Stunt insurance for an 8000 pound RV on a frozen lake

Jeremy Pinckert of Explore is an Emmy Award winning director of commercials and branded content. Time and time again, Jeremy has proven that he has the eye-catching vision for monumental shots and performances. 

We asked Jeremy to take us behind the scenes on one of his more interesting shoots on a frozen lake.

Jeremy Pinckert’s Behind the Scenes:

When we heard from our longtime client and friends at Go RVing that they wanted to feature a story about the entertaining, quirky and downright endearing ice fishing culture up in Minnesota (or Minny – so-da to the locals) we were of course ecstatic. 

The opportunity to tell the actual stories of real people is a process we have worked hard to perfect over the years. We’ve worked with this client to film the stories of real people as they’ve gone hiking in Acadia National Park, “Girl Camped” together in the Poconos, urban-camped in downtown Atlanta, day-camped for Lollapalooza, thrown a tailgate party at the University of Florida, and bonded during an outdoor guys trip adventure in Miami. 

This project would be very similar in many ways, but was quite different in one important aspect: the majority of the story would take place in and around an 8,000 pound RV on a frozen lake 1 mile from shore. That means camera department, G&E, makeup, crew, and supporting cast would also need to theoretically be on a frozen lake in a second RV. Also the shoot couldn’t happen until early March, when ice fishing is beginning to shut down for the season. 

Normally when a production company gets a call for a new potential shoot, we all factor insurance into our AICP bids. Sometimes an agency will state they are specifically covering insurance, but often the production company will. According to Chris Johnson of Johnsonese Brokerage, a Chicago-based company helping to insure projects filmed here for 13 years, there are two approaches to a production company insuring a shoot. They can either contract a new insurance policy for each shoot, which gives flexibility in their overhead and the policy. Or they can carry a DICE (Documentary Industrial Commercial Educational) Production Package policy which in effect covers all normal shoots during the course of a particular year. 

There are pros and cons to each way of choosing to do business. The reality is a production company needs to weigh how many projects they are doing per year, the types of jobs that typically come their way, and how much overhead they want on the books vs. waiting until a project comes in to grab insurance. It’s much more expensive over the long haul to get individual policies for each job, but the advantage is your monthly overhead is lower – you pay for insurance only when you are bringing in income. 

For this situation, Explore has a DICE policy to cover most of our production insurance needs. The key word is “most”. Shooting on a frozen lake in Minnesota in March? A DICE policy will definitely cover the shoot – until anyone in the crew steps across a very specific line: the lake’s shore. 

This shoot was moving at breakneck speed and we needed answers fast on the intricacies of what was covered and what was not. Bring back in Chris Johnson of Johnsonese Insurance. 

“For me part of the fun of working in the entertainment business is that you get to figure out things like how to insure scenarios just like this situation. The decision between annual insurance coverage and short-term coverage should be based on the number of shoots that you forecast for the year. But with either type of coverage you should talk to your agent about anything unusual with a project because it may need to be treated as a ‘stunt’ for insurance purposes. This job, shooting on a frozen lake…was definitely a “stunt” scenario,” says Chris with a chuckle. 

The word “stunt” to us implied we were doing extremely risky maneuvers or dangerous routines, which we quickly wanted to assure the insurance company we would not be doing. But in the entertainment insurance world, the word “stunt” is more of a categorical word covering everything from having a pet on set to shooting from an airplane. 

Once the mystique and danger around the word was minimized, and the parameters for what needed to be covered were set, we were able to gain coverage extremely efficiently. An underwriter specializing in stunt insurance called from Los Angeles, we provided some information, a safety plan, and the contact information for our safety professionals, and within a short amount of time our shoot was cleared and ready to shoot! 

We were able to produce two very different styles of narrative during our 1 day shoot.

The production went very smoothly, even though on the day of shooting it was 40+ degrees on the 24-inch thick ice! Our safety experts at Rescue Resources made sure everyone from our production team to talent to our clients to the crew felt safe knowing the insurance company trusted their expertise. And with help from the great team over at Johnsonese, we were able to pull off a successful project in a short amount of time. 

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