Three letters have been giving the payroll-services industry fits for several months now: ACA. That's the semi-acronym for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, and it's up to the payroll industry -- which cuts checks to production workers and offers related financial services to TV and film studios -- to help educate its clients on the rules before a good portion of the law kicks in Jan. 1.And since the only law that Washington consistently passes is the law of unintended consequences, how might all the regulatory confusion affect the film industry?
"It's a morass of regulations and requirements, and everyone's trying to figure out what their exposure is," says Eric Belcher, president and CEO of Cast & Crew Entertainment Services. Adds Mark Goldstein, CEO of Entertainment Partners, which has held 16 seminars to help studios understand ACA: "It's going to be a very big deal."
One of the unintended consequences, say some industry insiders, is that it could lead to productions running to foreign countries, given that ACA doesn't apply to U.S. citizens working abroad. Some also say the number of production days in the U.S. are likely to be cut due to ACA because there's a 90-day waiting period before productions must either pay a penalty or offer health insurance to full-time workers. That rule provides big incentives for a production to wrap in less than three months. While big-budget movies and season-long TV shows might not have such a luxury, smaller films or TV pilots could easily rush their schedules to make sure they come in at under 90 days.Yes, people do respond to incentives. The film industry is just one of many industries that will increasingly seek labor on a contract basis, rather than hiring people full-time and having to incur the costs. And since productions would be turning around more quickly to avoid the 90-day requirement, it means that people who work in the film industry will find their lives to be even more chaotic, as they'll have to be constantly hustling to find new work. I blame George W. Bush.