Author Archives: seankellybectu

Furlough News for Directors of Ltd Companies

Many members who work through their own limited companies have run up against an issue with furloughing themselves for the PAYE portion of their income, because their accountants have set up an annual scheme rather than a monthly one.

HMRC have clarified their advice to say that these people can furlough themselves as long as their accountant submitted an RTI before 19th March 2020 for income in the 19-20 tax year.

Members who do qualify should speak to their accountant, as it appears it may be necessary to call in to HMRC & over-ride the system manually. We’ll share more information about that when we have it.

The HMRC info is here (scroll down to to the heading ‘Company directors with an annual pay period’):

The relevant text says:

Those paid annually are eligible to claim, as long as they meet the relevant conditions. This includes being notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 19 March 2020, which relates to a payment of earnings in the 19/20 tax year. The requirement for there to be payment of earnings in the 19/20 tax year applies for any employee being claimed for under the scheme, irrespective of how frequently they are paid (e.g. weekly, fortnightly or monthly). This will be relevant for those on an annual pay period if the last payment notified to RTI was before 5 April 2019 and no further payments were notified until after 19 March 2020.

An employer can make their claim in anticipation of an imminent payroll run, at the point they run their payroll or after they have run their payroll.




The Camera Branch Annual General Meeting will take place at 11am on Tuesday 16th June, on Zoom – an invite link will go to members shortly.

This is the meeting where we elect the reps who help to run the Branch and make decisions on policy when it’s not possible to consult the entire membership. The branch is a democracy & it’s important that the committee genuinely represents the membership – so please turn up & vote!

Engagement from members has increased substantially since the lockdown, which is great to see – and we’d like to encourage people to get more involved with representing the interests of the camera department within the union, by standing for election to the committee.

You don’t need any special skills or experience – just the desire to make things better for everyone in the department, and an attitude that says, if there’s a job to be done, it might as well be done by me!

The committee ‘posts’ that will be elected at the meeting are listed below – if you have any questions about them please contact The branch usually holds four committee meetings & four general meetings per year, although naturally the current situation has meant a few more meetings than usual. The committee are all busy working crew-members who volunteer their own time, so don’t let the idea that you’ll be too busy to come to all the meetings put you off – it’s rare for the whole committee to be able to attend any meeting. It’s possible to share a post with a deputy to increase the chance that one of you will be able to make it.

Posts labelled * are currently vacant, or expected to fall vacant at the AGM – but all posts are up for election, you’re not limited to standing for one that’s empty.

Vice Chair
Vice Secretary
Branch Treasurer*


Branch Membership (and Recruitment) Officer
Branch Equality, Inclusion & Diversity Officer
Branch Communications Officer (website, social media) *
Branch Climate and Sustainability Officer
Branch Health & Safety Officer*

Branch Training & Standards Representative*
London Production Division Representative*
Young Member’s (under 35) Divisional Sub-Committee Representative

Sector Rapporteurs:

Branch Advertising Representative
Branch Entertainment Representative*
Branch Factual Representative
Branch Film Representative*
Branch Low-Budget Representative
Branch Outside Broadcast Representative
Branch TV Drama Representative

Grade Rapporteurs:

Cinematographers Representative
Camera Operators Representative
DITs Representative
Focus Representative
Loaders Representative
Playback Representative
Script Supervisors Representative
Stills Representative
Trainees Representative

Hope to see you there!


BECTU ‘Plugging The Gaps’ Briefing, 7th April 2020

This is from Paul Evans, the BECTU official who looks after all the London Production Division craft branches:

Hi all,

Here’s the briefing that has gone to MP’s, the BFI, the BFC and CIF to help us with our continued lobbying efforts.

Tom Railton, (Bectu/Prospect’s political officer) has been heavily involved with this work. In addition to this, Spencer MacDonald has been talking to the British Film Council and the Head of Bectu Philippa Childs has been involved in discussions with the Creative Industries Federation and the BFI Covid-19 task force.

Yesterday, Philippa took part in another call with the Creative Industries Federation and a couple of Treasury officials. Later this afternoon she has a further call with the BFI Task Force that will involve DCMS officials and Mike Clancy (Prospect General Secretary) also has a call involving different Sectors with BEIS.

We are also inputting data from our surveys to all of these bodies and others to help with getting the message across that more must be done to help freelancers working in the Sector. As you will know, progress appears to be slow but I think we’re possibly expecting more on the SEISS over the next few days, in line with the proposals we’re suggesting in the attached paper.

However even good progress will only potentially solve *some* of the many issues our members are experiencing so we must keep up the pressure.

A reminder too that the Film and TV Charity/BFI Emergency Support Fund (supported by Netflix, the BBC and others) is now open for applications but only between 8-22 April and that the Charity is also offering repayable grants of up to £2k grants for freelancers and that scheme opens on 15 April.

Again, we couldn’t do any of this without the really dedicated feedback loops along with the ideas that have come from our reps and members. Philippa has asked me to pass on her thanks to everyone who is helping us to make this case as loudly as we can…

Once again, the briefing document is here.




The coronavirus crisis has highlighted just how exposed and precarious the working lives of people who work in the arts, theatre, live events, film, broadcasting and TV have become.

It is time for workers across these industries to come together and work on ‘A New Deal’ – to be clear that many of us will only be able to stay in our industries if the employers are prepared to make it more sustainable for us to do so.

This means:

  • greater security
  • fairer hours, rates, working terms and conditions
  • dignity at work – a change in management style so that workers are able to work in environments where they are respected and valued for the work that they contribute.

Bectu will campaign across the creative industries for A ‘New Deal’ for freelancers and precarious workers – a change to the industry where employment relationships are no longer as one-sided, and where these workers can expect reasonable protections from the hazards of precarious working.

Over the coming weeks, we will be consulting our members, both directly, and through their branches. We will be doing online consultations as well as online branch meetings that will allow members to participate directly.

Ultimately, if the workers in our industries can agree what they are asking for, and stick together to insist that employers take our demands seriously, we can change our industries – permanently – for the better.

Our ability to bring about radical change is dependent upon how effectively our union can help people to stick together, and we are urging everyone in the industry to get involved now.

Take part in our ThoughtExchange on the changes that are needed as part of this ‘New Deal’:

BECTU’s Submission to the Treasury – 30th March 2020

BECTU made a submission to the Treasury on Monday 30th March to make clear the ways in which Film & TV freelancers are falling through the cracks of the government’s coronavirus-related support schemes, and to suggest changes that would help.

Please note – also from BECTU: “since this letter our ‘ask’ on PAYEs has definitely developed a lot, and we’re into a lot more detail about how we help the Treasury solve the problem (the Treasury actually want to give workers the money, we think. They just can’t think of a fair/un-fraudulent way of doing so and we’re giving them all of our ideas on this….”

You can read the submission here.


We’re very aware that members will have lost significant amounts of work over the last week or so due to the Coronavirus situation, and want to know what the union is doing on their behalf. We’re sharing this update from Paul Evans, the BECTU official who looks after the London Production Division, of which Camera Branch is the biggest branch:

“We’re lobbying on a number of fronts:

1) To make sure that people who aren’t on PAYE can access the same package that people who are on PAYE are able to get (so this means calling for people to be able to treat what they have drawn down either as salary or dividends from their Personal Service Company as an indication of the income that they have received.

2) To also put the question of kit-hire on the agenda – the argument that people who are freelancers are not only losing *income* – they’re also losing revenue of capital items that they would expect to resell to employers (i.e. kit, vehicles, software, insurances as well as other standing expenditure that they can’t just suspend during this crisis.

3) The ‘(re)entry level’ problem – for plenty of reasons, members may not have earned money last year (they are entering the industry / were taking career breaks as a result of childcare or illness etc

Every day, the focus of our campaigning is changing, but we have a professional team that includes a Parliamentary Officer with good connections among MPs of all parties, a press team and a good research team. We’re also providing regular update via the website and twitter – you may have seen today’s news story?”

In addition branch reps are pushing hard to make sure BECTU also demands help for those members who organise their work lives as freelancers but are taxed as PAYE employees. Lots of PAYE crew had quiet winters & weren’t working on 1st March, and  had good expectations of work starting soon which has now gone away. Some of these crew members will be amongst the lowest-paid grades. We don’t think it’s fair that they should miss out on any help the self-employed might get, and they must not be allowed to fall through the cracks.

Our Coronavirus Advice page is regularly updated and we’re also putting out news though the branch Twitter & Instagram pages – if you use those platforms please help by re-tweeting & sharing to your Stories.

We’re also urging you to write to your MP asking for a better deal for freelancers – use this link, it’s super-easy & takes 3 minutes:

Thanks for reading – stay safe & keep in touch. Your committee & officials are here to help.



BECTU has just announced another round of meetings about the IR35 tax changes that will come into effect in April.

These meetings are strictly members-only, but it’s possible to join on the door.

There’s a note on BECTU’s position on IR35 here and for members only, the Tax For Freelancers guide is here (log-in required).

  • 17th Feb – The Goat Pub near Shepperton Studios: 6-8pm
    47 Upper Halliford Road, Shepperton TW17 8RX
    Parking available outside the pub – members will need to register their car on a tablet inside the pub for free parking
  • 19th Feb – 01 Zero One Soho: 7-9pm
    Hopkins Street, London W1F 0HS
    Limited parking in general Soho area. Advisable to take public transport if possible.
  • 9th March – Pinewood Studios in the Large Boardroom: 7-9pm
    Pinewood Road, Iver Heath SL0 0NH
    Parking available on site & photo I.D needed
  • 11th March – The Goat Pub near Shepperton Studios: 7-9pm
    47 Upper Halliford Road, Shepperton TW17 8RX
    Parking available outside the pub – members will need to register their car on a tablet inside the pub for free parking
  • 17th March – Leavesden Studios in the Screening Theatre: 6-8pm
    Warner Drive, Leavesden WD25 7LP
    Parking available on site & photo I.D needed
  • 19th March – Leavesden Studios in the Screening Theatre: 7-9pm
    Warner Drive, Leavesden WD25 7LP
    Parking available on site & photo I.D needed

General info:

– These meetings are strictly open to members only. If anyone wishes to join the union and attend, they can join by filling in an application form on the door, or call BECTU in advance of the meeting and bring proof of membership with them.
– 6pm-8pm slots are to accommodate construction crew working hours as much as possible.
– 7pm-9pm slots are to accommodate shooting crew hours as much as possible.
– To access Pinewood and Leavesden Studios you will need to have photo I.D and register at reception – allow some extra time for this.
– There is no pre-registration for these meetings – you just need to turn up and join us.
– Workers who live in the regions are welcome to join if you happen to be working in London at the time of the meetings.
– No further regional meetings have been scheduled at the time of writing.

Consultation on National Occupational Standards


Dear Camera Department,

Industry training body, ScreenSkills has been developing some National Occupational Standards (NOS) for screen industries.

It has recently come to our attention that an online consultation seeking comment on draft standards went live in mid December. We were unaware of this until now and the deadline is right around the corner: 9am, 27th January 2020.

We ask all camera personnel in all sectors to kindly contribute your expertise to the survey.

You may think that none of this affects you, as there is currently no training standard or recognized qualification, but this is the first step in creating one. A qualification can work to better our industry – but that will take time, and will need to be of a high standard. These standards will potentially cover all production sectors and all roles in the Camera Department and also include Grips & Lighting.

This branch created new Camera Assistant qualifications for a proposed update to the Diploma scheme that was run in the past. Unfortunately, the academy that was expected to accredit this scheme is moving very slowly (and are now possibly waiting to see the NOS standards). Revisions to the Diploma qualifications is complete and we believe them to be of high quality (level 2 & level 3). For reference, the branch suggests reading them prior to commenting on ScreenSkills’ proposals, though the the NOS standards are much wider than just camera assisting.

Branch Guidance:

When you access ScreenSkills’ introduction page it will give you two options –

  • Camera Standards
  • Lighting for Film and TV Standards

Choose the one relevant to you but be aware there is some overlap with grip and lighting departments.

You will need to enter –
Your title: Trainee, Loader, Focus, Operator, Camera Technician, Wrangler etc.
Company: We would suggest writing Freelance or Self Employed.
Located in: We would suggest TICKING EVERY BOX as we move around locations a lot.

Your name and email address is optional, but if you want to receive follow up info we suggest including your details here.

You will next be confronted with A LOT of information, so let us try to assist with what you are seeing first.

The pages cover a very wide array of camera knowledge. They cross over into lighting and grip departments and of course not all of us work in the same sector of the wider Film & Television industry. The advice given by Screenskills is as follows –

“We appreciate that there are several Standards for this area, but please just comment on the parts that are of interest to you.”

The branch advises is that you take the time to go through the survey thoroughly and you will find each section has options to click at the top of the page:

  • This document is not relevant to me
  • I’m happy with this document
  • I would like to leave an overall comment

The advice of the branch is to click either “I’m happy with this document” or “I would like to leave an overall comment”. Our reasoning is that the standards are either fine as they are, or should be added to (rather than in any way NOT relevant, which may result in removal from future documents and affect crew in other sectors). More education is better than less!

We believe that the proposed NOS standards are broadly in line with our own proposed standards, but we need you to examine what is there and consider if there is anything missing. Think about how you do your work, the steps and skills involved. Is everything captured in the draft standard? If you think of something, add it in the comments box.

We hope this is clear and we greatly appreciate you taking the time to go through the survey: Help us improve the National Occupational Standards for screen industry roles – ScreenSkills


The Camera Branch

Rate Graph TV Drama 1990-2019

Camera rates over the years

Back in the 1980s TV Drama rates were heavily dependent on the rates paid by the broadcast companies. These seem low by modern standards but were always boosted by overtime and subsistence payments to such an extent that they easily equaled the fees paid by independent productions. The advent of the commissioning model created by Channel 4 showed the establishment how to casualise the industry. The 1990 Broadcasting Act made the commissioning model the norm. From this point onwards independent productions set the rates. This is where the graph starts. I have used the rate for a focus puller as this is the grade for which we have the most reliable data. For the next twenty years the independent productions used their unprecedented power to hold those rates static. There was the odd wobble. Around 1995 the broadcasters bowed to the inevitable and made all of their technical staff redundant. Those crews did not know the going rates and undercut the established freelance technicians. They soon realized the unlivability of such rates and found the market level. In 1998, the introduction of the Working Time Regulations Act put a break on extraordinarily long hours and thus put better limits on the standard working day. This shortened hours but did nothing for the headline rate. In the early 2000’s productions found that crews were becoming increasingly unhappy with the static rates, and started to buy off crews with ‘box money’. However, in 2005 there was a coordinated action to stop this practice by producers and the static rate resumed.

The log-jam was finally broken in 2011 when BECTU came to a deal with the BBC which accepted the existing rate and then added the staff pay uplift for that year. This had an immediate effect on the entire independent sphere of the TV Drama industry, causing a much needed pay rise. For the first time in twenty years pay started to resume its normal link with inflation. Around 2008, the Grips initiated their campaign for £300/day as a minimum. All other grades that had assumed parity with the grips followed suit. A well known producer exclaimed that she felt that she had been ‘mugged’ by this move. Our response was that they had been slowly mugging us for the last twenty years. The extension of the tax break to television dramas with budgets in excess of £1m/screen hour has revolutionized the drama sector and brought huge inward investment. Since its introduction it has also effectively doubled the budgets of the bulk of independent drama productions. Crews have tried to use this new found wealth to increase their rates. To think they might double their rates is cloud cuckoo land but a rise of between 10% and 20% has come about.

While this might seem like good news, it is sobering to look back to 1990 to see how far we have come: or rather not come. Today’s rates are still 35% below what they would be if they had kept pace with inflation. This means that crews are in real terms cheaper than they have ever been. It is time that crews shared in the bonanza that is sweeping the country, and this will be the aim of all those fighting for crews in the future.

Tim Potter,
Chair, CDB
An amended extract from my article in British Cinematographer, issue 95
Click here to contribute to the rate survey.

Rate Graph Commercials 2002-2019