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.
An amended extract from my article in British Cinematographer, issue 95
Click here to contribute to the rate survey.
The Camera Branch is delighted to support Women Behind The Camera, a showcase for the many women working behind the camera in the UK film and TV industry. Please have read & check out the website:
We want to let you know about an exciting new website that we’ve created, called ‘WOMEN BEHIND THE CAMERA’
This has been put together with the intention of highlighting the vast number of women working at every level of the camera department in the UK Film & TV Industry. At one time a very male domain, camera departments can now be truly diverse in terms of gender – some studios are now demanding this equality in crews. We are hoping that as a database, this website will help Directors of Photography, Producers & Directors to put together camera crews that are genuinely 50 / 50 male/female…..not just the token woman as trainee or central loader!
‘WOMEN BEHIND THE CAMERA’ has been created by three women who are camera operators – still an area where women are very under represented. Lucy Bristow, Ilana Garrard and Agnieszka Szeliga are hoping that by making this female talent more visible, it will encourage and inspire more 1st and 2nd A/Cs to choose camera operating as a career.
In time we hope that this website will become a networking site, a way to pass on work and to publicise events, a research resource ……and more! ‘WBTC’ is not intended as a diary service or agency – if you’re thinking of hiring crew from the website, please contact the individual directly to obtain a recent CV, or look at the IMDB link to assess their level of experience in the film industry.
The list of crew isn’t complete – we are still gathering names each month. We would be really grateful for any help that you can give us to spread the word about ‘WOMEN BEHIND THE CAMERA’.
An urgent note for any Branch members who were thinking of using BECTU’s discount on a new VW van – due to a production freeze at VW the offer comes to an end very soon.
For Transporters, it’s the 13th March, for Caddies & Crafters, 20th March.
More info here: https://www.bectu.org.uk/benefits-services/cordwallis
The Pact/BECTU TV Drama Agreement has been broadly welcomed by crew, and while it’s not perfect, it has led to significant improvements over the ‘take it or leave it’ conditions of the past.
However it’s a wordy document – not exactly a gripping read – and as a result some crew still aren’t aware of exactly where they stand on certain issues. The Branch gets lots of inquiries relating to differing interpretations of the Agreement, so we’ve produced this ‘plain English’ guide to help members with the most important terms. It’s designed as a smartphone-sized pdf file to
cut out & keep download to your phone for easy reference on set – you can find it here: TVDA GUIDE – PHONE.
We recommend saving it to your phone (for iPhone users, ‘Books’ is the best option) so you can refer to it on location even when there’s no signal. If you’re viewing it on a laptop browser it’ll appear to have huge print, so there’s also an A4 ‘leaflet’ version here: TVDA GUIDE A4.
If there’s anything you think is missing, or if you still have queries about the agreement – please let us know: email@example.com. The agreement is also due for review, so we want to hear from anyone who’s had problems arising from it, or who has changes they want to suggest. It’s your chance to directly influence negotiations with Pact.
The Camera Branch General Meeting and Spring Social is on Saturday the 2nd of March from 2pm. It’s in The Orchard Room, The Green Man, 36 Riding House Street, Fitzrovia, London. W1W 7EP.
A month before the new financial year, we’ll be starting with some presentations on matters important to your bank account. BECTU Research officer Tony Lennon will update on the ‘Making Tax Digital’ changes that are coming up. Branch Official Sean Kelly shall introduce the auto-enrollment pension scheme that will soon be extending to the self-employed. Our Chair will then focus on rates, including our key tool, the branch Rate Card.
Also, we will have short introductions to some branch projects. We’ll be presenting our Low-budget action plan, our new Script Supervisors Association, a Factual sector survey and a guide to the the TV Drama agreement.
After general updates on the industry, it will be time for general chat, socialising, networking etc. Members get their first drink free (bring your card / number). There will be buffet food on the side. If you could use this eventbrite link to register, that will help us estimate the numbers and provide accordingly.
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.
You can download a copy of the agenda here. We look forward to seeing you!
The Major Motion Picture Agreement has been in place for feature films with a budget of £30m+ since April this year. It’s due for its first review in 2019 & the union is very keen to get feedback from members, especially if there’s anything about the agreement that isn’t working for them. In particular there has been some criticism that changes in overtime rates have led to a reduction in income for runners & other trainee grades: Spencer MacDonald, the BECTU National Secretary, has written an open letter in response & you can read that here.
If you have feedback about the MMPA please contact either the Branch here or BECTU directly here – thanks.