Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Phelps Hawkins & Bullshit Chartered Accountancy

The Guerilla Film Maker’s Handbook starts with Ten Commandments, carved into stone. Well, printed onto pictures of stones. And there are 14 of them. But anyway, their gravity is clear. Ignore these at your peril, unenlightened film-beings.

And there it is, on the left tablet. “Thou shalt make a film through the legal mechanism of a limited company”. So, if you’re producing your own film, that process presumably starts with setting up a private limited company.

I mean, how hard can it be?

Being honest, in our early-morning straw-poll of two, the majority expectation was for “very”. The boiler breaks; you get someone in to fix it. Someone that knows what they’re doing. Isn’t this the same thing? Taxes, pensions, PAYE, National Insurance... I mean, some people go to university and this is the only thing they get taught, for three years. And sure enough, our first frolic through the Companies House website filled me with the same impotent shame that I feel lifting the bonnet of a car.

Then we hit our first snag. We don’t know any accountants.

I pretty certain that phoning some professional at random from the Yellow Pages, and then hoping that they were enough of a fan of the genre to agree to mates-rates and postpone reimbursement till we start raising some cash isn’t going to yield positive results. Plan B is to start frequenting the pubs outside big centres of accountancy at 5:30 pm on a Friday, and engaging the most affable-looking suit in conversation.

But until then, we need to be brave. And I’m surprised and mildly delighted to say that our macho posturing actually seems to have paid off in this instance. Bizarrely, setting up a private limited company doesn’t appear to be that difficult, even though the website behaves like it wants it to be (our first guidance was a daunting 76 page how-to PDF). But the actual IN01 application is as simple a government form as I have ever filled in, and if everything goes to plan we can move on to more pressing creative activities a mere £20 lighter.

That said, I’m still shitting myself.

Is it just me, or does everybody have the same natural paranoia when making un-charted forays into governmental officialdom? Have I just blown 41 years of immaculate credit rating by ticking the wrong box? Is someone going to come and throw me out of my flat (our de-facto registered premises) if we forget to stick in a “filing”? Is there something hidden in the Articles template document that’s going to bite us on the arse in ten years’ time, only because we quite reasonably got bored and didn’t bother reading it?

But then again, how cool is it being a director of a film production company? I’m so going to get some tee-shirts made. Bouncy.


  1. just post a question on Facebook, someone always knows someone. we just managed to land a pretty decent fellow for our new venture.

  2. Glad you did it yourself. Several mates I know who are self employed in IT contracting said there's no point getting an accountant to do it, its actually a piece of cake.

  3. Now all you need is a logo and you're sorted. I personally favour a cartoon of you and Jake choking the 'football-coat hanger' zombie we had attached to the staircase.