Risk Strategies’ Edward Shaara shares a look at what it takes to keep production flowing behind the scenes of major entertainment projects.
Come see the stars! As part of our ongoing coverage of the top brokers in the commercial insurance space, Risk and insurance®sponsored by Philadelphia Insurance, is expanding its coverage of the Rising Stars, those brokers who represent the next wave of insurance brokerage talent.
Look for these extended profiles at Risk and insurance website and on your social media channels now and continuing through 2023.
Here’s a look at Edward Shaara, Account Manager, Venture Strategies and 2022 Entertainment Power Broker and Rising Star Finalist.
Risk and insurance: What inspired you to specialize in providing risk management support for the entertainment industry?
Edward Shaara: Risk Strategies was my first chance with entertainment. I’ve been on the team for just over five years. When they reached out and said, “Hey, we have this opportunity in entertainment. It’s something different. Do you want to know more?” it was something that grabbed me right away.
Entertainment seemed faster. Every day is something new; it’s a new challenge. It’s not the kind of risk that fits in a box. You have to be more creative, more open-minded.
About five minutes into the interview, I found out what they were doing and what projects were going on, and I was like, “Okay, how do I start? How do I commit right now?” So it was something that I saw as a challenge, but it was something that I wanted to take on.
I grew up in insurance. My father is inside [the] insurance business. My uncle is; my grandfather was
Insurance can be seen with a negative connotation. This is something I have always wanted to change. I want my clients to see my services and the solutions I offer as an extension of their operations and a partner with them.
Whenever something is on their mind or keeping them up at night, I want my clients to call me 24 hours a day. Whatever happens, I’m happy to be there for them.
R&I: How do you maintain consistency in your work given the constant project changes brought to you by your clients with rapidly changing needs?
IS: You must be constantly available, have open communication and set realistic expectations. The entertainment space is made up of a lot of creative individuals, and they’re always looking to change things up or push the boundaries or get the next “wow” moment.
So just being open with them and talking and constantly being in their ear, not to be an obstacle, because we never want to be an obstacle, but to be their partner and be creative to get to completion.
Sometimes you have to have difficult conversations with your client: “This looks like it could be a challenge,” or “This is going to take a couple of days to get approved, so we really need to get this information sooner rather than later.” Obviously, this isn’t always available, or possible, so we do what we can. But just being open and having a constant flow of communication with your client is very important.
R&I: How have recent safety and security incidents on movie sets and concerts affected your ability to secure insurance coverage for your clients?
IS: Carriers have really raised their underwriting standards and what it takes to approve items: stunts, dangerous activities, pyrotechnics, use of weapons and arms.
Because it takes longer to get things approved, it’s important to be able to predict what questions underwriters will be looking for when we have certain types of activity. And being able to get the customer to provide them up front, so if it’s a short fuse or something, they can present it to the carrier and say, “Hey, this is what’s going on. Here are all the safety protocols in place. Let us know if you need anything.” Try to cut back and forth.
There are a lot of new people in the entertainment space today. Coming out of COVID, production is at an all-time high. With that comes a lot of people who don’t have that much experience.
So sometimes you have gunsmiths, pyrotechnics technicians, stunt coordinators, what [are] a little greener or new in this space. Operators are really looking at your resumes and past experiences. When things are approved, sometimes loss control needs to be involved to access the situation and provide a certain level of comfort with the carrier before they approve something.
R&I: What can be done to help your customers prepare for potentially tighter entertainment security protocols being considered by the US Congress?
IS: The sooner you can get us involved, the better. Sometimes things come down to the wire, or they come on set and say, “Hey, we want to do this now,” or “We think this would be much cooler or better for our creative.” But the sooner the better.
We like to try to get involved in the creative and planning phase, highlight some points that, “Hey, this might be a challenge. This might take a while. You want to make sure that the pyrotechnician, let’s say, has a lot of experience”.
We’re looking at things like making sure everyone is covered by workers’ compensation and safety protocols in place, because that’s really where carriers are digging these days.
Unfortunately, in situations where there are liability claims and people are injured, that’s really what they’re trying to avoid, at the end of the day. So being able to predict what they want to see and security protocols and things of that nature are really what we’re trying to focus on right now.
R&I: Have there been any carriers that have really impressed you with their ability to offer highly tailored coverage solutions to your customers?
IS: Maintaining carrier relationships has been very important right now, especially because of COVID. There [are] really only three or four admitted carriers who are willing to quote movies or tv right now.
Operators understand that they have to be creative. And the operators who stay more old school and by the book don’t get as much business, maybe that’s because of their own security and their own comfort levels.
So it’s a stressful time for us, but we do it [our] better to maintain relationships with our carriers and insurers.
R&I: It seems as if creatives have drawn even more creativity into their work since the start of the pandemic. What have been some particularly creative solutions in terms of insurance coverage and risk mitigation that you have taken advantage of over the past year?
IS: Feature film clients, especially, are trying to land casts where there is a significant number of A-list talent. Obviously, the schedules for all these people are tough. Stop dates have become very difficult.
On a film we had recently, I think it was close to 20 A-list talent. Operators don’t want to cover that many people. They usually try to provide 12-14 at most. Once you get to that level of additional expense (coverage for 20 people), it almost becomes unviable from a budget perspective.
So we worked with the carrier. We got them to agree to a cast record where certain people would be covered, if they were in the first few weeks of the movie. But then, once their involvement in the project ended, they went off the record. And then the individuals from the next three weeks of the film would be added. So instead of paying for 20 delivery locations, the customer only had to pay for 10 or 12.
Carriers don’t like to do this. But in certain situations where it’s 20 top professionals, they have to work with us a little bit. Obviously there was some premium, but significantly cheaper than having paid for 20 A-listers.
At the end of the day, everyone was happy with the agreement and collaboration that came together in that one. But again, most of the carriers that are staying in this space right now are really open to creative ideas, because they know that if they don’t, someone else will get the business. &