Many people think that because I rent equipment to production for my department to use, that it does not count as a rental in the same way that a grip truck or camera package does. This is an entirely false assumption. My department rents our own equipment to production because of a tradition in the film industry that many other departments simply chose not to do themselves. Essentially, once sound equipment became portable enough that it didn’t need to be installed in a film studio machine room, production sound mixers decided that owning, maintaining, and therefore renting the equipment to the jobs that they worked on was worth pursuing as a means of additional income. But we operate as a rental house that is separate from our labor. It is billed and taxed differently from labor, and although the compensation may sometimes be included on your labor paycheque, you should receive separate tax documents.
But somewhere along the lines, people began assuming that sound equipment rentals should be billed to payroll as a “box rental” or “kit fee”. Likely because someone figured out that it’s less paperwork, and it can get production out of supplying you with insurance for your equipment.
Let me clear this up so that you can understand why a sound equipment rental is neither of those things. Payroll companies offer the option for crew members to charge for a box rental for items of small value that they themselves will use which production would otherwise have to rent and insure. Small things like a ditty bag, or maybe items provided by crafty like coffee machines and heating trays. This means that the individual is providing equipment, accessories, or expendables to production for their own use and under their own care, IE it will NOT be insured by production. Payroll companies advise anyone providing items of higher value to invoice it as an equipment rental directly to production, which should be covered by production’s insurance. Unfortunately most payroll companies do not mention this anywhere unless you dig through their company paperwork, which may not be accessible without actually asking for it. Some new all digital/online payroll companies don’t even seem to care or be aware of this, so thats another battle we have to face.
By calling a sound equipment rental a “kit”, you are speaking a legalese term which means “non insured item of low value” to insurance providers. So your contracts and correspondence should be very clear that your equipment rental is not referred to as a kit at any time. What this means is that if your equipment is lost, stolen, or damaged, and you put in a claim, the insurance company may refuse a payout because you or someone else called your equipment rental a kit at some point.
So I hope this makes sense. I provide the rentals of my departments equipment. I invoice production for said rental. It is not a kit. It is not paid through a payrolls box kit rental. And production insures my equipment, issuing me a COI (Certificate of Insurance) naming me as payee in the event of L&D (Loss and Damage).
This should be fairly cut and dry but for whatever reason, many productions claim ignorance to these distinctions. So you need to protect yourself by knowing the difference and insisting on doing things the correct way. Otherwise you may end up being entirely responsible for any costs related to equipment that production rented from you.