March 20, 2024

Film, Finance, and Future: V Gordon’s Perspective on Production Accounting

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Welcome to On Production brought to you by Wrapbook. Today I'm excited to have Victoria Gordon with us a seasoned professional in the realm of production accounting. Victoria has journey in the industry is marked by her roles across various companies where she's showcased her expertise in financial management, system development and strategic planning. At Wrapbook, she has been instrumental in developing our innovative production accounting solution, bringing her wealth of experience to enhance the platform's capabilities for managing budgets for feature films and television series, to authoring systems requirements for corporate accounting software. Victoria has done it all. Today, she's here to share her story and give us an inside look at what it takes to build a tool that meets the unique needs of filmmakers and accountants alike. Victoria or V as we like to call you here at Wrapbook. It's great to have you with us.


Thanks for having me. Excited to answer questions. Yeah,


absolutely. So Victoria, can you tell me about your journey in film and television production accounting? What sparked your interest in this field? You went to school for accounting, didn't you? Yep,


I have a degree in finance and senior year, fall of senior year, I interned at Merrill Lynch, thinking that's the path for finance. And it was so incredibly terrible, that in the spring semester, I decided to apply my finance in a different way. And I got an internship at Viacom, and I actually got to shadow the line producer of Comedy Central's promo department, which was amazing, it got me on the books, they're seeing how they do finance at both the corporate level and the production level. They also use us as pas for free on those promos. So I got a glimpse of, you know, what it was like to be on set and everybody's responsibilities there. And then how that turned into dollars and translated over. So yeah, that's kind of where I got my first taste of it, and just fell in love. From there.


I have some inside baseball, because I know you pretty well from working with you for the last few years. But like, you also had your interest sparked in film and entertainment, because your family's involved somehow. Right? What's the backstory there


I have, you know, a niece in accounting at an ad agency, my brother is a prop master. And my uncle is now he's a television show director and showrunner. But he started out actually being a special effects supervisor on Buffy, which was really cool. And he exposed me to a lot of it. So after that taste of entertainment on my own at Viacom, he was like, Hey, move out to LA, it's a lot easier to find a job in this industry out here. So I spent a lot of time at his effects house, and met some cool people and then found my way into the industry.


That's awesome. So throughout your career, you know, you've managed various aspects of the financial wrangling in production, what have been some of the key challenges you've found over the years across these different types of production companies? And how did you tackle them,


you know, my time as a production accountant, and then controller slash production accountant at a smaller commercial house. The biggest challenge was always managing the cost and spend between the production team who was on set, and then myself who's in the office, and making sure everything's there. Reconciling things on time before, you know, people move off to another job, and they ignore your emails for weeks, and you're just trying to get a vendor paid, or a person paid. And so it was it was really just like that reconciliation and the way that the commercial industry especially ebbs and flows, you have sometimes super high volume, but the same size accounting department, and then other times you're super slow. So it's finding tools that help you balance and that are also connected between you and production. Because even today, up until our solution that we have at Wrapbook, everything's disjointed, right? It's just patchwork of software's that kind of talk to each other. So it's been a huge, huge challenge to just manage and reconcile against systems and different people and groups.


So your experience spans from really working as a production accountant to then developing ERP solutions, how Has your on the ground experience informed your approach to system development? And kind of share the backstory? Where have you worked? How did you approach this, how's your kind of career evolved? And this ultimately leads to like, Why build what you're building today,


in my first job as an AP clerk, and then quickly moved up to production account net for line, we were on this really old system called Aquapac. And it was probably like a 30 year old, thick client, very unforgiving. So, you know, I had to learn how to manage the production's reconcile that out, pay directors, profit shares, and all of that, using these systems. Even at tool, when I first started there, we were on a DOS based system called Telesis, which, you know, you can click the F4 button, and a transaction would be like it never existed, which our CPA always loved.


Before we switched to legit, and I then moved over to sweet shop, where we were also on legit. And I just had an opportunity at CAPS, they asked me if I wanted to work on that software I had been using. And I was like, yes, because I have so many thoughts on how we can make this better how I could do my job easier. So when I started working on that I just found, everything came like so naturally to me, because I didn't want to just solve my problems, I knew some people felt the same problems. But I think I almost had an advantage because I could understand exactly where the clients were coming from, when they describe a problem, we wouldn't have to go in depth too much, you know, enough said, I got you. And then I can, you know, work on a tool that could better their experience overall. But working at our competitors, you find, you still have to like kind of keep in this little box, right? You can only be so creative with the accounting. As a matter of fact, it almost scared people when I said I wanted to get a little more creative when it came to the accounting system, not because I strive to do any, you know, under the table business, with the books, but you know, just more automation and helpful tools, as opposed to just a receptacle where you input data and output reports, you know, very manual processes. So you know, and it still didn't solve those problems that I was talking about before that I experienced of connecting production to accounting in a more seamless way. So when I came to Wrapbook, you know, it was limitless on what we wanted to do and innovate. So we were, that's kind of where we took it. That's


great. So I mean, you had your own experiences working at production companies, then you went and you worked on a production accounting solution called legit. I'm curious when you and then you just described as well that, like you had this kind of amazing shorthand with the clients when you did make the transition over to the software side of supporting the industry. Because you had just experienced a lot of the same challenges. And so then that kind of allowed you to move much faster than you know, having to go really deep and try to understand the pain points because you've actually lived it. But I'm curious if you could provide any details on like, what different production companies and projects are dealing with? What were those things that you just kind of knew were especially painful? Because I think that's that's really fascinating for people to kind of get a sense that to know that they're not the only ones experiencing pain and and how have people like you really been thinking through solutions over the last couple of years? For


sure. Yeah, I mean, from the from the commercial perspective, I found that there was just lack of investment in technology for that industry. You know, it was aside from having an accounting solution and the payroll itself, it never really thought about all the other tools that the production folks are having to either invent or do still in analog right or on paper. For example, you know, even the actualizing tools that people use today, point zero was created by, you know, I think he was like a crew member at the time and is now an executive producer, how budgets built by a guy who runs walkie talkies, you know, even the purchase order system, every single production company has about the same rules and processes. But it varies company to company, because there is a lack of standardization, because everybody is just had to be like, well, this exists or that exists, or Yeah, I can make an Excel program to kind of make this better. But it's completely disconnected from that production company itself. So that was a huge, huge challenge. And you know, a lot of the payroll companies didn't invest in the commercials because they were too busy servicing the Sony's and Warner Bros of the world first, right. That's who they were catering to. So it was a challenge in its own overall,


can you walk me through the process of developing Wrapbook’s accounting system? And what were some of the primary considerations and goals and I think it's important to note that you've described building software for commercial productions. But you've also been instrumental and very influential in production accounting as its unstandard, alone, integrated product for things like films and television as well. So just kind of like, how did this all kind of emerge from kind of how you've been thinking of on these subjects over the course of a number of years,


I was the product manager of smart accounting. And then I was also part of the team where we built C Pass, which is the CAPS film and TV product. So we saw so part of a project where we tried to turn a version of legit that was made for corporate commercial production accounting into a film and TV production accounting solution, that didn't work out well. Probably because we built it for one thing, built ourselves into a corner. And you can't really go back from there, it was better to just start new with C Pass, which is successful, but it's still the age old problem of it's a standalone from something else, nothing is truly connected to the other, even something as simple as in a production accounting system and the payroll system. They're adding line codes or accounts, right to time cards. And then it needs to get to the accounting system and be coded where it actually matters. Accounts are spending so much time making sure like if I update my chart in my accounting system, let me make sure it's gone and updated in the internal payroll system and the time carding system and the hours to grow system, so that it's all mapped to point A and B, there's so much fix it work, that's having to be done on the back end for accountants, because everything is disjointed. That, you know, it's it just makes sense. Like with our solution, it's everything in one place, I can rest assured that if I update it here, it's going to update it there. Even with the standalone purchase order systems, to the accounting systems. I have to maintain the chart. And the vendors. Now, if I'm at a vendor here is it added there wasn't added properly? You know, it's just the data flow was so clunky, that it almost causes more work to the point of people just saying, You know what, I'm gonna use paper or, or not this system, because there really is no benefit for me. So we solve for a lot of that in our system, maintaining it all in one place, being connected directly with production.


So where the Wrapbook product stands today, both on the commercial and film and television side, what are some of the features in the accounting system that you believe set it apart? You mentioned just like data flows. Are there any features that like you particularly are proud of or you think are interesting compared to feature sets you've seen historically in the space?


You know, I'm excited for some of the things if it's okay to talk about, you know, stuff that's up and coming. You know, a we built the foundation of this Production accounting solution with the plan to use these production tools like digital purchase orders, digital petty cash envelopes, which are really great connecting with, you know, programs like Cache, to streamline the data back and forth. You know, those pieces of the system, those tools, save so much time by porting the data over automatically, that people aren't having to let me print a report, let me review this report outside the system. Let me take this template and translate it over into this template. So I can import it, which is kind of, you know, an efficiency, but I really, even in our system with the import functionality, that's so cool. Because I can take any template you can download from Cache, you can download petty cash log, whatever you have, copy it, and then paste it into a free form. And our system lets you map it and translate that into a journal entry or an AP effortlessly. So that's, that's really cool, really cool functionality that we have there. It's more than being all in one system. You know, I can, I know, people often say well, oh, like green slate, it's all in one system. You know, this is this goes beyond just logging in, to who having to having one login and having access to it. Right? It's so much greater than that. It truly is just bridging the gap between production and accounting. And I think that's, that's the greatest advantage that you'll get with our system today.


I mean, this leads nicely to my next question, which is just you've kind of described our present state. But I'm curious, from your perspective, looking ahead, where do you see the future of production accounting going? I


think I see it going more, being a lower stress job, which is nice and becoming more of an analytical job, right, making productions more efficient, because you're spending less time doing data fixes, you know, corrections to your data, and just data entry alone, right? You alleviate or support that process a little better. And then this way production accounts can focus on. Okay, this is off. But why? How can we do it better? Let me look back, because I have access to this in the same database to another project that had a similar scenario, and surface that, Okay, now we'll do it this way. Because this will be the better way, it'll save us more money. So I think it will enable accountants to be more than just data entry, folks and focus on what they care about.


That's fantastic. What advice the would you give to up and coming professionals in the production accounting field, especially with, you know, the increasing integration of technology, just


to embrace it, but I feel like this generation, we don't really have to, we don't really have to tell them that. But I think embracing it, and don't be scared of it just because it's different. You can create your own new path and make your life easier.


Reflecting on your career, what has been one of the most rewarding aspects of working in production, accounting and system development.


It's still, you know, warms my core, each time someone is like, wow, this, this really was better. I mean, we were on the phone the other day with a client and we were training them on our purchase orders and digital petty cash envelopes for commercial project. And they said at the end of the call, I was really scared that this was going to be difficult. But I'm pleasantly surprised on how easy and beautiful this looks. And you know, to have people call software beautiful is both interesting and rewarding at the same time to hear that so yeah, it's cool. I love that part. Just making people happy. That's


awesome. And I think you kind of just spoke to this, but I'm curious. Finally, you know, what excites you most about your current role at Wrapbook and the future of the tools that we're building?


I think I'm most excited about I have the opportunity Unity now to be even more forward thinking, seeing what else is out there that can benefit that, you know, perhaps no one even thought of before to integrate with our system or to incorporate into our system. So, yeah, I think I think that's what it is. I love to see what's up and coming and what we can do to delight our customers even more. That's


awesome. Well, the Victoria, thanks for joining me her in On Production. I really appreciate the chance to work with you day in and day out and bring these awesome tools to market. Thanks so much.


Thank you. Thanks for having me.

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