As a filmgoer, Furtschegger prefers thrillers and blockbusters like the ‘Mission Impossible’ series. However, when it comes to underwriting, he loves comedies, dramas and especially romances.
“They are easier to cover,” he explains with a laugh. “They tend to be without the death-defying stunts and high-octane pyrotechnics of the blockbusters.”
Between the dangerous stunts, the kaleidoscope of explosions and human error, a lot can go wrong on a set. Most studios and independents will not start a film unless it's insured against potential delays from injury or incapacitation of actors, damage to props, sets and costumes, and equipment breakages. AGCS also covers extra expenses such as damage to film material. Historically this meant 16mm or 32mm film, but nowadays covers storage on electronic devices such as chip cards.
As part of daily work, the global entertainment team analyzes scripts, shooting schedules and budgets. In their assessment, among other factors, the AGCS underwriters look at the cast involved, the stunts, the shooting locations and sensitive medical history of the actors.
Nicole Kidman is one actress who was plagued by a health problem. After insurers paid $3 million in production delays when she injured her knee on the 2001 film 'Moulin Rouge', the injury prevented her from filming 'Panic Room' (2002) and Jodie Foster was brought in as a costly replacement.
Typically - depending on genre, insured budget, deductibles and other risk factors - premiums can range from 0.6 percent to 1 percent of a movie's total budget, which could amount to between $1 million and $2 million for a $200 million movie. Furtschegger says coverage usually has to be tailor-made for each production, and with blockbusters costing $200 million or more, there is a lot riding on the risk assessment getting it right.
“We see a lot of ‘red flags’, but usually find a compromise in discussions with the client and by risk appropriate underwriting actions,” he says. “However, anything involving a member of the main cast doing their own stunts has proven to be very risky to cover. And once a famed documentary channel inquired about a presenter being swallowed by a python – that was a definite ‘No’.”
Typically, the AGCS underwriter assesses the risks in meetings with brokers and clients, special effects managers and technical crews well before the first day of shooting. For blockbusters, however, a risk engineer is often on-site to assess the risks and liabilities involved in stunts.
After thorough risk assessment, it could well be that Allianz requires changes to the script because of risk aggravating factors like asking to add stunt doubles or to rewrite scenes to limit the risks the actors are involved with.