Setting the Bar for Brokers
No project is too challenging for Seth Cohen and his team to insure, as his clients can attest to.
“One of our clients was producing the ‘Heaven Sent’ jump, in which Luke Aikins jumped out of a plane at 25,000 feet without a parachute or a wing suit. The only thing catching him was a net the size of a football field,” said Marcia Jacobson, president, The Jacobson Group.
“We were not covering Luke, but cameramen who were perched on a ledge on the side of a mountain and sound guys located on the ground. There was concern for their safety, and it was a potential workers’ comp nightmare. Seth, as usual, was able to make the coverage work for our client and the jump went off without a hitch.”
Another client, the producer of a television series, described how Cohen worked through ongoing negotiations with insurers after an injury to an actor caused setbacks in the schedule. Coverage had to be adjusted last-minute, and Cohen figured out the most cost-effective way to make the changes and get all of the necessary coverage in place.
“He’s set the bar for other brokers I work with as well. And those other brokers often don’t meet the expectations that I have because of Seth,” the producer said.
Casey Spira, executive in charge, Irwin Entertainment, said the time and care that Cohen and his team take with each client is not commonly found.
“They’re available 24/7, and that’s not something you can get with everyone,” Spira said.
Minimizing Risk to Enable Growth
John Galanis spent time in both the Los Angeles and the New York offices of Aon subsidiary Albert G. Ruben Insurance Services. He’s worked on everything from television and film to magazine publishing and advertising. As a result, he can create solutions best suited to each unique scenario that arises.
Christine Busch, senior risk manager for the Hearst Corp., said, “I have thrown multiple projects at him over the past year and he is always quick to respond, quick to provide quotes, and great with explaining, following up, and getting the job done. We have had odd situations come up that have involved unusual locations, stunts or race cars, and nothing seems to faze John. He listens and then goes out to the market to find creative solutions.”
“It’s a very last-minute, seat-of-the-pants industry,” said Nancy Perkins, director, insurance risk management at AOL, which started to create more original content in-house in 2016. “John and his team worked with me as our program grew from a small package policy to more of a production program that a larger size company would need.”
Similarly, Danielle Zubriksi, director of business affairs for advertising agency 22Squared, said, “John’s knowledge and willingness to talk me through insurance concerns has been key to our growth. He has been instrumental in helping my agency — a small, independent shop — institute production wrap-up policies that were previously only available to holding company agencies.”
A True Client Advocate
For a recent movie production, HUB’s Robert Jellen recognized that the mere threat of bad weather could halt filming for days at a time, so he arranged for a policy enhancement that covered delays in production due to a threat of damage, even if no physical damage was sustained.
The enhancement proved critical. The movie lost production time due to threat of lightning on 27 days, resulting in a claim in excess of $1 million.
For Steve Burkow, a partner with Ziffren Brittenham LLP, Jellen came through with a life insurance policy that helped to seal an endorsement deal.
“We were working with an advertiser that wanted life insurance for the client, but was concerned about privacy. Bob created a structure under which the client could take over the policy on favorable terms. He does this consistently — advocates for the client to find a solution that works for everyone and either adds value or saves costs.”
Peter Oillataguerre, executive in charge of production for MGM Studios, said Jellen will answer a phone call at any time of day.
“We’ve had more than a few conversations at extremely inappropriate hours and he has always accommodated me,” he said.
“His knowledge of the industry is unparalleled. I’ve been working in this industry for 20 years and have had the pleasure of working with several different brokers, and Bob has more industry knowledge than anyone I’ve come across.”
Keeping Coverage on Pace with Production
Daniel R’bibo can conjure up innovative solutions in no time flat.
“As a production company, things are always changing. We don’t need him once a year for renewal; we need his services 50 times a year,” said Gretchen Stockdale, COO and general counsel for Pilgrim Media Group. “It’s important for him to really know our business and form relationships in the industry.”
“Daniel knows all the key players and is aware of all the different approaches that we need to take on each project,” said Ellen Schwartz, head of production at Black Label Media.
The insurance needs of each project are highly dependent on the actors involved and the production locations, and schedules are always subject to change.
“He was amazing in helping us come up with creative solutions for obtaining insurance on a movie with an actor who was also committed to another project at the time,” which made his travel and schedule hectic and presented coverage challenges, Schwartz said.
R’bibo sometimes acts as an educator to other brokers. Stockdale described one project in which a co-producing company was receiving inaccurate information from their broker, and R’bibo stepped in to get everyone on the same page and move the project forward.
On another show involving more than two dozen stunts, R’bibo proactively involved the loss control team and created a streamlined process for submitting information on each stunt first to loss control and then to the carrier, which expedited clearance of the stunts and made the carrier more comfortable providing coverage.
Behind the Scenes of the Big Game
Amy Walters knows that insuring a high-profile event like the Super Bowl means planning for every contingency and then some.
John Mitchell, COO at Future Fires and a member of the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee in San Francisco, said, “Amy and her team helped the Host Committee understand the risks involved in producing an event that saw more than a million visitors in 9 days. It was also taking place right around a number of unrelated national and international security incidents that made us want to make sure we were totally prepared.”
Danielle DeLancey, chief of staff for the San Francisco Super Bowl 50 Host Committee, also cited the challenges in creating “Super Bowl City” — a free-to-the-public, open access area in downtown San Francisco created to celebrate the big game.
“Insurers were either declining coverage or offering quotes beyond the budget,” she said. “Amy and her team worked tirelessly over the holiday season with their underwriters across the globe to secure coverage for our events. The result was a successful, safe event.”
A host committee member for a different Super Bowl echoed Mitchell’s and DeLancey’s sentiments. In need of event cancellation insurance, he turned to Walters to get carriers, the bank requiring the insurance, and a state reimbursement program on the same page.
“Amy and her team negotiated unique terms, communicated to underwriters the uniqueness of our event and our funding, and got insurance bound without delaying our loan closing,” he said.
Blazing His Own Trail
A production company client of Paul Jones was concerned that it would not receive a sizable tax credit it relied on to help fund its budget. Jones and his team with Aon subsidiary Albert G. Ruben Insurance Services set out to build a product that insured 85 percent of the multimillion dollar credit if the state couldn’t pay.
While difficult to bring together — the policy required several carriers to get on board even after a few rejections —the new product removed a lot of guesswork over the final budget and provided much needed peace of mind.
Kevin Drozdowski, vice president, treasury and risk management, AMC Networks, also relies on Jones for more than standard production coverage.
“In addition to covering our production needs, he also places all of our cyber and events coverage. If I could use him for all of my insurance needs, I would. He’s the best broker I’ve worked with and I’ve worked with all the major brokerage houses.
“On a scale of one to 10, I’d rate his customer service a 15 and his industry knowledge a 20,” said the risk manager of another major production company. “He comes up with out-of-the-box solutions — not the expected standard policy — to handle complex problems.”
Kumi Maemura, director, production, BBC Worldwide Productions, also lauded Jones for his availability and quick responses, as well as his ability to put himself in his clients’ shoes.
“He brings creative ways to make sure we have the coverage we need for the exposure while being conscious of what we want to get on camera.”