The Payroll Accountant

This Week's Film Crew 101 Guest:

Cathy Marshall-Hart is a payroll accountant that has worked on some amazing and iconic films. Her list of credits includes The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, Rent, Rush Hour 3, Twilight, The Book of Eli, Hidden Figures, Hostiles, Ford v Ferrari, and two projects that filmed right here in Oklahoma – Stillwater, directed by Tom McCarthy and starring Matt Damon, and an FX TV pilot, Reservation Dogs, written by writer and filmmaker Sterlin Harjo and Oscar-winning writer Taika Waititi, who also directs the pilot. Our host, Kim Mott, recently spoke with Cathy to learn more about Cathy’s role as a payroll accountant.


Listen To The Episode Here:


The Payroll Accountant: 

The payroll accountant is usually hired by the Head Accountant on a film and begins work during pre-production when pre-production departments begin to prepare for the shoot. Their main responsibility is to ensure that everyone on the production -- from the cast to production assistants -- gets paid. 

The Payroll Accountant receives the pay rates for each position from the UPM. The Payroll Accountant will distribute and process start work paperwork and make sure it is filled out correctly by all positions on a film or tv show. Start packs from studios can range from ten to fifty pages and include start forms from payroll services that are used by the production. Without a start work form, a cast or crew member cannot get paid due to IRS regulations. Often, a Payroll Accountant will send their assistant out to set on the first day of the shoot to follow up with the cast and crew to find crew members and spot check their paperwork. Productions usually use Entertainment Partners or Cast and Crew for their payroll services.  

The Payroll Accountant will use timecards to process weekly paychecks using the payroll software. These timecards must include a crew member's in time, out time, and when they took lunch. If a cast or crew includes the last four digits of their social security number on these time cards it aids the Payroll Accountant, as well as ensuring that their position, as well as their first name and last name are clearly visible on the card. 

The Accounting Department will work closely with the Production Office. Each week, the Accounting Department must complete a cost report for the production. The Payroll Accountant must provide each cast member and crew member's information and weekly paycheck amount for this report. The weekly cost report will be used by producers and the UPM to determine the status of the production budget. 


What’s a Payroll Accountant good at?

Organization: The Payroll Accountant must be able to track the paperwork and timecards for the entire production crew, which can include hundreds of people with varying pay rates. In order to do so, they must be highly organized and efficient at their job. 

Detail-oriented: The Payroll Accountant must be able to spot errors. If a signature is missed, it may mean that someone doesn't get paid. A keen eye for detail will ensure that no errors go unnoticed. 

Good with people: The Payroll Accountant works closely with many departments and will often communicate with Department Heads about issues regarding payment. Patience, an ability to listen and treat others with respect is a must when working with others in this capacity. 



Who does a Payroll Accountant work with?

Head Accountant

FIrst Assistant Accountant

Assistant Payroll Accountant

Accounting Clerk 


Production Office

Department Heads

Seconds and Best Boys 


How do I become a Payroll Accountant? 

Start out as a Set PA and move to the Accounting Department or get hired as an Accounting Clerk. If you get hired as an Accounting Clerk, you can begin to build relationships and gain the experience you need to be a Payroll Accountant. 


What is the salary range?

While some site annual salaries as high as $114,500 and others as low as $21,000, the majority of Accountant salaries in film production currently range between $39,500 to $73,500 across the United States.  


What is in a Payroll Accountant's kit box?

The Payroll Accountant will usually use supplies provided by the production office. 


Position Terminology

Start work: Refers to the packet a cast member or crew member must complete in order to get paid on a film or TV show. 


Learn More:  

Learn more about Cathy Marshall-Hart:

Learn more about Kim Mott:


Thank you to the Oklahoma Film and Music Office for sponsoring this episode!

Learn more about filming in Oklahoma:

Oklahoma Look Book 2019


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If you have ever dreamt about working in film and television but don’t know where to start, we invite you to get certified with Film Crew 101.


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