Making It In Music On A Path Less Traveled
An Interview with Lindsay Tomasic

By Shirley Craig

Last month we had the privilege of talking to Lindsay Tomasic, musician, composer, record producer and engineer.  Even though her name may not jump out at you, you’ve all probably heard Lindsay’s music, since she is the owner of a very successful music catalog, Frameworks Music.  Since 2005, her music and the music library she produces can be heard all over the world, across all major television networks, as well as in commercials and in film.  Today, production music has become an essential audio ingredient for every major television network and production company. After a solo career, Lindsay Tomasic now works in the trenches creating an astounding library of music together with first class composers and musicians.
So Lindsay, tell me, when did you first pick up a guitar?  
I was four or five.
Wow! Four or five!
Yes, but it wasn’t the guitar initially.  It was a ukulele. My hands were not big enough to fit around a guitar neck.
So, were your parents musical? Or did you just know at age four or five you wanted to play? Or did somebody buy you a toy ukulele?
My dad was a professional musician.  He was an accordion player and was musical and playful around me. It was really a wonderful influence to have as a child.  He was always coming up with rhythms and I loved imitating them. It was a very exciting part of my childhood.  My dad would pull a harmonica out of his pocket and play a melody and would then give me the harmonica.  I would try my best to imitate what he played.  By the age of five, I was entertaining the kids on the school bus with the songs I learned on the harmonica.
Did he play in a band?
Yeah, he had a band but he also played solo as well as in smaller ensembles.
And was that how he made his living?
No. Music was always an important part of his life, but he also had day jobs, from working on machines in his early adult life to working as a linotype operator at the Daily Mining Gazette newspaper in our hometown. He usually played gigs on the weekends though. Where we lived in upper Michigan, there were not a lot of opportunities for musicians other than playing at the local bars and there were maybe five or six to choose from.
Did your parents give you music lessons or did you teach yourself? How did it all evolve?
I am a self-taught musician. By the time I was six and ready for a ‘real’ instrument, my folks took me to the local dime store where they had inexpensive acoustic guitars that I had my eye on, and from then on, I was a guitar player.   Although my fingers weren’t long enough, I started by wrapping my thumb around the lower strings to complete a chord and I had chord books around the house that were helpful.  I always found myself attracted to the rhythmic aspect of guitar playing.  It was the closest thing to being a percussionist or a drummer, and rhythms of all kinds inspired me.  Sounds such as the windshield wipers on the car would turn in to metronomes for me, and I loved filling in the blank spaces with catchy phrases. I was a little shy about sharing my singing and guitar playing until around the third grade.  There was a talent show in our class, and I had learned a song called “Little Arrows” that was popular on the radio.  At that point I owned an inexpensive electric guitar and a small amp, which I toted to school.  When it was my turn to perform the song at the talent show I let loose for the first time in front of an audience and my song turned out to be half musical and half comedy.  I remember the whole class roaring with laughter as I exaggerated the chorus.  After I performed that song, I went from being totally un-popular in class, to quite popular, and I was asked to accompany group singing on guitar, as well as to play guitar Mass’ at our church.
And what about recording? How did you become interested in it?
I was interested in recording from the age of about 12. My father had an RCA reel-to-reel recorder that I learned to operate. Around this time the cassette player was invented and an uncle of mine gave me one as a gift. I loved it and decided that I would try to multi-track my recordings. I would record a guitar part on the old reel to reel. I’d put the reel to reel in playback mode and I would put the cassette transport in record mode while playing another instrument.  So, I had two layers.  I went back and forth a few times adding more layers and of course, the sound was horrible!  But, I was multi-tracking for the first time in my life!
So you basically played guitar throughout your childhood. Did you go to college for music?
No, I did not.  At the age of 16, I went out on my own to pursue becoming a professional musician.
Good for you.
It is interesting because some of my role models like Joni Mitchell and Paul McCartney, are self-taught musicians as well who didn’t necessarily pursue academic music careers.  I guess there is something to be said for being self-taught and self-motivated.
So, here you are in upper Michigan, age 16, guitar in hand, and you decided to become a professional musician.  How did you make that work?  Did you go to clubs or bars?
I had a few musical friends in the neighborhood.  My friend, Mark, was an excellent guitar player and when we were 12, he and I decided to perform a version of Woodstock in my parent’s backyard. [Laugh] We had a band called “The Shades of Time”.  I wish I had pictures of this band!   There were too many guitar players in the group and we were without a bass player, so I was elected play bass, but I was also the lead singer. I wasn’t thrilled about it at the time, because my role models were guitarist/singers.  The positive outcome was that I learned to play bass at a young age, and developed a better understanding of that instrument as well as how to sing lead and play bass lines simultaneously.  It was a bit challenging, but I made it work! We played at the teen center and for a few benefits, and we managed to pull off that rock festival in my parent’s backyard.  It was fun even though only four or five people showed up. [Laugh]
That’s so adventurous and after Woodstock...
When I was 16, I met a woman who was 18 who had just graduated from high school and was a fabulous singer-songwriter.  Her name was, and is, Jesse Fitzpatrick.  She and I both played acoustic guitar and we would sing for hours at a time. We listened to Crosby, Stills, and Nash; James Taylor; Carole King and Elton John. We worked diligently on vocal and acoustic guitar arrangements of some of their songs and started to dabble in writing songs of our own.
Did you try to go out and play gigs?  Is this how you started to make a living as a musician?
Jesse and I had a regular Friday night gig at a local pub called The Douglass House in Houghton, MI and I think we each made $25. We began meeting other musicians in the area that were pretty good and we formed our first acoustic folk rock band. “Trees”.  Actually, the real name of the band was “Trees Again”. We were all 70’s hippies and the philosophy of the name was that we were Trees before, and we were now “Trees Again”.
That's very cool! So when did you leave Michigan?
The girlfriend of an LA record producer heard us playing in Michigan and convinced us to come to LA in 1976. So we saved about $1,000 between us and we all traveled in a Dodge van from upper Michigan to Los Angeles and landed on the doorstep of this producer who took us into Cherokee Studios to record our first demo, which was a huge deal.  George Martin was in the next room producing American Flyer.  Captain and Tennille were in the same studio.  We were in good company but our producer wanted to take our sound and really polish it up and make us sound more like a Carpenters sort of band, which we did not want.
 Whow was the producer? 
The producer shall go un-named because he is still a working producer in LA.
Was that hard – resisting -  I mean, here you were, young and somewhat naïve to the big “music industry,” and a producer lures you in. Was it hard to stick to your own guns?
It was very hard, because I felt we should have at least given him a chance. Perhaps he would have seen that he was a bit too controlling, or maybe he would have been able to connect us up with someone more suited to our style.  The rest of the band was very adamant about leaving and heading back to upper Michigan.  I was pretty crushed. Here we were in Los Angeles, it was the ‘70s, and all of that Laurel Canyon groovy stuff was happening all around us. I felt like all we needed to do was stay a little bit longer and be patient with this particular situation. I was out-voted and so we ended up returning to upper Michigan.  When we returned to Michigan, I decided that if I’m going to be in Michigan, I didn’t want to be in the middle of Podunk where there’s nothing going on. So that’s when I decided to figure out a way to move to Ann Arbor.  So I made the decision to just make the move there.   Within a few months of doing this, Jesse followed.
In Ann Arbor did you continue to play with Trees Again or did you go off on your own?
Yes, Trees continued to perform, but we’ve lost a few branches along the way.  We hooked up with a new bass player and drummer in Ann Arbor who had a bluesy, rock and roll feel.  We became a very popular band in Ann Arbor and had a huge Sunday following at a club called Mr. Flood’s Party. We always packed the place on Sunday afternoons. Trees also spent a couple of years working with a well-established “contact improvisation” dance troop called “Mirage”.  They choreographed several dances to our music and we would perform concerts together.  It was great fun.  It led to Jesse and I spending over a year as artists in residence at the Highpoint Center For The Handicapped. We worked with the dancers there as a team and wound up getting a state of Michigan grant to write and record an album of music for children with special needs.  The album was called “Let It Out” and was released in 1980 to a limited audience. We were also playing other gigs whenever one came available that was right for us. Although it was difficult to make a living as musician, we were doing fairly well getting gigs as Trees. I performed by myself every now and then as well as I felt inclined to be a street musician. There was a beautiful arcade in Ann Arbor with great acoustics.  I would park myself and my guitar case in front of the flower shop there a few times a week and would sing for a couple of hours.  I always made excellent tips there and I loved the spontaneity of street performing
Did you play cover material or did you do your own original stuff too?
We primarily played original material, but we also did some ‘60s and ‘70s covers
So for those ten years though, you, Jesse, and The Trees were a successful band in Michigan?
Yes, we were a really successful local band
During that time, since technology was very different. Did you ever have a chance to record anything?
Actually, yes.  We were invited to record in a couple of really nice studios in the Ann Arbor area, but I wanted our music to be more “self-produced”.  I had invested some money in a Tascam four track tape machine and learned to use a small analogue mixer. Little by little, my recordings became a lot more professional and I started getting better at producing the songs I was recording.  This was a big turning point for me. At the point I felt ready to dive in to producing and recording on a professional level I had the great fortune of working with an outstanding recording engineer / producer in Ann Arbor named Geoff Michael.  He helped me transition to an 8 track recording system and taught me so much.  Geoff and I turned the basement of my duplex into a small production studio and we turned out some pretty good music in that little room! To this day, I still rely on the basic principals of recording that he taught me.  When I decided to make the move to LA in 1987, I bought a small pickup truck and managed to load it up with all my recording equipment and instruments.
Was leaving Los Angeles one of your big regrets?
No, because as it turned out, I ended up in Los Angeles about 11 years later with a lot more confidence as well as some experience to actually be able to deal with the ups and downs of the industry and with more of an understanding of how to target what I wanted. Moving to LA at the age of 31 was so much better.  The burden of trying to “make it” with Trees was now lifted and this was a golden opportunity for me to just go out on my own and try to fulfill some of my dreams even though I knew there would be obstacles along the way and that maybe my career wouldn’t turn out exactly how I had imagined it would.
So, how'd you get your foot in the door here in LA once you returned?
I tried to make my living playing cover songs wherever I could get a gig, because I knew it was going to take a while to establish myself as an original artist or producer.  I went to the Chamber of Commerce to get a listing of all of the clubs and hotel lounges where there was live music and I found two or three agents and then narrowed it down to one agent who pretty quickly booked me into the Miramar Sheraton in Santa Monica.  However, the Sheraton only had a piano lounge and I’m a guitar player.  So he said to me, “Look, learn four or five songs on the piano for your audition, because the general manager never comes down into the lounge to really listen to music. They just want to know you can play the piano.”  So I learned “Let it Be” and “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”, and a couple other standards, well enough on the piano so that during the audition, I could sit there and sing and play piano and sound like I knew what I was doing, and I got the gig. Anytime the general manager would show up in the lounge  I would immediately switch from playing guitar to playing the piano, but for the most part, I’d play my sets on guitar. Drum machines were big at that time, and I spent hours programming drum and percussion parts to just about all of my songs. I covered a lot of ‘80s songs and of course threw in all the classic rock stuff that I had known for years.
How long did you play there for?
I played in hotel lounges from 1987 until 1992.  I was super ambitious and eager to work.  In 1988, I would play the Happy Hour at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel from 5:00 until 7:00pm.  Then I would get off work, have a little dinner, and head to either the Miramar Sheraton or the L.A. Hilton or the New Otani Hotel and Lounge in downtown L.A. and play from 9:00PM until 1:00AM six nights a week.
Wow, that was some life!
Yeah, it was crazy and during the daytime hours, I was also doing business recording and producing demos for songwriters in a small bedroom studio in our Santa Monica apartment. 
And is that how you started to get into the whole producing thing?
Yes. The bedroom studio in Santa Monica was where I honed my production, recording and songwriting skills.  I became a member of the National Academy of Songwriters, They held Saturday meetings in Hollywood and they would bring a music publisher in to review original songs.  I met a lot of interesting people at these song pitches who wound up being very important in my career.  One of them was a woman named Barbara Jordan, who eventually became the owner of one of the biggest TV and Film song catalogs, “Heavy Hitters”. Until she sold her company around 2003, she was calling me to write songs that would be pitched to many TV shows, and the amount of placements I had with her was incredible.  During the late 1980’s I also met music producer, Tena Clark, who at the time was working as an independent producer for Motown and Capital Records and working with young R&B bands.  My bedroom studio quickly became Tena’s  demo studio, and I learned how to work under pressure as a recording engineer; to meet deadlines and make sure the recordings were up to snuff.  While working with Tena, I also made a great connection with her then drummer, Quinn.  
He and I went on to produce our own demo reel to present to TV and advertising producers. One of our original instrumental pieces caught the ear of a producer who was working with Roseanne Barr.  Roseanne was about to transition from her sitcom to a talk show of her own and needed a theme song.  The swampy sounding instrumental piece that Quinn and I wrote became the theme for the first year of Roseanne’s talk show. It was one of the highlights of our composing career as a team. In the mid-90’s we went on to produce a small music library that was exclusive to CBS Television producers.  After having success with the Roseanne show as well as with CBS, I became well aware of the value of songwriting royalties.  Singer/ Songwriter Lauren Wood also came in to my life during the days of the Santa Monica studio and we collaborated a lot, writing and producing some great music together. In fact, we still make music together today.
During this time, did you ever do any session work?
Yes, I did.  I’d get asked to sing or play on other people’s demos. However, I was never 100% comfortable as a session player or singer, given the fact that I play by ear. A lot of the time, as a guitar player in particular, people would put a chart in front of you and they’ll just start playing a track. For me, if somebody wanted me to play on their session, I would really want to study the music by ear and get to know it and work up some parts and bring that to the session. Lauren Wood gave me the opportunity to join her on her recordings in the 1990s.  She had some nice things going on and she loved my guitar playing.
So you don't read music?
No, I never have.
Was there ever a point that you thought to yourself, “You know what, I need to learn how to read music?”
Yeah, there were several points where I considered learning. I would say, “Okay, I’m going to do this”. But, I just never got around to it. I guess I wasn’t motivated enough to do it.  Many people have said to me, “Well, if you’re able to identify the chords that you’re playing, you’ll be okay” and the truth is, that’s kind of how I've gotten around it. I pretty much know all the chords that I’m playing and I can follow a guitar chord chart now and I’m fine with it.
You must have an amazing ear.
I think because of my dad, I acquired a really good ear.  I heard an interview with Joni Mitchell once and she’s kind of in the same boat.  She had no idea what she’s playing either.  It was through osmosis and playing with some of the greatest musicians in the world that she got a handle on what she’s playing, but even in recent interviews, I’ve heard her say, “No, I don’t understand anything about music theory.  It just kind of comes from inside.”
That’s really an amazing talent.  
Oh, thank you.  Well, I think that a lot of the Motown musicians were untrained as well and Michael Jackson, for one, he could come up with all these parts and not know a single thing about music theory or song structure and just be able to create amazing music.
That was probably true also of the early rock ‘n’ roll and blues pioneers.  It was all coming from within rather than being schooled musicians. The music evolved...
I think some musicians, pobably acquired those skills, but initially, I can’t imagine The Beatles were sitting around reading music charts. 
Yes, in fact, when Paul McCartney was working on the string parts to “Yesterday”, he really knew nothing about writing music, but he was able to communicate with George Martin what he was hearing in his head.  So he had somebody next to him write the charts and get it to the musicians and, in this day and age, I really don’t feel like I’m in a bad position because I have my bass player, Larry Tuttle, who is such an amazing music transcriber that whenever I write a song, I send him an mp3 in an email and he sends me fully notated sheet music for the song.
Ok. Now, let’s talk about Frameworks Music.  Your production music catalog. How did that get started and what made you decide, “I’m going to create a music library”?
To make a very long story short, I made a bunch of cold calls to all the Television networks in LA back in the mid 1990’s. I finally made contact with a very kind man, Warren Giancaterino, who was working as a composer himself, at CBS in the on-air promo division. Through his generosity and interest in what I was doing, I had my first opportunity to create a small catalog of music that became accessible to CBS producers.  His amazing guidance put me in a unique position.  After at least six months of on-air success, Warren introduced me to Elisabeth Oei from the Sonoton production music catalog, (based in Germany). Elisabeth commissioned me to compose a series of albums for the company.  Within a few months, other production music companies in Los Angeles and around the world were offering me contracts to write for their companies.  I was able to make a living taking on new productions with these companies and it started making sense to me that this could be a good career direction for me.  The CEO of DMI Music, Tena Clark, was so impressed with how far I’d come in this realm that she approached me in late 1999 about starting a production music catalog as a division to her already very successful company.  After thinking about it for several months, I decided to take her up on her offer and came on board as one of the founding members of 5 Alarm Music, (now one of the largest independent production music catalogs in the world).  I was the catalog’s executive producer during its formative years.

After getting a better feel for executive producing a large catalog I thought it might be good timing to leave 5 Alarm and build something that I could own. I wanted to be my own boss and create my own schedule and I had a different vision for the kind of catalog I would produce.   It was not an easy step or an easy choice.  By 2003, In addition to working for 5 Alarm I became the manager of the world class Firehouse Recording Studios in Pasadena, making a great living and feeling somewhat financially comfortable, but by 2005, I decided to leave that comfort zone behind and take the plunge. It was then that I launched my company, Frameworks Music.  I am so grateful today for this act of faith in myself.

What happened to 5 Alarm Music? Does it still exist?
Yeah, they’re huge. I should’ve had a better contract though. [Laugh] I should’ve tried to own a piece of it instead of just being an employee.
Right, well, you live, you learn, right?
When you started Frameworks, did you have to struggle to get your own company going or did it all seem to flow seamlessly from 5 Alarm Music?
I had to learn how to manage the workflow, but once I had my first five albums done, I ran into obstacles of how best to distribute the music. It was more difficult than I imagined and I wound up with a small distributor in Santa Monica who was a bit too small.  Eventually, I signed Frameworks to a larger company called Nonstop Music, which has now become Warner Chappell Production Music. Currently, Frameworks is part of their distribution catalog in the USA.  Signing with a distributor anywhere in the world, means having to give up a 50% of the income. This is standard in our industry. It has turned out to be a good decision though and as Warner Chappell PM grows and becomes more of a force in the industry, we are seeing continued success as well.  Our catalog is about to release album #70.
There’s always a price to pay, isn’t there?
There is, but sharing 50% of something is better than making 100% of not so much!  These days the industry is going through quite a roller coaster ride.  Between the digital music revolution and the royalty free catalogs that are out there, we are presented with so many more challenges in increasing our market share. I’m just happy to be looking back over the past nine years with gratitude that Frameworks has managed to ride the waves and remain successful.
That’s really wonderful. You hung in there and now you’re reaping the rewards. So when did you start trying to establish yourself as a solo artist?
Right, the solo artist period was between 1995 and 2012.
Is that something that today you still lust after pursuing?
Well, I sort of lost my steam for it.  I had to come to terms with how much touring and self-promotion a person has to do to get their music out there, and with running a production business full time, it’s a bit daunting.  In the singer/songwriter world, it is also much more difficult to establish yourself.   It’s not like other music genres. I’d have to put myself in the trenches with all the 20 and 30 year olds that are doing the same thing you’re doing, only in your mid-50s, it can really be exhausting and not very financially rewarding.
Recently, you began producing young artists yourself, right? Can you talk about your indie label "Datolite Records" and how it differs from your other artist driven catalogs, "Ear Parade" and  "Song Junkies"?
Yes, I decided to further develop Datolite Records to include other artist material besides my own.  It started with discovering indie artist Radz, who caught my ear as being an incredible raw talent.  I took Radz in to the studio and surrounded him with the “A” team of musicians.  We worked on six of his songs over a period of nine months and then released “Ramshackle Heart” as his debut EP www.datoliterecords/radz   Radz is starting to get some nice attention.  The EP caught the ear of a music supervisor at CBS Television and has led to Datolite Records being signed with CBS as an indie label.   I’m also working with Americana singer /songwriter, Abby Posner, a Colorado native now living in LA.  Although I have released some of her songs on my production music labels, we are also working on a handful of her songs that will be released later this year on Datolite Records. It’s been quite a year for me, being in the producer chair with incredible talent.  I’m also working with a pop duo from the Inland Empire who call themselves “Actual Size”. We are now completing a ten song album that will be released in the fourth quarter of this year.
datolite_logo.jpeg“Ear Parade” is distributed by Current Music in Los Angeles, which was started in 2012 as a partnership with two highly successful industry partners, Maddie Madsen and Christian Salyer.  It’s a very fresh catalog with a contemporary sound.  “Ear Parade” features talented young artists in styles you would hear on the radio today.
“Song Junkies” was established in late 2013 as a division of Frameworks Music and features TV and Film friendly, world class, vocal music.  Our current releases with Song Junkies include: a collection of European songs, a classic singer-songwriter collection, a nu-grass album and we are in production with some vintage style vocal music.
I’m excited to be getting all of this great music out there and it has been so worth it to me to involve more artists in the process.
I think that’s smart.  I guess it’s probably been a decade or so now, that TV series like Grey’s Anatomy started playing songs that had some reference to the episode as opposed to just background music.
Absolutely!  That’s exactly where these catalogs can fit in.
And how are Song Junkies and Ear Parade doing? 
They are doing well, but I think the difficulty still remains in just getting ears on the music because of the saturation. So it is even more important to have all irons in the fire.  Promoting artists outside the realm of production music has been an interesting departure and I’ll be curious to see where it all lands.  It’s been nice getting positive feedback with Radz.
That’s very exciting.  (To listen to Radz's music click here.)
So now, Lindsay, tell me how "The Peculiars" came about?
Well, The Peculiars actually came about nearly 20 years ago but never had a name, we were just friends jamming. It was Novi Novog, Lauren Wood, Larry Tuttle, Larry Treadwell and me. We’d play at a birthday party in my backyard and there were would be a few family members and friends present.  We realized that we kind of had a cool thing going and so a friend of Lauren’s was having this big party in the Hollywood Hills to show off her new home.  She’s a designer/decorator, so she said, “Do you think your jam band can come play at my party?”  So “The Peculiars” got their clever name last August by playing on her deck and maybe 100 people heard us that night and started asking us if we were available to play gigs. [Laugh] That’s when we realized that having a band name was a good thing.  When Larry Treadwell suggested being called “The Peculiars” we all chimed in, “We’ll take it.  Sounds great.” [Laugh]]
Very cool. And now you’re playing all around town.  Your next gig is at Café Cordiale in Sherman Oaks on August 31st, right?
You concentrate on playing mostly ‘60s and ‘70s music? 
Yes. The music is terrific and it’s really a fun thing. We just love playing together and we always have a good time doing it! A lot of other talented singers, actresses, and actors have been interested in performing with us. Our second set has become a bit of a showcase.
Yes, there’s over a generation of experience and talent in this one band. 
There is. We just get together, feel the music and play. We don’t even have to rehearse.
Wow! Having seen The Peculiars perform, I would recommend to all our readers if you’re in the area when they play, don’t miss out on a really fun concert.  
Thank you.
Your story is so interesting, Lindsay. From a little kid in Michigan who wanted to be a musician, you’ve taken your love of music, your desire to play, compose and produce, brought it to Los Angeles and turned it into a successful career without having to be the ‘rock star.’
Yeah, I guess you’re right.
You have.
You know how it is though. Sometimes when you’re doing it, you don’t realize what you’re doing.
You created a set of circumstances for yourself, that allowed your talent to flow to become successful rather than wait for somebody else to do it for you.

Yeah, well you summed that up. [Laugh]
You beat the system. You’ve proved that you can be a successful musician without having to say to yourself, “If I don't have a hit record I haven’t made it.”
Exactly and an important point that I would like to make out of all of this and that is to encourage young musicians who are just starting out to fill up their bucket with a ton of music that they can get licensed out there in the world and to spend time learning the art of creating music that can be utilized in TV and Film because you can make a really nice living doing this. A lot of young artists are just so focused on being a star and a very few people actually live that dream.
Great Advice for young artists reading this. Was it harder doing it as a woman?
It is harder doing this as a woman, but there are more and more of us surfacing these days as engineers and producers.  It’s a great time. 10 years from now they may call us “pioneers”.
You are an inspiration to all young musicians out there: don’t give it all up if you can’t get that million dollar record deal, just keep the music coming.
Exactly, just keep the music coming.
To visit Lindsay’s production music website, Frameworks Music/Song Junkies go to  To experience Lindsay’s career as a solo artist and her indie lable visit 
And don’t forget to put August 31st on your calendar if you are in the Los Angeles area and go see a remarkable group of musicians, The Peculiars, play their hearts out!
Datolite Records indie artists – Aaron Radz - Radz hails from the deep woods in the far north of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His music portrays Blues, Roots and Soul sensibilities with lyrics derived from a place of provincial isolation.
Abby Posner - From new-folk, to bluegrass and pop, Posner twists genres to create a fresh, catchy sound.  The sounds you hear are both pleasantly dark and playful.  With banjo and percussive grooves paving the road for each unique composition.  Abby’s clever songs and vocals are both forces to be reckoned with.
Photo Credit: First Image and Home Page photograph: Sherry Rayn Barnett
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Tara Ellison Talks Her Debut Novel
Synchronized Breathing

By Autumn Topping

Synchronized Breathing, the debut novel of former actress and Huffington Post columnist Tara Eliison, tells a story about a woman named Scarlett who gets the chance to start over and really re-discover her path in life, all in the midst of a messy divorce and a few more chaotic relationships along the way. With a toddler, no real job, and perhaps a little bit of a prayer, Scarlett moves back in with her mother (the scandalously funny CeCe), as she attempts to find out what she wants from life, and if maybe, just maybe, there is more to it than just men. Funny and sweet, Synchronized Breathing is a novel for women needing a good laugh, and for women who can relate to a character that has made some wrong choices in life. Tara, warm and open, took the time to talk to REAP about what inspired her to write Synchronized Breathing (including the inspiration behind the wildly crazy CeCe, and of course her own divorce), her love for Los Angeles, and what she has planned next.
Let's just start with the basics. Tell me about yourself, your background, your passion for writing. 
TaraPhotoCU.jpgWell, I have a bit of a nomadic upbringing. I was born in London, and then moved to our native Australia with my Mom, and then I moved for a while in Hong Kong, and then we moved to the states. So, I've lived… I'm really fortunate to have lived in a lot of really great places. I didn't think of it that way at the time. When I was a kid, I just felt we moved around a lot, but in retrospect, it was really a very unique education. 
Yeah, it sounds like it!
[Laugh] I got to see a lot of different lifestyles and a lot of different cultures, and that really I think was a great feeder for my writing, using it as a little sponge… and a lot of info that you don't really realize you're sort of be used later in some writing. But then, I always loved writing and I was always drawn to it and found that it was a really good school for processing things. So, if I had a bad break up, I would just write in my journal…. I didn't keep a diary per se, but I definitely relied on writing to help me figure out how I felt. And, I didn't ever think of it as a career possibility; it was just something that I really enjoyed. Then, I started taking some writing classes years ago, and shared some of my writing with the women in the course, and I got a lot of positive feedback. That was really exciting. So I said, "Okay, well if I can make some of these ladies laugh at these little stories…" And then I ended up going through a miserable divorce as they mostly are.
I found myself with a lot of free time, and I felt at a bit of a loose end. I didn't know really what to do with myself until I started creating these little stories, and it sort of really grew from there. And, I started talking to other women and hearing their stories and it became something where I couldn't wait to get home and get back into this little world of these characters. I'd get up early, or I'd stay up late because sometimes when I couldn't sleep I'd get up and start writing. [Laugh] It just sort of began to consume me, and it was an 8 year journey to get this book done from the beginning. 
When I first started… to finding a publisher…so many times I tried to put it away and forget about it because you know, it's a lot of work and I never thought I had the discipline and I'd be like, "Whom I kidding that I could write a book, like what makes me think that I have anything to say or that anyone will be interested in any of this?" But it was, it never let up, like this book needed an outlet; it needed to be born because I wouldn't be able to sleep at night. And that voice would be going, "Get up. Start writing. What are you doing?" I was never able to totally tune it out, so you have 8 years of a testament to my procrastination. [Laugh]
But finally, it's out there now for other ladies to read and hopefully, have a few laughs along the way. And well, I've had other women tell me that...although they haven't had a divorce, or they haven't had similar circumstances, that they could relate to the story, which made me feel happy because it isn't just a story for women going through a divorce. It's really a story for women and anybody starting over, or feeling like they want a chance to create something different, or make different choices. I think we can all sort of relate to that.
Of course.
So, that makes me very happy when people take something positive away from the book.
For those who have not read your book, can you briefly tell them what Synchronized Breathing is about?
Synchronized Breathing is a story about a woman learning to make better choices. [Laugh] And learning to start over....It's sort of a delayed coming of age in a way....It's a journey for a woman that is not happy with the choices that she's made, and she really can't blame anybody but herself, and then she has to start to relearn she may not have the best role model to go on with her own mother -or she might be a really good role model depending on where you stand - but she has to learn. The Synchronized Breathing part is about...initially, she's looking for that connection for a lover, but at the end she realizes that she really needs to be able to breathe on her own and not have that emotional dependence on men. 
Yes! I really did find it was, like you said, an older coming of age story, a nice path of self-discovery I thought.
Yes. Well, you know as women we sometimes get sidetracked, whether we have a career going or we're raising kids, and it's really easy to forget parts of yourself. And sometimes, it takes a catalyst of a divorce, or some other huge change in life to have this sort of reawakening, and it can be really a wonderful, positive thing. I mean, out of my divorce, I really realized my love of writing, and was able to create this book from that place. So, you really can discover gifts that you've forgotten, or just reawakened those parts of yourself that you've long forgotten. And that can be a positive.
Definitely! So, the inspiration for Synchronized Breathing, do you think that really comes down to your own experiences of divorce and finding your path to writing?
Well, the inspiration really, it did come in a way from my own circumstances and I used my life as a jumping off point, but it's not all my story. There are lots of--there is a lot of me in it, but I couldn't use my exact story because first of all, there are parts that aren't terribly interesting. [Laugh] In terms of making the story really fun and palatable and you know encapsulating, some fun lessons that I learned out of my divorce… That is, so I think my divorce was definitely an inspiration for the book, but it wasn't the sole inspiration. It was sort of a yearning I had to really connect with myself, and then hopefully connect with other women that have that sort of sense of longing feeling like, "Okay, well I did all those things that I thought I was supposed to do, but why do I feel like there is something missing?” That was a goal to hopefully connect with women that have that sense of something's missing.
In a story about life and then dating post-divorce (or in the midst of divorce as would be the case here), I found the setting of Los Angeles to be intriguing. So, why L.A.? Did you want to write about some of your own experiences of the city? I have to say you captured it perfectly, all with a nice side of humor there. 
Well, I have a love affair with Los Angeles. When I was a little girl growing up in Australia, I just had to be, I had this mission to get to Los Angeles or California. I didn't really understand that L.A. was in California, just everything I watched on TV, or had read in the magazines, everything was American but specifically, California and Los Angeles. And, there's such a distinct type of person, and there's so many muses in L.A. All I need to do is leave the house, and if I go and get coffee, I encounter people that are just begging to be written about. There [are] so many, so many wild characters out here, and of course you hear stories and I've been here for many years myself, and I have a few stories of my own. But, it's really such a melting pot and because people can become successful quickly here, there is that sort of bad behavior and people seem to think that they can get away with a lot. There's that sense of entitlement when they do become successful, so … the comedic potential is so huge here. But I did want a love letter to Los Angeles because I do love it. I think it's really beautiful, and I feel very grateful to be able to live here and enjoy it on a daily basis.
One of my favorite aspects of the book, outside the setting, is your protagonist Scarlett. I love that she's this flawed female character with insecurities. You really capture her loneliness too after leaving her husband and the transformation she undergoes as a single mother. It really becomes a nice path for self-discovery, coming of age like you said. What was the influence for Scarlett?
Well again, I think I used some of my own feelings…feeling a bit lost and feeling that I had failed at something. That was a feeling I felt like I knew really well, but I also thought, "I can't be the only woman feeling like this. There must be other women out there that sort of have this sense of, okay what am I going to do now?" There were other people that really inspired me on this journey too. I wanted to tell a story of a woman figuring out who she was after this divorce, and trying to put those pieces back together, and maybe they didn't go so well to begin with. [Laugh] So, it was sort of holding the mystery of herself that she thinks is going to be in a man. She thinks that, that will sort of complete the picture, but she's mistaken in that. It really is a journey about uncovering and discovering herself. And that, that's the real gift in the story. 
Okay, I have to bring up Cece, Scarlett's mother! Where did this colorful character come from? Her liveliness definitely jumps off the page…
[Laugh] Cece was the most fun to write. My own mother is wickedly witty. She says some very, very funny things, so she was definitely a muse for me….but I could have took it and ran with it. I mean, she's been a very good sport about it because Cece, she's not Cece for sure, but people would like to think she is and she's been very, very understanding about all of it, and had a good sense of humor. But, Cece would be my mother in her wildest dreams.
 [Laugh] Okay!
I wanted to keep [her] sort of real and not too far out, but still have a sense of wicked adventure and hopefully that comes across. But she's my favorite character by far. Really had a good time with her. 
She definitely stands out.
Yes! [Laugh]
I think you succeeded.
You can't define whether she tells the best advice or the worst. She's definitely not your typical mother.
Definitely not.
For Synchronized Breathing, do you see a continuation, like a sequel to it? Do you think you're going to continue with these characters, or are you done?
I do have an idea of something fun to do with these characters next. I'm just toying with the idea of whether I should do that or not. So, I haven't decided. There's still going to be [more] there in the story I think. But I might do something else in between, another book in between. ‘Cause living in Los Angeles, there are so many things to write about. I have some ideas brewing at the moment that I'm kind of excited about, so I might have to let those come to life first before I revisit Cece, and Scarlett and the clan.
Changing gears a little, are there any authors or particular books that inspire you? Or, that you are influenced by?
Well, there are a number of books that I was reading that inspired this book....Helen Fielding [Bridget Jones’ s Diary]...I really wanted  it to read like a girlfriend that's just sitting with you telling you her story, so I wanted it to have that sort of intimacy. And, that's why I did it in first person, so that it, you know, hopefully has that familiar tone of [a] friend sharing secrets. But in general, I'm typically in love with whoever I just read, so at the moment it would be Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch. I am so moved by that woman and her storytelling. I'm just obsessed with her. And then, Gone Girl with Gillian Flynn; I was obsessed with that, so I get really consumed with whatever books I'm reading. But, there's a particular flavor that I wanted Synchronized Breathing to have and that, that is sort of more of the commercial women fiction I guess would be the best way to describe it. 
Yeah, a little bit of Chick Lit, maybe?
Yes, yes! Chick Lit. Are we allowed to use that term? 
I think so…
I like Chick Lit! [Laugh] You're not supposed to say that! But it really is....and you want it to be fun and you want it to have a sort of…you know, it's not all about shoes ‘cause I know sometimes you get a Chick Lit book and it's all about the fashion labels and I wanted it to have little bit of that, but it's certainly got a lot more going on than just the fun fashion. Chick Lit I think is a good term.
Yeah, there are tons of different kinds of Chick Lit I think. For sure.
It's a broad term, isn't it?
Yes, very broad! What advice would you give to other aspiring others trying to make it, trying to get published? 
The best thing I would say is to keep going because you're going to hear so much advice, and there are certain things that work for some people that wouldn't work for others. And, the best thing to do is keep going. If you keep your practice going of writing your pages, and set your goals for how many you want to do per day or per week, you feel like you're going to have a manuscript, and then you really have something to work on. I did so many drafts of this. The book changed completely I couldn't tell you how many times. I've done at least twenty drafts of this book.  I had a completely different beginning with Scarlett giving birth at one point, and then a totally different ending. There are so many different pieces to this book, but it finally came together and I think that if you're starting out that, if you try to put all pieces together in your head, it's too overwhelming. I didn't think that I would be able to get through this process of writing a book. It was something I had to just gingerly take one step at a time. So, that would be my best advice: to just keep taking those steps even if you have to put away for a little while like I did. But you'll find that if you just keep going back to it and taking those steps, you'll really, before you know it, you'll have a book in your hands. And then, then that opens up a new whole world. And then you can look at submitting it to people, and getting editors to give your advice, and having people read it, and give their recommendation. But, just keep going! That's the most important tip.
What’s next for you? Do you have any other upcoming books on the horizon? Any writing projects or something else altogether?
Well, at the moment, I've been doing some advice columns almost if you will. I've been doing writing on the Huffington Post…and I have a few short stories that I'm working on, but I don't have a book anywhere near completion at this point. I wish I could share with you that I'm just sitting on the next thing, but it's still in the incubation process.
What is the best way for readers and fans to follow you? Or stay up to date with what you're doing?
Well, my website is You can always follow me there. I'm on Twitter: @tellisonauthor. I'm also on Facebook that we have a page for Synchronized Breathing. So, any of those options would be good. I'm much more in the social media realm now than I ever was. I'm a bit of an introvert, so it does take a little bit of prodding, but it's really fun to get out there and hear some people that are reading...who are reading the book. That's really exciting!
Is there anything else you want to discuss before you go about Synchronized Breathing?
The key with this book is that it appeals to a certain type of woman. If you're a woman that feels like you've done everything right in life, and you've made all the right choices, and everything has been rosy in your life, well God bless you but it's probably not the book for you. Synchronized Breathing is more for people who have, you know, have some life experience and who have not necessarily thought that they figured everything out. So, yeah, I definitely didn't want to have a suave lead character because, I mean maybe…you can get to that level of suaveness or sophistication, but not that many people start out that way. So, I really wanted to unpack that journey of how does someone learn these lessons if you don't come into the world with really great role models intact? How do you learn these things? So, hopefully there's something in there on how do you learn to put yourself first, and how do you learn to take care of yourself when that hasn't been the message that you've received as a kid? So...that process of reinvention at a later date in life was really interesting to me, rather than you know, what some people learn as a teenager ( ideally people learn it earlier), but Scarlett learns it later, and I just thought that it was something to be explored, late bloomers. And that's why I dedicated the book to late bloomers because there's something to be said for learning these things later in life.
Well, I think that just makes her more human.
Okay, good! [Laugh] Then that makes me happy to hear, thank you!
You're welcome! Well thank you for taking the time to talk with me.
Absolutely! Thank you Autumn!
Again, to learn more about Tara Ellison head on over to her website: or follow her on Twitter: @Tellisonauthor.  To purchase the book please visit this link at Amazon.
To learn more about Autumn Topping, check out her vintage inspired (yet modern) media blogzine:
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Film & Television Production Insurance
An Interview With Barbara L. Passin

By Shirley Craig


Now, we all know production insurance is vital to any film, television or video project - no matter what your budget - but sometimes indie filmmakers think if they are making a movie with money raised from just their friends and family they don’t need insurance. Wrong! No matter how small your budget you still need insurance. 

Why is insurance needed for your production? Well things happen. Cameras can get lost, the house your friend loaned you to shoot in can get damaged, accidents, do unfortunately happen, even when you are taking the best precautions.

This week we met with Barbara L. Passin, an Assistant Vice President at Momentous Insurance Brokerage in Los Angeles to discuss the ins and outs of production insurance, the different kinds of insurance policies available, what you need to know about them and why indeed you do need production insurance!

So Barbara, tell our readers what are the pros and cons of production insurance?

There are no cons to insurance except for the cost. I think it’s very important that every producer and production company have insurance in place before producing a movie.


What kind of insurance, in your estimation, is mandatory for any production?

General liability. This policy provides coverage for third-party claims against bodily injury and property damage. So, for example, if you’re at a location filming and you damage a home, damage the sidewalk on a street, that would be property damage. Or for bodily injury, let’s say a third party is walking by and trips over an electrical cord and hurts themselves. This policy is a must have. If you can’t afford every kind of insurance, you definitely need to have a general liability policy. The most important thing about general liability policy is the defense costs are outside the limits of liability.

And what does that mean?

Let’s say you’ll have a million-dollar general liability policy but the defense costs are outside the limits. In today’s world, the average lawsuit can run you up to $400,000 just in defense costs alone.

So if I have a million dollars general liability, I’m covered for a million dollars to pay the person who’s ultimately suing me, but then I’m also going to have to pay the cost of defending that case.

Exactly. It is covered, but it’s covered outside the limits. So it’s above the million dollars.

Is there a cap at which you’d have the defense costs?

No, there’s no cap. Unfortunately in the United States people are filing frivolous lawsuits daily, so it’s so important to have a general liability policy just to pay for your defense costs.

Does it also include medical costs too? For example, if somebody’s on set and a lamp falls on their head and cracks open their skull, the policy covers all their medical costs?


And will it cover all the costs if they say they’ve been traumatized or they can’t work until their head is healed?

Coverage is only for third parties, so it does not apply to employees or independent contractors. Crew would fall under workers’ comp. So a third party is—let’s say you’re in the city shooting and a person just happens to walk by and trips over a cord or, like you mentioned, a piece of equipment falls on them. So it’s always a third party. Same with your property, it’s not your property; it’s the third person’s property.

So for accidents to crew members, that’s all covered by workers’ compensation.

Yes and we’ll get into that in a bit.


This coverage provides Automobile Liability insurance that protects the insured from claims alleging bodily injury and/or property damage as respects to the insured’s utilization of a non-owned or hired/rented vehicle. The exposure for this type of loss also includes employees of the insured whom may use their own vehicles in the course of their work for the insured. Non-Owned & Hired Physical Damage is also an option in the event the insured may be held responsible for damages to the vehicle. For example, if your employee is running an errand for you during business hours and is involved in an accident and a third party files a suit against your employee/independent contractor, you can also be named in the suit since you are their employer at the time of the accident. Very important, when an employee rents a vehicle or truck, the lease agreement needs to be in the name of the production and not in the name of the employee to have coverage under the policy.

And this coverage will protect me?

This will protect the production company and pay for the defense costs.

Non-owned hired and auto policy includes all the production cars or all the cars that I rent for the production?


Does it include picture cars? For example, let’s say there’s a vintage Rolls Royce in my movie and the production assistant who’s driving it gets into an accident. Am I covered to replace the vintage Rolls Royce and/or whatever’s necessary to fix it?

Usually these policies will have limits, and for something like that you’d have to probably underwrite it because it’s out of the ordinary; but it can be insured.

So if I were making a movie that did have something very expensive in it that could have circumstances where it could be at risk, I need to underwrite it, which means name it on the policy?

Or just discuss it with your insurance carrier and make sure that they’re aware of the situation.


So let’s go to workers’ compensation coverage. In the world of entertainment, oftentimes employees and independent contractors, freelancers, are one in the same, unless the independent contractor has his own workers’ comp coverage and can provide you with an insurance certificate proving that. In Southern California, the law requires that if you have an employee, you need to have a work comp policy in place.

Right, regardless of the status of that employee.

Exactly. [With] this coverage, if they’re injured on the job, it’ll pay for their medical bills. If they’re injured and can’t work, it’ll pay a percentage of their wages. I know a lot of production companies hire payroll companies because if you’re going to have a lot of stunt activities in your movies, the insurance carriers prefer you to use a payroll company.

And why is that?

They don’t want to pick up the liability, so they make sure you use a payroll company. But even if you go through a payroll company, it’s very important that you have a Contingent Work Comp policy in place. It’s minimum premium and also payroll companies will not cover [or] insure volunteers or unpaid interns. And also, for example, let’s say you’re shooting late at night and all of a sudden you just add someone to your crew and you don’t have time to call the payroll company, or they’re not open. I think it’s very, very important that you always have a contingent work comp policy in place, even if you go through a payroll company for these kinds of instances.

So contingent workman’s’ comp is different from regular workman’s’ comp?

It’s actually still a work comp policy, but your payroll company’s really going to be your primary policy, but just in case, there’s been issues where a payroll company will say, “You had control over this situation. I don’t want to cover it.” Just in case something happens, number two, for volunteers or unpaid help and number three, if you’re hiring someone at a time where you can’t get a hold of your payroll company last minute.

So volunteers or unpaid interns are covered by your workman’s’ comp?
The one that you would bind with the insurance carrier.

Right, so that’s the contingent part of it.


Okay, whereas if I do it only through the state of California, it’s just covered for those people that I’m paying money to in terms of their salary. So an unpaid intern is not covered under general workman’s’ comp?

A payroll company will not cover a volunteer.

And they wouldn’t fall under third-party liability? So if the lamp fell on the head of an unpaid intern, would they be covered under liability?

Well, that’s not the intent of a [general liability] policy, but if this person did get hurt and there was no work comp in place, they would have to file a law suit naming the production company and prove the production company was negligent.

It would not be an insurance claim.

Exactly. They have to file a lawsuit, and the insurance carrier would research, and obtain the details of the incident to see if the Production Company was negligent.

Workman’s’ comp policies are based on the state of hire. So it’s very important because different states have different laws, For example, New York has extremely strict laws and if you’re hiring employees in New York, you’ll have to also always take out a New York disability policy.

So workman’s’ compensation in New York is different from a disability or it’s included in workman’s’ comp?

If you have New York employees as well as having the work comp policy, you’re also required in New York to have a disability policy which is a separate policy, and the cost is minimal The premium is very inexpensive, but if you don’t have this policy in place, you can receive fines up to $70,000 and even higher.

So in other words, if I’m based in California but I’m doing a week’s worth of location shooting in New York, I have to have not only my California workman’s’ comp, I have to have my New York workman’s’ comp for that week?

No, this is how you do it. A regular work comp policy is an all-state policy. So we could add any state, except the monopolistic states, to the policy, but the only time you have to bind a New York disability policy is if you’re hiring employees that reside in New York… If you’re in California and you’re going to shoot in New York and all the employees reside in California, you do not need a New York disability policy.


Dice package or producers package…consists of several different coverages. One of the coverages is for props, sets and wardrobe, which will cover you if you have to rent any props or if you have costumes, scenery, sets. If it’s damaged, it’ll pay for the cost to replace it.

Then there’s Extra Expense. Extra expense reimburses the out-of-pocket expenses from the incurred claim. So let’s say you’re shooting a scene and your camera malfunctions and you can’t finish the shoot - extra expense will pay for you to reshoot that scene. So that’s very important.

Okay, third-party property damage is extremely important. This is when you are shooting in a location that’s in the production company’s care, custody, and control. Third party property damage will pay for any damage that occurs to the location. So third-party property damage is a must!

Can you explain what the seven days means?

Let’s say you’re going to shoot in the same house for a month, you do have General Liability property damage coverage, but if you’re at this location for more than seven days, [General Liability] only applies for seven days. People will always say, “How come I've got to take out this if I have it over here in the general liability policy? Why are you still recommending third party?” Plus on third party, you can get higher limits. I always recommend million-dollar limits.

Now we have miscellaneous equipment. That covers your camera, sound and lighting equipment in the same manner it would for the props, sets and wardrobe. The miscellaneous equipment coverage is, actually this whole production package, dice producers package, is worldwide. The general liability and the auto and work comp are not worldwide.

So if I have a camera truck and it gets broken into and all the camera are stolen, I’m covered.

Most likely, depending on the scenario. The equipment that is included under a DICE Producer’s Package is covered anywhere in the world, and it also includes earthquake and flood. Please keep in mind if you are binding a mono-line Equipment/Inland Marine policy, you need to specially inform your Broker/insurance carrier that you want worldwide coverage and EQ and Flood included. It’s not automatically included.

Then the policy also covers negative film which reimburses the production company for any additional out-of-pocket expenses which are incurred in reshooting of the portion which is unacceptable as a result of damage to the negative.

Does it extend to the fact that my hard drive that had my whole shoot got dropped into the lake by mistake?

Correct, it’s covered. The only thing it doesn’t cover is faulty stock because that’s a separate coverage. So the faulty stock would cover you just like the same coverage of the negative film would cover you, but that’s if a loss is caused by faulty stock film and if it was when they were editing it in the lab, it accidentally did something incorrectly.

What about digital? So many people shoot digitally, these days. What happens if they plug the hard drive in and the footage isn’t coming through properly?

Well if it’s equipment damaged, that might be faulty camera, but if the digital files are faulty, that would be faulty stock.


What about the crew and cast who are members of a Guild like the DGA, etc.

Yes. This coverage is necessary if any member of the cast or crew belong to any Guild or Union involved with the Entertainment Industry. Cover is blanket and the terms are designed to meet with signatory requirement.


If you have key people in your film who are unreplaceable—director, actor, most valuable players—[cast insurance] is intended to reimburse you for any extra expense to complete principal photography due to the death, injury or sickness of any insured artist(s). When you bind the coverage the accident portion is automatically included. To include the medical portion, the person needs to go to a doctor and have a medical exam from one the carrier’s doctor before approving the coverage. Many times there may be pre-existing conditions that are discovered and may be excluded. You could also just take out accident-only because some actors may be very private and don’t want to submit to a medical exam.

So, say you have a blood test, the actors gets an all “clean” and then halfway through the shoot the actor, like Phillip Seymour Hoffman, dies of an overdose. It’s not like he died of a disease or a car accident. Are they covered?

I can’t answer that question because I don’t know if there were any exclusions on his coverage due to his past drug addiction. If there were no exclusions than the production company would have had coverage.

So you are covered for things that come up accidentally.

Yes. Accidents are included automatically.

But if he isn’t known as a drug addict and he just got very unlucky, he’d be covered.

Yes, as long as there were no exclusions with regard to incidents related to drugs or a drug overdose.


Another insurance option coverage is civil authority.

What does that do?

You get reimbursed out-of-pocket expenses as a result of interruption. Let’s say there’s a bomb threat or a natural disaster where they decide to close down a certain building, this is called civil authority.

Right, but what happens with things like weather?

Weather Insurance is a separate coverage you can purchase. Civil authority is more like a riot, an explosion, bomb threat, and is shut down by the city.

So civil authority means someone has come in and overridden your control of the situation.

Exactly. And shut down, perfect example: If you’re shooting at LAX and a bomb threat [happens], they shut it down.


This covers and protects a production company against legal liability and provides defense costs against unauthorized use of titles, copyright infringement, theft of an idea, characters, plots, plagiarism, libel/slander and also invasion of privacy. First of all, many distributors may not release a film without it. If you’re working with a network, working with a studio, they’re all going to require you to have this.

But if you’re an independent producer who’s raised the money independently…

You still need to have this. This is so important to have because it also pays for your defense costs.

Let’s say you go ahead and shoot the script, you’ve made the movie and then, all of a sudden, the film gets released and somebody comes out of the woodwork and says, “That’s my script. I’m suing you.” You’re covered for that?

Yes, the policy would respond.

This is why we do what is referred to as ‘greeking it out’—For example in a scene if somebody’s drinking a soda, it’ll just have on the word ‘Cola’ on the can. The art department has come up with a label that says ‘Cola’ instead of Coca-Cola because in order to use Coca-Cola, you have to have permission.

Exactly. The usual policy people will contractually ask you to have is one million occurrence with a three million aggregate and usually with a $10,000 deductible. The typical policy term is three years.


If you’re going to have stunts and pyrotechnics in your film, you need to underwrite it. You need to get licenses from the pyrotechnics. You need to obtain bios on the stunt individuals and pyrotechnic technicians to make sure they’re experienced and qualified. You need to underwrite the situation. You need diagrams of exactly where it’s happening. It’s very important and I think sometimes some producers don’t realize that whenever you are hiring vendors, stunt people, pyrotechnics, you always want to request and obtain a Certificates of Insurance naming your production company as an additional insured because you do not want to pick up their negligence.

Explain what a Certificate of Insurance is.

Let’s say you’re working with a pyrotechnic company. It will show proof that they have insurance for themselves. You’re asking them to name your production company as an additional insured. Then, if they are negligent and an accident occurs and are sued, and unfortunately when disasters happen everybody gets sued, you are protected. So make sure that the pyrotechnic company and other such venders name you as additional insured on their insurance because you don’t want to be liable for their negligence. You also want to make sure they have adequate insurance coverage and limits.

Now if a stuntman is hired as a stuntman and he’s doing a stunt and he falls off the roof the wrong way, is he covered under my workman’s’ compensation?

This is where the payroll company comes into play because this is when the production companies will say, “We don’t want to pick up this stunt person. Go to the payroll company.” Number one, you need to underwrite it. Number two, you could have a risk management. Insurance carrier companies have risk management employees. You should have them come out and go over the stunt to make sure it’s safe. You could always take out a special AD&D policy, Accidental Death and Dismemberment, which sometimes is a good idea.

Do insurance carriers read scripts? For example, if I come to you to cover a movie, do you read the script?

Yes, if there is one available.

So if a script is not available you only go based on the producer and the discussion?

I would ask for a synopsis, budget and also discuss details of the filming to see if any stunts, pyrotechnics, aircrafts, watercraft, etc are involved in the movie?” I would underwrite it completely. Very important.

When you use the word underwrite, that means that you’re basically acknowledging that this is going on?

Exactly. You need to get all the information.

Okay and if something is done right on the fly, does one have an obligation to call the insurance company and say, “We decided to add a car chase”?

Definitely. You should call your broker, your insurance broker and let them know.


Another coverage is non-owned aircraft liability. If you’re going to be using helicopters or planes this coverage is necessary. Again, you have to obtain a certificate of insurance from the aircraft company naming the production company as additional and insured including a waiver of subrogation with respects to the hull. Even though you are obtaining a certificate from the aircraft company you still need to have this coverage in place.

Would this apply even if the helicopter or plane is sitting on the ground and never moves?

If you don’t even turn on the engine, this can be insured under the “Props Sets and Wardrobe” coverage on your DICE Producers Policy.


Weather insurance will protect you if you can’t continue to shoot due to the insured peril, rain, snow, hurricane, etc.

That the rain will delay your shoot.

Yes it’s expensive, and there are different options you can choose depending on your insurance needs. For example, with regard to rain, you can choose how many inches it can rain before it will interfere with your filming. You can pick an option of how many hours of rain during a 9 hour shoot it can rain before it will shut you down.

So some people might choose to say, “I’m going to shoot this movie or commercial if it’s only up to three inches of rain but anything beyond three inches…”

Exactly, because some people could say, “Well, if it only rains two inches, I could still shoot, but if it rains four inches, I won’t be able to.” This insurance is costly, and it has to be bound 10 days prior to the shoot.


Then we have animal mortality coverage if you’re using animals. I remember I was filming a commercial and they were using a half a million dollar polar bear named Angie. And I had to insure the bear. The reason why these animals are so expensive is because they’re trained. Animal Mortality (death only) coverage can be arranged. This coverage reimburses the owner for the value of the animal when the animal dies arising out of filming activities. The value of the animal must be agreed to in advance. Accident Only coverage can be bound immediately and sickness/illness can be included upon receipt of a current veterinary certificate.

That the animal is in good health?


The lamp falls on the dog.

Yes, that would be included under the accident portion of the coverage.

Does this include exotic animals, any kind of animal?

Any kind of animal.


An umbrella policy gives you additional limits above any liability coverages, which would be your general liability, your third party, auto liability and work comp. So if all these policies are one million, you can buy a five million umbrella and that will increase your liability limits up to six million. I always recommend an umbrella policy for big shoots. Lots of times producers will hire a production company to do the filming for them and, as I mentioned before, if you do hire a production company or any vendors at all, just always make sure you obtain a Certificate of Insurance naming your production company as an additional insured so you don’t pick up anybody’s negligence; very important.

Right and one last thing, cost. Does it vary depending on budget?

Yeah, I’m glad you mentioned that because let’s say you’re doing a very inexpensive short film or whatever, you could take out a short-term policy. Sometimes it’s more cost effective to take out annual policy because it’s just a little bit more and then you’ll get coverage for the whole year.

Barbara, this has been really valuable information that I think every producer needs to know.

It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.

Barbara has been in the insurance industry since 1994 and has a wealth of knowledge in all aspects of risk management. She has particular strength and expertise in entertainment, insuring touring entertainers, loan outs/ shell corps and film and TV productions. Barbara is highly service-oriented and treats each of her clients as if they are her only client. She prides her-self on her tenacity and willingness to go the extra mile to secure the best coverage and pricing for her clients, leveraging her strong relationships with insurance companies to negotiate competitive terms.

To reach Barbara to discuss your insurance needs, either call her at (818) 574-0438 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. And for more information about Momentous Insurance Brokers visit their website here.

Next month we’re going to sit down again with Barbara and discuss insuring music tours, concerts and events on the road. Stay tuned.

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Dancing With The Stars
Choreographer Sharna Burgess

By Brittany Lombardi

Sharna BurgessInspiration can come from any aspect of our lives; the bright flowers in our garden, the people that we see at Starbucks every morning, or remarkably talented ballroom dancers like Sharna Burgess from Dancing with the Stars. Being a part of a renowned show has not only become a ‘job’ for Burgess, the cast and crew have become her family. “I love coming to work everyday to just have fun with my friends from the show. One thing I will always cherish is how close we have all become.”

However, before the launch of her career as a famous dancer and choreographer, Sharna grew up in the countryside of Austrailia, climbing trees and playing sports. “I was involved in everything! Basketball, softball, jazz, tap, ballet and gymnastics- I did it all!” Around eight years old, Burgess observed her first ballroom competition a family member was participating in. Instantly, she fell in love with the shiny colorful elaborate costuming as well as the positive social energy that filled the room. Competing in many local national tournaments, earning several titles, at fifteen, Burgess was chosen to represent Australia at the World Championships and had the privilege of performing in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games closing ceremony.


Looking to advance her career and skills as a young upcoming dancer, at eighteen, Burgess moved to London where she won more awards in competitions and appeared on the show Simply Ballroom. Renowned Broadway choreographer Jason Gilkison recruited Burgess to be a part of his cast of Burn The Floor of which she was a part of for six years. Coincidentally, Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy were in the audience at a few of her performances and loved Burgess’s spunky stage presence, offering her to be a part of Dancing with the Stars on several occasions. Unfortunately, due to preexisting contract negotiations, she had to decline.

Upon her departure from Broadway, Burgess quickly made the transition to film and television, guest appearances on Dancing with the Stars Australia and So You Think You Can Dance Holland. In 2011, working with A-list choreographers to fuse the hip hop and Latin to create a new style of dance, Burgess choreographed her first feature film, Street Dance 2 – 3D.


Today, as she balances being a full-time cast member on Dancing with the Stars perfecting her craft as an actor and dancer, Burgess is working with her boyfriend, professional choreographer Paul Kirkland on creating a dance convention, featuring master classes in all styles of dance, focusing primarily on the socialistic benefits and art of ballroom dancing. “Ultimately, I want my legacy to live on through our dance communities. Not everyone has the money or opportunity to take a dance class. I want to give back to those that wish to dance simply because it is therapeutic to them, a way to escape.”

In addition to entertaining audiences, Sharna also takes pride in teaching, sharing her passion and knowledge with others. As people, we struggle everyday to find ways to set ourselves apart from the rest, to be better or improve. When it comes to dancing, whether beginner or advanced, Sharna encourages all dancers to “remember to keep an open mind, find your own unique style in your movement. Everyone’s dance experience is different- learn to be yourself. Dance is about self expression- be the dancer you want to be.”

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Shep Gordon - Supermensch
My Take

By Stanley Dyrector


I dug it. Mr. G., cuts quite an extraordinary figure being a charitable gentleman warts 'n all which Mike Meyers so deftly nuances in his biog film. We journey back and forth with this engagingly enigmatic character, Shep, whose life changes spontaneously, like colors of a chameleon. He was kicked out of his salaried counseling job helping imprisoned youth, and headed to L.A. in the era of sex, DRUGS 'n Rock'n Roll.

In Hollywood, he’s snorting coke in his room at the Landmark Hotel. Early on, he hears a girl yelling at a guy down by the pool – and thinking she's in danger, he, the gallant Quixote, goes to damsel’s rescue, but gets rewarded with a punch in the kisser from Janis Joplin, whose noises he mistook were her lovemaking with Jimi Hendrix. Ecco! He meets his future! The Rockers!

Jimi Hendrix figures, since Shep is a Jewish guy, he should be a manager, so Voila! Sheps' in Biz! He gets stoned with his clients, sharing his larder of drugs altruistically. The Doors, and other rockers, some Almost Famous. Shep Gordon hooks up with Alice Cooper and helps him reinvent his persona into stardom He creates opportunity for Teddy Pendergass to become a stellar superstar, and many others. Was this all by accident?... or was it Karmic? You gotta figure that one out by yourself, because along his path he meets the Dalai Lama, who did influence him! - so, if you’re looking for signs…

Lotsa twists and turns in this one man's life; or perhaps a metaphor for Shep Gordon's many conscious reincarnations. Michael Douglas and Stallone and Emeric, and an ex-love deceased family, including, a gal cousin of his swear he's the most generous charming unselfish loving guy you’d ever meet. Shep’s got a wonderfully meshuga laugh. He makes shrewd moves in techniques in management skills, making peace on all sides. Would you believe he becomes a recluse on an island?( I wouldn’t mind being on it). But the Socko scene with Steve Jobs is worth all the dough you pay for admission. At the end of the ride we are amazed after all the abuse he gave himself he's still vertical! But wait a minute! We are talking about a Supermensch!!!

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