ONLINE Camera Branch General Meeting


The rate card meeting will still take place on the first of April, but it will be online using the Zoom system. We have pulled it forward – 1:45pm to join, starting at 2pm.

We will discuss new drafts of the rates cards. There will also be a Q&A with BECTU’s research officer on options for support during the lock down.

This one is members only and registration is required as the system only allows 100 attendees. Please submit your questions in advance and we will endeavour to get the answers for you, and then follow up with more discussion.


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 Unfair Contractual Terms Reporting Tool – use this to let Bectu know about unreasonable contract changes with regard to Covid-19.

● Bectu Covid-19 Return-to-Work Rates Monitoring Tool – let Bectu know if employers are asking for lower rates as you go back to work.


● Screenskills Coronavirus Basic Awareness training – free on-line learning module, takes approximately 1 hour to complete.

● Screenskills Safe Return to Set seminars:



Bectu officials will be available to speak with you throughout this difficult period, so if you have any questions get in touch – phone 020 7346 0900 or email

Meeting & Social, Old Street.

Our next Meeting and Social is in Old Street on the 15th of February. It’s a new member special, but there will be information of interest to all.

We’ll put out a buffet at 1pm and members get a free drink also. Non-members can attend. There will be a discount for those joining on the day.

The venue is The Angel Pub, which is located at 73 City Road, EC1Y 1BD (Old Street tube).

You can download an agenda in advance, though printed copies will be available.

See you there!



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.

Camera Branch Diversity networking event at the BSCexpo

The BSC Expo takes place on the 31st of January & 1st of February in Battersea Park. The Camera Branch diversity representative has set up an event to improve the poor representation in the camera department. We hope a networking event will bring talented women and ethnic minority camera professionals to the attention of those with hiring power in the industry.

The initiative is in partnership with Primetime, a visibility platform aiming to address the gender imbalance in the film and television industry, with thanks to Digital Orchard for hosting the event in their New Talent Bar at the BSC Expo. It is also supported by Imago, Illuminatrix, the British Blacklist and Women Behind the Camera.

Camera branch’s new equality and diversity officer Catherine Goldschmidt commented: “We recognise that, like much of film and television production, there is substantial under-representation of BAME and female talent in the camera department. Because so many breaks are down to who you know, we wanted to introduce women and minority ethnic people working in camera and related grades to those who hire crew members.”

BECTU diversity officer Janice Turner added: “We are delighted at the positive and enthusiastic response from top cinematographers and the British Society of CInematographers to our initiative – we hope the contacts made at the meetings during BSC Expo result in useful information and more opportunities for women and BAME technicians in camera.”

Tim Bertani, secretary of BECTU’s camera branch, said: “This initiative is a great opportunity for talented professionals to widen their networks”.

To apply, you need to download the flyer, select who you’d like to meet and send your C.V. with contact details to the organisers by the 27th of January. Registration for the BSCexpo is free.

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

Camera Branch Meeting & Social, Saturday, 16th November

The Camera Branch General Meeting and Social is on Saturday the 16th of November from 2pm. It’s in The Apollo Room, The Crown Tavern, 43 Clerkenwell Green, Clerkenwell, London, Greater London, EC1R 0EG. The nearest tube is Farringdon which is about 5mins away (map here).

As usual, members get their first drink free (bring your member number or register) and there will be a buffet supplied to kick off the social part of the meeting.

We’ll be starting with some presentations on getting the most out of the union: how it is organised, deals for members and most importantly, how to get things done.

Then we will have updates on branch projects like the low budget initiative, a survey of camera people in the factual sector and a proposal for helping you improve your rates.

After industry updates, there will be time for general chat, socialising & networking.

If you could use this eventbrite link to register, that will help us estimate the numbers and provide accordingly, but it is not required. We can confirm that we will be running a reduced sign up fee on the day for any non-members who would like to join: £7.50 per month for the first year.

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