing to work hard, and work long hours, I've had people offer to work for free, which I don't recommend. But it just shows how excited they are. as well. The other thing I would say is at the top of a resume, it's good to project your interest in production accounting, like if your resume is all over the place. And as a generalist, even if your resume is general, at the top if you say that your objective and objectives may be old fashioned, but objective to be in the production accounting world, and that you're not looking for just any job that you're actually interested in what we do, that goes a really long way.

16:17  

That's really good advice. But shifting gears just a little bit. I'm wondering if if you have any insight or thoughts on the future developments in production accounting, especially considering evolving technology and industry standards.

16:32  

I mean, we're all we're all doing our best to keep up with the technology and and I love digital filing. And all of these things that should have happened 10 years ago, the thing that interests me, and that is so hard about production accounting lately is the tax incentive flagging that we need to do and well shows, at least most shows outside of LA, and I had this idea from watching your interview you did with Will French, there really should be a dedicated person in the production accounting office, that is the expert on the incentive, because the key accountant is supposed to be that but they're also budgeting and doing everything else. But I really got the idea because the studio's really need the books to come back clean. But everybody's so busy trying to keep the shoot going, that flagging for the incentives sometimes is inaccurate. And then if people had someone on the shoot, this sort of reminds me of like an intimacy coordinator. Like they need somebody super dedicated to this one. thing, and I think somebody's very

17:31  

intimate with the New Mexico. Yeah. Acts. Yeah. And

17:36  

I think producers would get more money back from the incentive, honestly, because we see the other end of that we're cleaning up the incentives and getting things rejected for various reasons. I don't know if that's an answer to that question. But that's really on my mind since since I saw that.

17:50  

So for those listening, that's a reference to a great event that we hosted and that you can actually find on Wrapbooks website, which was between Will French, which is a gentleman that runs an organization called Fallbrook film financing, and a production accountant named Marge based out of New Mexico with an expertise in that particular state's film tax credit. I think what's interesting is that your answer, I think, maybe even ties back to a key insight for somebody maybe seeking a way into this industry, which is do deep research on a particular state or states learn their tax credits, learn how to tag, what is qualified, what isn't qualified. There seems like there's an opportunity in being a subject matter expert in where these different incentives where these different incentives are applicable to projects and how to account for them because the accounting and tagging and reporting and management of these incentives is different in every state, and even internationally as well. So that's a really key insight. Emily, that's great.

18:51  

One more thing I would just say, as being starting as a payroll assistant is also a good way to start just because it's not what everybody wants to do.

18:58  

That's awesome. Okay. Lastly, Emily, I'm curious, can you kind of discuss your partnership with Wrapbook? Like, how does this collaboration benefit production accounting community? In your opinion? Well,

19:11  

I'm happy that you have brought your IT people to The List, I think that you've made it a lot easier to search and all that kind of stuff. And I think you've given it a better look, really. And I like, well, there's just nerdy things I like about the form that you have now and put jobs up and stuff like that, that I really like. But I think getting people into this room tone, Slack community could really be great. As long as we can keep the room tone pleasant. I think it can be, as you would say transformative. Like I think I'm just I'm super excited about creating a space where people can ask questions and figure out how to do the job better. So it's going to help everybody that way.

19:53  

That's awesome. Well, Emily from the bottom of my heart, it has been a true privilege to do collaborate with you the work that you've done in building the list and it's awesome to support and build this production accounting community with you and room tone. Thanks for joining me on on production.

20:12  

It's really nice to have a partner, Cameron. Thank you.

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