What makes a film risky

Marketplace Staff Feb 25, 2011

What makes a film risky

Marketplace Staff Feb 25, 2011


Kai Ryssdal: Angelina Jolie’s spy thriller “Salt” won’t be a big winner Sunday night at the Academy Awards, mostly because it wasn’t nominated for any of the big categories.

“Salt” does top another list, though, one of more dubious distinction: It was the riskiest film of 2010. Risky to make, risky to finance, and risky to insure.

Lauren Bailey’s the vice president of Entertainment at Fireman’s Fund Insurance. They provide coverage for a lot movies. Good to have you with us.

Lauren Bailey: Thank you. Good to be here.

Ryssdal: So let’s start with Angelina Jolie and “Salt,” and what made it the riskiest film to insure this year.

Bailey: Well it was risky because Ms. Jolie decided to do her own stunts, and obviously, there’s always risk when an actor decides to do something like that.

Ryssdal: Does she just get to decide that, or is a consultation with, obviously the production company, but also I imagine, you guys, right?

Bailey: It is. You know, we try to certainly stay in the background and not interfere, but they obviously want to know our opinion and how we feel about something like that.

Ryssdal: Moving beyond “Salt,” what were some other films out last year that were, you know, they got shot but they were risky to do?

Bailey: Well, anything that’s action that has a lot of stunt, that might have pyrotechnics, where they’re actually filming as opposed to using special effects. Those productions tend to have the largest risk. Things that are romantic comedies, for example, tend to be fairly low-risk.

Ryssdal: Yeah, like I’m guessing like “The King’s Speech” didn’t have a whole lot of insurance risk.

Bailey: Exactly, exactly.

Ryssdal: Is there a way for me to know as a viewer sort of what’s a risky production element and which is not, other than the obvious explosions and you know, pyrotechnics?

Bailey: Probably one of the things that people might not think about is just kind of the overall budget of the production. So a lot of times you’ll see in the press how big a movie is. For us, those can be the largest risk because if a production goes down on a given day, regardless of what it is —

Ryssdal: And when you say ‘go down,’ it means, stops filming, right?

Bailey: Exactly. So that could result in as much as a stunt that goes bad.

Ryssdal: So you guys probably had to swallow pretty hard when you decided to let Angelina Jolie jump off that moving train or whatever. But can you think of an instance when you just said, ‘Nuh-uh, forget it. This is too dangerous, we’re not insuring.’

Bailey: You know, for the most part, what happens in those kinds of scenarios is that we’re negotiating. So what we might say is, for example, we have to carry a different deductible or maybe we’re going to exclude injury resulting from a specific activity, or something like that. But then they can determine that, OK, as long as we have insurance for everything else, we’ll go ahead and take that risk ourselves.

Ryssdal: This is probably one of those hush-hush things that nobody in Hollywood likes to talk about, but there is, I imagine, somewhere in each studio and in each insurance company, a list of actors and actresses and directors who are, well, notorious, frankly, for causing problems and making insurability difficult.

Bailey: That would be a fair statement.

Ryssdal: And that’s about as far as you’re going to go on that one?

Bailey: Yeah, that’s pretty much as far as I’m going to go on that.

Ryssdal: Lauren Bailey, she runs the entertainment division at Fireman’s Fund, the insurance company. Lauren, thanks a lot.

Bailey: Thank you for having me.

Ryssdal: Yes, I was thinking of Charlie Sheen when I asked that question. Lindsay Lohan, too. Here’s some disclosure. Fireman’s Fund is owned by Allianz, the big financial services company, which is an underwriter of this program.

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