Disclaimer: What I state here is just my understanding of the situation that has resulted in my current insurance being approved of by the Hawaii State Film Office, as of December 16th, 2013. However, as I am not affiliated in any official capacity with the State, so I cannot guarantee everything I say is 100% accurate, and the State may change things in the future. Please comment and let me know if I’ve said anything explicitly inaccurate and I will do my best to amend it.
This has taken a while, but I believe I’ve finally got all my ducks in a row with the stressful and confusing requirements implemented by the State of Hawaii for being eligible to receive a film permit, which is required for all commercial photography taking place on State property – including scenic landscapes you intend to sell as art prints. Don’t get me wrong – there are a lot of things about the legislation that I absolutely do not agree with, but in the interest of professionalism, I’ve been working to get myself into their new online film permit application database, which in itself is a great improvement to the complicated system, and have finally successfully done so after addressing the controversial Automobile Liability requirement that they attempted to implement for the Annual Permit Application a couple of years ago.
For those of you who don’t know me or don’t remember this, in December 2011, all current Annual Permit holders were notified that in order to receive our 2012 Annual Permit, we would need to update our insurance to not only having $1 million in General Liability with the State of Hawaii named additional insured, but also have $1 million in single combined limit auto insurance with the State of Hawaii named there as well. If you knew us during that time, we kind of freaked out – why, if we used our cars solely for commuting to a location, would we have to buy business/commercial auto insurance? What if we didn’t own a car and took the Bus everywhere? There was enough feedback from the local photography community that the Hawaii Film Office backed off from the requirement for the Annual Permit, and I applied for and successfully received both my 2012 and 2013 Annual Permits with no issue.
Cut to a few weeks ago, when I got a call for a last minute commercial job that needed me to apply for a Standard Film Permit, due to the desired location not being on the Open/Accessible Sites list, and because it was for a commercial job that was not in the “Scenic/Stock/Wedding/Model Portfolios” categories that the Annual Permit is limited to. However, my application to join the e-permit system was immediately rejected, and I learned that the vehicle insurance naming the State as an additional insured was a firm requirement that wasn’t going to budge.
(Again, I ask about the photographers who don’t have cars…like, literally will take the bus to a job. Or get dropped off outside the location and walk in. What about them??)
Anyway, I was unable to take the job due to my inability to get the permit in time (insurance and holiday weekend issues, etc.), and then it was off to Japan for a family vacation, where long train rides found me ruminating over the situation more than I’d like to admit. I posted on Facebook about my troubles, and Maui photographer Jana Morgan (Thanks Jana!!!!) commented to let me know she had all of the insurance requirements taken care of, and as we both use State Farm for our general liability insurance, I referred my agent, Shelli Toguchi, to Jana’s agent to get the rundown on the requirements.
One of the confusing issues had been that while I had the required amount of insurance on my car ($1 million single combined limit), my auto insurance company, USAA, had told me without a doubt that they would be unable to write in the State of Hawaii as an additional insured, and besides that, requiring the insurance for a permit was unbelievably ridiculous if I was just commuting to a location. They were not the only insurance agency that told me this as I was shopping my issue around during my panicked attempt to work that one job. And I agree with them. But I digress…
In the end, it turns out, if you already have your business general liability insurance with the same company that you have your automobile insurance with, there’s a chance you can just get that added to your Certificate of Insurance (COI). The State requires two things with the auto insurance – the amount, and the wording for the additional insured. There is no specific requirement that it needs to be “business/commercial insurance.” Here’s what mine looks like (with specific numbers/dates scrubbed out):
However, I was warned that if insurance underwriters review your insurance and certificate with the additional insured add-on, they may change the rating of your vehicle from personal to business anyway, so I finally bit the bullet and got myself business auto insurance for my car…and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be! Of course the rate will be different for everyone depending on the vehicle/history/etc., all those random little inputs that make the computers spit out a specific number tailored just for you, but for my car (a 2006 Honda Civic), it came out to about $103/month, which is about $20/month more than we had been paying USAA for my car’s personal insurance. The increase is completely doable and worth it for my business, and an extra tax write-off to boot!
With my new COI in my digital hand, I went and re-applied for the Online Film Permit system as a way to make sure I had everything I needed, as they are very quick about manually accepting or denying applications, and after a false start due to a typo, I finally received this joyous email:
So, from now on my film permits should be obtained without too much complications or grief. Please note that the automobile liability insurance is not yet a firm requirement for the Annual Permit – which covers “Scenics/Stock, Weddings, Model Portfolios” at “Open/Accessible Sites”. However, if you are shooting a commercial job that does not fall under those genres of photography, you will need to apply for a permit that requires the automobile liability insurance, even if the location you are shooting at is an “Open/Accessible Site”.
Confused? Have more questions? Call or email the Hawaii Film Office if you need clarification on what you need for a specific job.
And so, I will finish this with a list-summary of what I know so far:
- I loathe bureaucracy, and there’s still a lot of stuff with this system that we need to talk to our representatives about. Let me know if you’re interested in joining me on this.
- The State Annual Permit requires $1 million in general liability only, but that’s only for “Scenics/Stock, Weddings, Model Portfolios” at “Open Accessible Sites“.
- I’m not sure how “Portraits” fits into those categories, so someone in that specific area should probably call the Hawaii Film Office and ask…I’m tired of calling them. Let me know and I’ll update this list.
- All other job types and locations require Standard Film Permits that also require $1 million in single combined limit automobile insurance.
- The State doesn’t require “business/commercial automobile insurance”, but most insurance agencies won’t name them additional insured unless it’s “business/commercial automobile insurance” specifically, as opposed to personal automobile insurance.
- Business auto insurance wasn’t nearly as expensive as I thought it was going to be.
- Getting a Standard Film Permit for DLNR/State Park locations has a $100/day fee, so factor that into your quotes for your commercial clients.
- I haven’t even gotten started with the County Film Offices. That’s a whole other thing.
Hopefully, even if this information isn’t the most pleasant of subjects, it can help people who have been confused like I was. Shout-out to State Farm Agent Shelli Toguchi (located by Ice Palace/Aloha Stadium) and her team – they have been SO patient and helpful with me over the years I’ve had them for my general liability insurance (like that time my camera drowned in a jungle downpour), and now with all the back-and-forth I’ve experienced with the automobile insurance. If you’re looking to get yourself squared away with all this, please give them a call at 808-486-1111! (And let them know I sent you!)
And now back to our regular program of the infrequent not-so-helpful-but-oh-pretty-pictures blogging…