We asked James Hargreaves, Director at Streets ISA Media and Entertainment Chartered Accountants, all about being an entertainment accountant. Here’s what he told us.
What is your role at Streets ISA?
As a Director I have responsibility for developing new clients, as well as looking after the needs of existing clients. This work includes management of staff working on client matters, and ensuring a timely and efficient turnaround of work and response to client queries.
I am also involved in the development of the firm’s offer, and provision of services to clients within the media and entertainment industry.
This work takes place across our offices in London and Manchester, which are key locations for this sector. It involves determining strategy and having a good understanding of the needs and trends of those within the industry.
How did you get into entertainment accounting?
I never set out to be an accountant that specialised in media and entertainment. My first job as a trainee accountant was with a small six-partner practice in the West End of London, which specialised in that field.
Since that point, I have gained over 17 years’ experience dealing with clients in the industry.
What does it take to become an accountant?
Watch the webinar with AAT qualified accounting tutor Patricia Barlow
What kinds of clients do you work with?
We work with film production companies, post production companies, talent agencies, actors, comedians, cast and crew.
We also have a number of clients engaged in the ancillary services and allied industries.
Is being an entertainment accountant as exciting as it sounds?
The core accountancy and tax work is similar to that required for clients in other sectors. However, the more interesting areas revolve around specialist advice such as preparing investment memorandums for films, theatre or gaming, maximising the available government tax breaks for the entertainment sector.
There is, of course, always the chance to bore family and friends when watching credits, and pointing out clients you act for. We do get invited to industry events, but our work very much goes on in the background.
Over the last few years we have seen a growing trend in film production companies who produce feature films. It is interesting to meet a client who has an idea for a film, and assisting them to obtain funding to be able to finally see the finished article on screen.
What skills do you think are most important for an entertainment accountant?
A large part of my role is offering guidance in a personable way, understanding the pressures faced by the industry, and being aware of the specific rules pertaining to the media sector.
Having an appreciation of the working lives of those in the sector, and making oneself flexible to this, does seem to be really appreciated. A genuine interest in the creative sector, film, TV and media also helps.
In my experience, you really need to be comfortable dealing with people. Always be aware that your clients pay your bills. Adapt to clients’ requirements and be flexible, as the media sector does not work 9 to 5.
If you’re interested in following in James’s footsteps, your first step is to gain a professional accounting qualification.