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Entertainment Accounting

Entertainment Accounting

John Rossheim, Monster Senior Contributing Writer

Lights! Camera! Audit!

In the multibillion-dollar entertainment industry, accountants have found a glitzy niche providing financial services to Hollywood studios, production companies and a whole universe of artists and technicians — from box-office superstars and music-industry moguls to truck drivers and B-movie bit players.

With some connections and knowledge of the entertainment industry, a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a knack for handling the larger-than-life characters who populate the entertainment world, you may land a job that adds a dash of glamour to the traditional tasks of taxes, auditing and financial analysis.

Accountants to the Stars

Some entertainment accountants and boutique firms pitch themselves as business managers. They handle every aspect of their clients’ financial lives, from paying bills and alimony, to advising on contracts and overseeing the auction of an art collection.

Handling clients who are stars or who — as is more often the case — are still waiting for their big break requires consummate people skills, says Evan Bell, a New York City CPA. “There’s a lot of dealing with egos,” says Bell, whose clients have included Steven Soderberg, Bill O’Reilly and Ivana Trump. “We become the advisor, the confidant and the daddy to our clients.”

As financial advisor to film and media folks with a penchant for shopping, Bell often finds himself playing bad cop. “I’m the one who has to say, ‘No, you can’t buy that car right now,’” he says. “I’m often the voice of doom.”

Discretion is at the heart of Bell’s entertainment practice. “When we’re paying our clients’ bills, we know everything that’s going on,” he says. “We know if they’re on drugs or cheating on their wives.” Because confidentiality and integrity are key to his client relationships, Bell gets most new business by word of mouth.

For comprehensive service ranging from bookkeeping and financial planning to contract analysis, Bell and other business managers charge most entertainers 5 percent of their annual income. For the few superstars who earn many millions, business managers typically charge 3 percent or 4 percent.