BECTU debate and the National Minimum Wage…

NOTE – I did post this as ‘BECTU debate and the National Minimum Wage… Let’s all throw stones at each other’. I am sorry I used that phrase, it didn’t help anyone find a middle ground. So I have edited the header to just read ‘BECTU debate and the National Minimum Wage…’ 

——————– Original post below———–

Chris JonesSo the great debate on the NMW with BECTU and Indie film makers happened last night… (my orininal post here)

And while I think there was a genuine desire from everyone to find common ground and a framework to help indie film makers, there was also a great deal of grand standing and vilification.

On the panel was myself, Jess Search from Shooting People, Benetta Adamson, a film maker and BECTU member / activist and Martin Spence of BECTU. The debate was held at the University of London Union.

So let’s be clear, this was BECTU organised event and was largely filled with BECTU members. The day before, this message was sent to all BECTU members via email (message is edited down to the pertinent bits – happy to supply hole message to anyone interested)…

‘The debate is a massive meeting for us. It will air all the issues around the free labour practice, which has been exposed as unlawful by BECTU at the Employment Tribunal. We know that the “work ’em all hours for free” side will be there in numbers to slag off BECTU for “ruining the industry”.’
Tom Bell, Supervisory Official, BECTU

So you can see, the fires had been stoked.

To be fair, when I read this email, I contacted Benetta who immediately apologised, and I believe she was genuinely upset as the inflammatory language did not foster an atmosphere for constructive debate.

On the tube journey over, I did feel like a condemned man.

So the room was filled with around 150 people. The atmosphere was charged.

The Group And I gotta tell you , I was terrified. Really terrified.

But the indie film sector has been very good to me all of my life, and the friends I have who continue to make films, I felt at least, needed a voice at that table, and for whatever reason, I was charged with being that voice.

Right from the get go, Jess from Shooting people was FANTASTIC! Really amazing. Her contribution was balanced, considered, researched, passionate and she spoke the language of ‘debate’ as eloquently as our BECTU counterparts.

And to my amazement, I found myself agreeing with lots of stuff that was said from all sides of the debate.

Martin and Benetta both raised lots of points and offered some genuine solutions, including a possible code of conduct and proposed exploration into film making within the vehicle of a co-operative.  Good, good, great even. It might work. We should really look at it. We all want the same things. Namely safety for everyone and freedom to create. Wow! We are getting places…

But you know, I still could not help feeling so very depressed. Why?

At the start of the debate, Jess asked a number of questions to get a feel for the room.

Here are my recollections of some of those questions and the results (this is from memory so the phrasing may be slightly off, and the numbers rough guesstimates).

‘How many people in the room believe that a person should NOT be allowed to work for free…?’

About one third of the group raised there hands.  That’s right, those people are telling YOU that you do not have the right to choose to work for free. Not under ANY circumstances. Never.

Now look I really get it, there is a law there to protect the most vulnerable people from exploitation, and I, as well as Jess, and every film maker I know, fully support and champion that law.

I also believe that it is a fundamental human right for people to choose to work for free if they want to. This is a philosophical stand point that I can not see any way around.

Jess then asked, ‘how many people here are runners?’ There were a just few hands in the air ( I recollect two). This is important because this debate, which was in some ways quite technical and specific, was actually about runners and assistants – those being the ones directly impacted by the ‘free labour’ and National Minimum Wage crossfire. It appeared that virtually NONE of the people in the room were actually the people whom the debate was actually about!

I pointed this out and no-one seemed to think this was a big problem.

Let’s just reflect for a moment on what happens when right minded, honourably intentioned, good people, interfere in other peoples lives.

But what really depressed me was just how quickly large sections of the room demonised indie film makers and began throwing crap. Yes there was some crap thrown back from us too. And so I kept taking a stand for change, retracting some of the things I said in frustration, in an attempt to foster agreement and a way forward. ‘Let’s set aside our differences, let’s find what we agree on, let’s give up a little of our positions in order that we find a framework that really works…’

You see there could be something terrific out of this debate, some kind of structure and framework that would protect film makers and producers, and their cast and crew, from each other, disaster, unscrupulous behaviour and the like.

It was actually quite exciting and invigorating that it was a possibility.

But moments after everyone was applauding and seemingly agreeing with my attempts to find the middle ground, someone would throw in an incendiary comment that would immediately polarise the group once more. And we were back where we began.

And the genuine ‘hate’ was back in the room. I don’t experience ‘hate’ much in my life, I am generally surrounded by joy, possibility and fulfilment. So it was upsetting. I don’t mind admitting it (to be clear, I can’t say if anyone actually hated me, I can only tell you that is what I felt).

It was sad. Really sad. 

And this pattern happened many times.

I kept saying to people ‘look, let’s meet for a drink, let’s share our common ideas and find ways to move forward – we do agree on most things…’ Yet, only film makers came to me in the bar after to say ‘thanks…’ Aside from the panel, (to my shell shocked recollection) no BECTU members came to me to see if they could contribute or help to find that common ground.

This morning I received this email from one film maker who was present… (again edited)…

‘Wow, that was scary. I am a little surprised by the passion that these people have in stopping new entrants into the business. I felt like a ‘scab’ miner from the 80’s. I really am amazed, when ‘intelligent’ people get so enraged at my desire to collaborate on other peoples projects, on whatever terms I choose, that they liken me to a mugger or someone who wouldn’t report a burglary. Fascinating… It’s probably best not to put this on your blog…’

His final comment about not putting this on the blog (and I emailed him to clarify before posting here,  he actually meant ‘don’t include my name’) really gets to the heart of one major problem. BECTU and the people who appear to be allied with BECTU (but who are technically NOT) are downright scary. I am a pretty robust chap, but I did feel ‘hated’ by some people in that room. Genuinely ‘hated’.

How must that feel for a sensitive, creative 18 year old film maker who has no pathway into the business other than by creating their own way in? Again the very people BECTU should be fostering and reaching out to are the people who are intimidated, confused and terrified by them.

Listen I get it, BECTU and their representatives are used to dealing with very difficult and problematic people every day – even unscrupulous people, possibly even criminals. It’s their job to be tough and robust, but that line can easily be seen by some people as threatening and intimidating. I absolutely know that is NOT what BECTU are setting out to do.

None the less, I was pretty intimidated at times by BECTU. I hope that they can try to see themselves through the eyes of emerging film makers, or they will never win hearts and minds.

It’s all very very sad.

So what now?

Well the whole event was filmed by BECTU – I hope that they play ball and upload the whole event UNEDITED. I really hope they don’t attempt any crude editorial spin.

I will make the formal request that in the interest of clarity and fostering a way forward for everyone, BECTU release the video unedited. If they cannot host it on their servers, I will happily accommodate it on mine. There is absolutely NO REASON why this video should not be made available. I hope Jess at Shooting people and EVERY Shooting People member makes this request too.

So after all that, there is a hope of something to come out of all of this. Let’s see of something appears. And if so, if it is workable. I remain open minded and embrace anything that protects those who need and want protection.

I want to thank Benetta who was understating throughout. We disagree on some stuff, we agree on much more. I also want to thank Martin, who was as tough as an old boot, I can see he fights the good fight for honourable reasons. He does good work.

Chris Jones and Jess Search from Shooting People But for me, Jess was the superstar of the night. We are so lucky that we have a film maker as committed and eloquent as Jess Search fighting for a sustainable, reasonable and fair solution to this problem we all face. She was of course supported in the front row by Cath and James from Shooters and thank god, as I also fed off their vibes and love too! And thanks for the beer guys!

As for me. On the way home I felt very unsettled by the whole event. I had a growing nagging feeling that even though I had attempted to find a middle ground, that I had also been vilified, attacked and generally dragged backward through the hedges. It seems that people who have never worked with me are happy to demonise me.

Maybe I should be tougher. Maybe I am just a sensitive creative who should get a grip.

I invite comments, especially from anyone who was present – from both sides of the debate.

Chris Jones
Filmmaker, Author and Firewalk Instructor
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57 Responses to BECTU debate and the National Minimum Wage…

  1. Oli Lewington March 19, 2010 at 9:40 am #

    Really interesting piece – would love to see a similar blog from “the other side” to see what they made of it.

    It’s such a difficult debate and, as you point out, it’s easy to see both sides. But it’s immensely frustrating when one side of a debate can’t – or won’t – see what the other has to say.

    By insisting that filmmakers are acting illegally and “ruining the industry”, it’s only encouraging those people to ignore BECTU entirely and plough on however they choose. If we really want to facilitate change and protect those who need protecting, both sides have to work to find the common ground and cease to hurl unproductive insults across the divide.

  2. Danny Lacey March 19, 2010 at 10:10 am #


    You were very brave to sit and face the stubborn and well rehearsed BECTU stance against all that can be good for our Indie Filmmaking business.

    Totally agree with protecting the vulnerable against sharks, but not at the expense of the industry as a whole. That would just end up hurting MORE filmmakers in the long run.

    I don’t believe for a second that filmmaking is an exclusive club, only open to those who can afford to pay NMW, and those that are members of unions, or have qualifications coming out of their ears.

    Technology has moved on, evolved. It has opened doors to a more less advantaged creative group of individuals who could seriously help lift our, slightly lagging, film industry.

    You can’t help but feel that certain members of BECTU (not all) want to close those ‘exclusive’ filmmaker club doors on anyone willing to have a go at carving out a career in the UK film industry.

    Maybe they just miss the REAL opportunities that come their way. An opportunity that might ask them to give something back to the industry in order to get somewhere.

    My last short film was shot for NO budget. I had three VERY talented actors work for FREE. They were all well looked after. They enjoyed the full day filming and loved the end film. Here’s the great news… One of the actors was cast in a BIG budget Brit movie as a DIRECT result of my short film.

    Need I say anymore.

    Danny Lacey
    New Indie Filmmaker

  3. Daniel Cormack March 19, 2010 at 10:10 am #

    What did you expect?

    I admire you for standing up in front of a hostile audience and I look forward to watching the video (assuming BECTU allow it to be posted).

    I’ve always maintained – based on my experience on the BECTU committee – that they are taking a black-and-white adversarial approach and these touchy-feely ‘let’s talk’ overtures are a total sham. The response to my criticisms was a series of pathetic ad hominem attacks.

    I’m very gratified that Tom Bell’s email has made it out into the public domain and has been widely circulated and I’m even more gratified that the nearly universal reaction has been disgust.

    The mask has slipped and hopefully people will now start to wake up to the fact that BECTU and TV Wrap are not being upfront about their ultimate aims. Any guidelines or charter or whatever pig-in-lipstick name they give it will be treated as the thin end of the wedge and to be constantly be chiselled away at.

  4. Mark March 19, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    Hopefully you did some good Chris. I believe most of us want to do the right thing. Your presence was at a minimum a voice of reason.

    Well done!

  5. Rod Duncan March 19, 2010 at 10:21 am #

    Thanks for this report, Chris. I do hope BECTU release the video unedited. I would love to see it.

    (You could presumably demand it is not released in edited form, unless you have already signed a release form!)

    I can see that people on both sides of this debate are passionate in trying to help others. It is indeed tragic if such well-meaning people are brought into conflict.

    But one-size fits all solutions are always going to be a problem. When we talk about the film industry we are including products as diverse as ‘Avatar’ and ‘Colin’. How can one set of rules fit both?

    We are in a time of rapid change, a time of great new potential. I hope that whatever rules or codes of conduct may be devised do not end up smothering the the potential now before us.

  6. Monty Burgess March 19, 2010 at 10:23 am #

    (Copied over and revised from CCP)

    I have a very cautious sense of optimism from last night’s meeting. Very cautious. I thought there were signs from Martin and Benetta of BECTU that there are avenues for low budget film to function with legislation as it stands.

    My perception was that the meeting was slowly making some form of headway (and by slowly I mean wading neck deep through molasses, but with a conception of some common ground slowly forming), which I felt was abruptly dismantled by a certain individual. I don’t see how they thought their behaviour helped in any way, shape or form. It wasn’t necessarily what they said, just how they behaved. I felt it was a horrible display.

    The thing is, there are ‘hardline viewpoints’ on both sides of the debate. ‘Working for free is evil and denigrates the industry’. ‘Not being able to work for free is a violation of personal liberty as an artist and of the right to create art as I see fit’. As Chris suggested last night, we have to find common ground to find a way forwards. Demonizing either side is just not going to get us anywhere. All of us would like to be paid for our work. None of us likes exploitation.

    There are intrinsic problems in independent film at present – issues of funding for films, proper information and adequate training for film makers – but hopefully, hopefully meetings like last night’s will go some way to resolving these.


    Thanks Chris, for your input and for putting yourself out there last night. I hope you have a sense of optimism about the future, I certainly do.

  7. ADP March 19, 2010 at 10:33 am #

    Yeah this is the problem with this kind of debate and I’m sorry you were made to feel that way Chris. Whenever you get large groups of passionate people together they tend to take sides and loudly stick to them (look how few of us actually dared to suggest BECTU had a point in the last comments section regarding this topic), blatantly repeating their point over and over in a ‘la la la I can’t hear you’ manner!

    I, like you Chris, believe there is a middle ground to be found here where work experience and amateur productions are not governed by the national minimum wage but professional productions are.

    However it will mean that both ‘sides’ of this little battlezone must listen to each other if we are to ever see a happy ending.

  8. Brian March 19, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    Hi Chris,
    I was present at the debate last night and I have to say, I came away feeling the same way as you. This is a feeling I am really not used to, or good with.

    Our industry is one of collaboration. One where everyone goes out of their way to create a single vision. It is what I love so very much. What is so very addictive.
    Last night however, in my opinion, felt like it had turned into a talk about ‘evil’ producers and how all film makers make millions of dollars, while giving nothing back. In my experience, this simply is not the case. Surely, if we truly understand the tiny independent sector of the British film industry, we know that most film makers/producers spend many years and thousands of pounds to hopefully, maybe, get some of their money back and a bit of recognition. They truly want everyone to win.

    I was also a little disappointed in filmmakers last night, it has to be said. Our turn out was attrocious. I could not believe how few independent filmmakers bothered to turn up. How on earth can we communicate our hopes/fears and aspirations if we can not even be bothered to turn up to this sort of event. It was a real opportunity that BECTU offered and quite frankly, I think we blew it. Maybe that is what got to me the most. I truly hope that when the next debate is held, there are more independent film makers there. We need to be.

    I really want to clarify, at this point, I 100% believe that absolutely every person involved in film, or any sector for that matter, has the right be paid for their time and work. However, I also believe, like Chris, that it is a fundamental human right that any individual be allowed to choose their own reward for their efforts. It is much a human right to be able to choose not to be paid as it is to be paid.

    Finally, I would like to say thank you to everyone who came to the talk last night and believe that most people there wanted the very best outcome for all involved. I even got a slight buzz from the passion that everyone felt in their own argument. This is something that Martin (BECTU) commented on. The fact that we are all so very passionate about this fantastic industry has to be seen as a positive thing.

    Martin and Benetta are very intelligent people with the very best of intentions. They have a vast wealth of experience in the entertainment industry and if we can communicate with them, while keeping our emotions in check, and keeping radicals from BOTH sides out, then we really will break the back of this thing. We all want to after all.

    Film is my passion. Film is my everything. It is something that has truly got under my skin and I will never be able to let go of. Lets encourage more people to feel that way.
    Here is to a fabulous future for film

  9. Mazin Elfehaid March 19, 2010 at 11:00 am #

    BECTU members were very confrontational last night– in fact, they were treating us like the cause of all their problems. What gives with the unionised extremism? Do they WANT the independent film sector to die?

    That being said, there were glimmers of hope from the leadership, and we need to engage now. I think that we have a fantastic opportunity to engage in a constructive debate– in fact, this could be huge. This could, finally, provide a way for the independent community to organise.

    Let’s listen to their suggestions, and bring in some of our own. The fact is, people SHOULDN’T be exploited. No matter how much you want to make films, that isn’t ok. What we need to focus on is a very specific definition of exploitation, one that works with a scalpel, not a sledgehammer.

  10. John Smith March 19, 2010 at 11:58 am #

    HI Chris,

    liked your reasoned approach very much and do like the comments. Why working for free is not a disadvantage:

    9 years ago I was a seasoned corporate video filmaker making a good living and decided to go into fiction, so I went to film school, then I worked as a runner on an expenses only basis and now I have produced 3 feature films with international A-List Cars.

    During my time at the film school I did shoot lots of short films where you are not able to pay fees to crew and cast, yet I always made sure people had seriously good and enough hot food, and transport paid.

    Also I had the biggest production departments running there. The assistants, who worked on these films to help me ‘finance’ them, via freebies etc and take the workload of me, got in return a massive boost for their CV. I trained them up, and helped them with their projects, gave them good references via my Corporate Production company etc.

    All but one ended up having well paid jobs in the media industry, which proves your point.

    John Smith

  11. Benetta Adamson March 19, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    If it’s any comfort, I felt just as sick and frightened as you did, Chris. And let’s just say that I felt equally strong vibes from the other side – maybe not hate exactly, but certainly acute disdain which I interpreted as a desire for me to fail. Maybe I’m wrong; I hope so.

    I honestly don’t think the room was stuffed with BECTU members – I recognised maybe 20 activists, perhaps even fewer than that. I think the evidence from the SP poll is that there are an awful lot of Shooters who are unhappy with the status quo, as evidenced by the female DoP who contributed halfway through. Their views are prominent on the poll as well – untainted by BECTU hands!

    What I took away from last night was that everyone accepts that things can’t go on as they are. What’s more I think that we agree on the crucial issues: exploitation is wrong and filmmakers need to accept responsibility for their actions and ensure they’re covering insurance and H&S matters etc etc. No-one wants to stop collaborations but there has to be a way of distinguishing those from the commercial operations who see the indie sector as a source of unpaid skilled labour to be exploited at will. We have to figure out to distinguish them.

    It really is possible to make a difference if like minded individuals decide to make it so. As Jess said, when she started out in television, Planet 24 used and abused dozens of new entrants as unpaid interns. Most production companies did the same, and everyone said it couldn’t be changed because it was simply part of the culture. The TV-WRAP campaign did change it so that now new entrants get paid at least the minimum wage, as the law insists.

    The indie film sector is different, but if it’s to thrive I really think it needs to regulate itself. Otherwise it will just increasingly be a source of free labour for projects which would otherwise be paying for those services.

    I’ve set up a forum as promised at

    At the moment I’m the admin and also the only member (or at least I was when I last looked!). I’d love to appoint another admin so please let me know if you’d like to volunteer. Maybe we can continue the debate there, and let’s see if we can tease out the positives (of which there were many) and move things on.

  12. Martin Spence March 19, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    It was nice to see you last night. But disappointing to see your blog this morning, by which time you seem to have forgotten what we actually achieved. After all the brickbats and grand-standing, we all agreed – shootingpeople, you, us at BECTU – to work together to try to develop a legal framework to support and protect genuinely collaborative filmmakers. And since last night other industry players have said that they’d like to be involved too. In my view that’s not a bad night’s work.
    Martin Spebnce

  13. Paul March 19, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

    “Well the whole event was filmed by BECTU”

    I hope they will be paying you at least minimum wage for their production…

  14. Pete March 19, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    I don’t think there is anything to be gained by asking whether people should have the right to choose between working for nothing or not – clearly the answer is not a simply yes or no – its a “yes until the point at which I or others are exploited.”

    I do think the lack of showing from film makers is indicative of the ‘click button’ culture on Shooting People. Do all their subscribers have any long term commitment to the industry or all they all students and newly graduated with a limited shelf life within film making? Is this our problem – that newcomers can no longer secure a career and that we have a glut of films being made by students and those just out of uni for nothing with no long term thought for the consequence of all this ‘tinkering’.
    There aren’t enough real jobs being created to sustain them and they themselves are unable to create real jobs?
    Do we actually need to contract?

  15. Benetta Adamson March 19, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    @ Mazin: I’ve lifted your helpful comment and posted it on the forum to stimulate discussion. If you would rather not have it there, let me know and I’ll take it down forthwith!

  16. andrew ajayi March 19, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    Hi Chris

    I was at the meeting yesterday and as both an indie film maker and a memeber of Bectu I was annoyed at the Bectu stance. Martin and Tony seemed to be belligerent when there was no need to be. There was also a definite indie-film-makers-are-worthless vibe in the meeting which felt like the disdain of old school industry professionals toward those trying to make their way in the film industry using different methods to those they used. It’s as if for many in Bectu the attitude towards indie film is that of those who see themselves as ‘pros’ towards rather seedy amateurs.

    Yes, there are problems around exploitation in the indie film world. Perhaps some of these could be curbed by having stronger codes of conduct for posting on sites like Shooting People, maybe even a more standardised form for postings. There could also be something on Shooting People like the positive feedback system used on Ebay so that producers and film makers benefit from good behaviour and developing a good reputation, for example they could save money on their Shooting People membership etc.

    The co-op idea Martin mentioned could help as a way of structuring indie film making arrangements but not if it’s based around the idea of totally equal, shared ownership of the film. In my experience many producers and directors are putting their own funds into the budget of films AS WELL as being part of the crew. It is not fair for them to have to accept totally equal ownership of the film with members of the crew who have not contributed to the budget.
    Perhaps a percentage based co-op formula could be structured with different participants in the film having different percentages of ownership of the film depending on their contribution.

    From the meeting I get the impression indie film makers are ready to compromise and think about these issues. Though at the end of the day Bectu has to make a big compromise here and accept that enforcing the NMW on all indie film making is going to damage the whole of indie film making in this country, something of real value.

  17. Mark Watson March 19, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    Hi Chris

    Yes, I’m sure everyone would agree – time to set aside the mudslinging and try to find a solution, however sadly you couldn’t resist more mud slinging now! And what’s this I see – Daniel Cormack pops up again to make more wild eyed comments about “masks slipoing”! Ah well, maybe the way forward starts tomorrow instead, or the day after… It’s also very easy to slip into age old stereotyping about dyed in the wool unions, stuck in the past, trying to hold back progress blah blah but, as a non union member, it really doesn’t look like that to me. At least the union has had the guts to get people round a table and start the dialogue moving.

    And yes, it may bewilder you that some people object to the idea that other people be “allowed to work for free if they want to” is that, in a society, people’s actions do have an effect on other people and that a culture of unpaid work means that other people are then forced to work for free to make it in life. Now that can’t be right, especially in a society which seeks to protect those vulmnerable people by guaranteeing a legal minimum.

    However, onward and up!

  18. Mark Watson March 19, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    Apologies for the dreadful typos, posted at way too great a speed!

  19. Richard Cosgrove March 19, 2010 at 4:36 pm #

    I was at the event last night, and I was very impressed with the way the panel handled themselves – especially with Jess and Benneta. And thanks to Chris for agreeing to take part.

    Chris, I disagree with your statement that the room was primarily filled with Bectu supporters. It seemed there was an even split when the straw poll was taken at the start of the evening. And if you, Jess and the other Shooting People founders felt you were being victimised, that’s going to be a side effect of being figureheads of the the UK’s independent filmmaking community.

    To me it seemed the most destructive comments were made by only three or four people out of over 100 who were present. One of these people being Bectu’s Tom Bell. The other rocks were valid criticisms and questions that we all have to address.

    Now I disagree that enabling people to opt-out of being paid for work is an acceptable. This is because there will be filmmakers and producers who’ll pressure cast and crew to opt out of being paid – even if they could afford it. That’s why I voted ‘no’ to Jess’ opening question.

    However, I know that collaborative projects provide training and experience. For those who aren’t able to go to film school, or get paid on-the-job training, they’re vital.

    So everyone – the unions and the filmmaking community – has to recognise the massive difference between people who collaborate to make a film as a hobby or to develop their skills to become a professional filmmaker; those who simply want to make a film to make a film; and those making films with a purely commercial aim.

    It’s the latter group of producers and filmmakers that Bectu, and the filmmaking community itself, should be put some of their attention on and police.

    But at the end of the day, the UK is to develop a strong domestic film industry, we filmmakers have to treat making commercial films as an business and treat each other as fellow professionals.

    And that means paying each other for our hard work.

  20. Rich Bradley March 19, 2010 at 5:04 pm #


    I was present last night, and although I am a BECTU member, this is probably the third thing I’ve gone to in 2 years, so I’m hardly an activist.

    I think your assumption that you were “hated” is a little strong. Some of what you said I disliked strongly, but you personally came across quite well. Except perhaps the line about film being a dictatorship. But the rest was fine.

    Before I go on, I think it worth mentioning that I work in TV, and am not a part-time filmmaker. I did start off in films however, and am the only member of my family in the media, so know about the difficulties of getting in to a very tough industry.

    The whole debate splits into two for me, but sadly along a line that is hard to trace. I could sum it up as “Professional films Vs amateur films”. If a film is intended to make a profit – or perhaps I should say recognition, for an oscar nomination would still help line the Producer/Directors pockets nicely – then the junior crew should be paid. It is a rule of capitalism that you have to speculate to accumulate. I deliberately say “Junior” crew members, because HODs are generally knowledgeable enough that they are unlikely to be taken advantage of, and are in a position to be self-employed, and work for nothing legally.

    If, however, a film is something a group of friends do as a hobby, then I wouldn’t expect any of them to get paid AS LONG AS they aren’t asking someone outside of the group to work under them, in a pseudo-employer relationship.

    The reason I say these things – and feel free to email me a response if you wish – is twofold. First, if you’re intending to make money from a film, then paying your juniors helps you protect yourself later on if you do happen to make money. Because you have paid them, you own the work they did for you, and they have given up their stake on it. Second, a DOP for example stands to gain an awful lot more experience on a film than a runner does. Being a DOP on an Oscar shortlisted film is valuable, and worthwhile to a future career – having driven the talent around is not.

    Finally, there are two things other people said that I would like to pick up on. Jess pointed out that in the USA people fund their films very differently. I can’t remember her exact words, but I think she said they treat it more like a business. Does it strike you that the US film industry is a wee bit stronger than ours? Excluding the big budget films, they still have a thriving market for small budget pieces. Do you think, perhaps, that the reason they have this is BECAUSE they see it as a business, rather than a hobby? If you are putting in £26,000 of your own money to make a film, then you are far less likely to see it as “art” then if you put in £26,000 of an art grant. Perhaps it would be a good idea for fewer micro-budget films to be made, if the quality goes up across the board.

    My final words were to the chap who said BECTU were trying to prevent him from opting to work for free. I feel very powerfully about this, having been taken advantage of in my early years in the industry. On PROFIT-INTENDED films (Not 5 mates with a camcorder), if you allow people to work for free, then because of the number of people trying to get into the industry, producers will very quickly use that as a way to save money, and almost every runner will be working for free. By doing this you cut off the entry route for many people in the industry. You talk about the 18 year old with no way in – being paid as a runner IS his way in! That is the point of the position! That 18 year old will have to work hard in another job to save money to be able work for free, rather than being paid to work. and you think this is a good idea?!

    You may be able to tell, I am passionate about this. But I am also pragmatic: you won’t stop people from wanting to undercut the competition to get their break. It’s the nature of capitalism. But if we can find a way to distinguish between “Amateur” films and “Professional” films at the bottom end of the food chain, then we can work on a way to distinguish who should get paid for working, and who is allowed to have a hobby they enjoy. Because I am more than happy to let people enjoy their hobby, but I’m not happy for people to make – or attempt to make – money off the work naivety of others. And sadly, there is a lot of that about.

  21. Sharon Elliott March 19, 2010 at 6:15 pm #

    Dear Chris

    I was disappointed to read your blog this morning. In fact I stopped reading it after a few paras, as I did not want it to affect the report I was preparing for our site. Now that I have read it all I remain disappointed.

    You say that you felt moved to adjust your views last night. From my point of view, your contributions were marked out by your willingness to embrace the coming together of the two sides to address a real problem.

    It does rather sound as if ‘sleeping on it’ caused you to retreat to your previous position which is a shame as you are clearly respected for what you do.

    I have worked for BECTU for a long time.Up until a couple of years ago I was supporting our members in independent broadcasting. I say this because in my current role (communications officer) I am learning more about the needs of members beyond the area I worked in longest.

    I have no agenda – other than to support our current and future members; I say this because whilst feelings were running high last night – we are dealing with creatives after all! – I absolutely did not detect any of the hatred or hostility you refer so frequently in your blog. I accept that I don’t know anything of any personal disagreements which might have been ‘present in the room’. I hope that readers of your blog, and its comments, will accept that these claims are personal to you. I am sorry that you feel this way; you did not appear uneasy to me and furthermore the truth is that everyone was listened to with respect and the meeting as a whole expressed it appreciation for everyone’s contributions. I do believe that your negative comments are misjudged. Furthermore, I am concerned that others may be only too happy to exploit your genuinely held opinion for the purposes of undoing the good work which was done last night.

    And by the way, whilst I am not a BECTU member, I did come up to you in the bar afterwards to say hello. You may remember I questionned whether you are the ‘guerrilla’ referred to in the title of your book. You seemed rather cuddly to me (and I am sure you won’t forget me saying that)! The dust will settle and hopefully we can refocus on the positives of last night. BECTU’s commitment was genuine.

    Best wishes
    Sharon Elliott
    Communications Officer, BECTU

  22. Mike Busson March 19, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

    Sharon – As communications officer for BECTU will you be uploading the entire, unabridged version of last night so people can make their own judgement?

  23. Sharon Elliott March 19, 2010 at 7:29 pm #

    Thanks for the question Mike.

    Why the suspicion? WPDs, the organisers of last night’s meeting,have been discussing arrangements for making the footage available. I have not heard a single suggestion from them that they wouldn’t want to upload the whole two hours of debate. (If so, let’s hope people watch it all!). We’ll be working on this next week. I’ll post a story on our site, which I am sure will work its way to everyone, when the material is available online.


  24. Benetta Adamson March 19, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    @Mike: yes, that is what is planned. It might take a wee while to get it sorted, because the tapes need to be digitised and then split into sections.

  25. Mark Morris March 19, 2010 at 8:16 pm #

    Hi Sharon

    Come on put the unedited film up BECTU can say they act on behalf of film makers so lets see if that’s true. Put the film up either do that OR dont expect anyone to trust BECTU

  26. Mark Morris March 19, 2010 at 8:24 pm #

    How many Indie filmslms get made in a year and out of them how many are a problem that some in BECTU feels compelled to stop by enforcing laws that stop collaberation.

    It’s no good BECTU telling us they want to help film makers by thrashing out a deal that will help all when clearly Chris Jones attended a meeting that has him worried and a film THAT BECTU refuses to show and members or a crowd who arent members but followers trying to stop collaberation projects.

    So BECTU show the film and get your own house in order before you start deciding what is good for us and forcing it into laws.

    At the moment BECTU sounds like an organisation devoted to professionals who despise Indie film makers and see them as enough of a threat to close them down..

    NOW thats what it looks like unless you come clean show the film and get your house in order where or how do you expect trust or belief when you hide?

  27. Mark Morris March 19, 2010 at 8:27 pm #

    Sorry my comments came after Benettas post By the way Benneta I tried to join your forum but Cant get an activation code.

  28. Christopher Hughes March 19, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    I suggest everyone reads both the above and the BECTU news article detailing last night titled High on energy, low on ethics? Indie film-making in the frame. See BECTU preface their article with a most emotive title which leads little to the imagination to where the article is going. For a Union that represents journalists I would have expected more balance. That along with the comments in the email from Tom Bell which was uncalled for and sets the wrong tone from the start. I have been a BECTU member of nine years and now will be having a long think whether or not I will continue to be as I feel uncomfortable with been associated with such negativity. This comes from a union that negotiated the current PACT rate card with rates and time scales that are laughable, who does a 40hr week or an 8hr day on a film? Real world people, try it.

  29. Mark Watson March 19, 2010 at 8:58 pm #

    Mark Morris you may wish to look at the comments immediately above yours before you hop into wild accusation mode again.

  30. Mark Morris March 19, 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    Yes I did and look forward to seeing the film which as of yet ISNT BEING SHOWN. If its unedited I dont see why there needs to be a delay.

  31. Mark Morris March 19, 2010 at 9:49 pm #

    Christopher the link isn’t working for me anyway. Sounds like its been taken down.

    I guess in the past companies like Sony have kept pro equipment and consumer stuff separate by over charging But now many consumers can buy broadcast quality gear at low prices The wall is coming down. Jim Jannard atarted the revolution and sony panicked with the Sony EX1 Independents are hitting closer to the mark in an ever decreasing industry hit also by competition from the internet. Many are broadcasting and distributing quality stuff that will continue to get better. Surely though there is room for all? Independents are making films not programming and are the pioneers of possibly a NEW film industry for the future instead of being afraid why not embrace it?

  32. Mark Morris March 19, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    BECTU’s experience is that there are too many producers out there who exploit the fact that there are more young people wanting to work in the industry than there are jobs available.

    Is that a fact or an opinion? If BECTU know who these producers are as evidenced by their experience how about some concrete facts to back up these assertions?

    Martin Spence argued for a a new model to professionalise the micro-budget sector.

    His reasoning is

    From the union’s point of view, the tragedy of the current situation, evidenced by the abuse and bad treatment suffered by people like Nicola Vetta,

    He has ONE example

    is that too many workers on productions with minimal budgets are not paid and, despite the promises, derive little to no benefit from the productions they commit so many hours to.

    To change the system in order to close down indie productions with low budgets and films likely to fail YOU need some evidence it is neccesary and yet 81% on shooting people want the choice to work for free on projects that have little budget who BECTU question this as NO choice at all..

    The choice to learn build a showreel and a CV is not a choice in BECTU’S reasoning.

    How can anyone trust them when that is BECTU’S thinking Do they seriously expect people to agree with them when they remove their choice and telling them they never had any? Does BECTU not give people any credit for there own minds?

  33. Benetta Adamson March 19, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

    Oh good grief. Mark Morris, there’s two hours worth of footage, all of which needs to be digitised, split into web-sized chunks and uploaded. That means a lot of work for someone and I don’t imagine it will be online before Monday or Tuesday at the very earliest. It will probably be later than that, being realistic. No-one’s keeping it from you; there isn’t some kind of conspiracy to deny you access. It’s just a big job for which there is no allocated budget so it will take a bit of time.

    No-one is “forcing into law” anything at all either. Forgive me if I sound irritated: it might be simpler if I just recorded a loop denying that, since I’ve been saying it non-stop to you for what seems like weeks.

    “members or a crowd who arent members but followers trying to stop collaberation projects.” What do you mean? Is this another conspiracy theory? Are we now accused of padding out the hall with sympathisers? (We’ll ignore, for the moment, the fact that no-one is trying to stop collaboration projects and that this has been reiterated countless times) Is it possible instead that many people came because they also have concerns about regulation and exploitation in the indie film sector? That’s what I believe. They’re the same concerns voiced in the Shooting People poll – or perhaps that was also a bunch of left-wing loonies bent on “stopping collaborations”. I think we just heard from a lot of people who have genuine concerns about the ways things are at the moment. Not union members or sympathisers or some bunch of rented fifth-columnists, but people who’ve been bruised by their encounters with some low budget filmmakers.

    As to the forum, I have no control over how and when the activation email is sent out. Perhaps your spam filter caught it? It often happens.

    @Christopher: did you actually read the article? I thought it was very even-handed. You didn’t like the comments of one person; what about what I had to say? Does that count for nothing?

    As to your comments about the rate card: I’d say it reflects current rates earned by fully fledged professionals working in television. We all know rates are under severe pressure and many people work for less than is recommended. Should the union be endorsing lower rates because TV companies and broadcasters realise they can get people to work for peanuts? I’d be mightily uncomfortable with that.

  34. Rich Bradley March 19, 2010 at 11:24 pm #


    Seriously mate, chill out. this isn’t some big elaborate conspiracy to prevent you seeing a video, or working on films. First of all, the video is going up, but in case you didn’t know, it takes time for digitising, splicing the footage together (there were probably three tapes used), then converting it to a file that can be easily uploaded onto a website, and viewed by the ordinary user. Then it has to be uploaded. So calm down, it will go up. And I promise, if there are any edits in it, you’ll notice.

    Second, you said BECTU wants to stop collaborations. Either you weren’t there yesterday, or you weren’t listening. They don’t want to stop collaborations between friends. What they want to do is stop unscrupulous producers – and there are many out there – from CLAIMING to be a collaboration in order to attempt to make money off someone else’s back. Whatever else you may think, you have to agree that if someone is trying to make money, they should pay people for their work.

    It is, of course, a difficult line to see. One persons collaboration is anothers exploitation. What Martin said last night was that they are trying to put into place a system – the co-operative model – that would help protect the genuine collaborators. Because if a co-operative model can be made to work, then the genuine collaborations can use that, and people can work on those projects knowing that if money were to be made (by accident, as it were) then they would all benefit equally (comparative to the work they put in). People who think they can make the next blockbuster, and make themselves a million pounds in the process, won’t use the co-operative model, because that would stand in the way of their exclusive success. Hence, simply having the model helps vulnerable new entrants to see who should be paying, and who shouldn’t. At the same time, it allows collaborations to continue unhindered, as BECTU is more than happy to allow, because as has been said, collaborations allow people to learn and grow.

    So please, chill out and think for one second. Because as Chris said several times last night, this is all about coming together to find a middle ground that helps EVERYONE (and no matter what you think, BECTU is trying to help people), and it isn’t about shouting abuse, or throwing rocks.

  35. neil jones March 20, 2010 at 12:42 am #

    I wish I could have been there last night, and I look forward to watching the promised unedited version from BECTU.

    There are obviously some BECTU workers on here reading and commenting, I have a few questions perhaps you could answer publicly.

    1: If there is no budget, would BECTU be happy to support a profit participation scheme based on if the film makes money? That way surely the expolitaion is not financal as if the producer profits so does the crew?

    2: If there is enough of a budget to pay the National Min Wage, would BECTU be happy if meals, per diems, travel, accomodation and tea and coffee were not provided? Of course if this was a factory job this would be acceptable, so surely in the interest of fair employment law this would be acceptable?

    Indie film-makers are not the only ones who have disagreements BECTU, the BBC are not members and do not follow the rate card.

    I sincerily hope there can be a middle ground reached.

  36. Mark Watson March 20, 2010 at 7:15 am #

    If anyone is having problems accessing the new site set up to discuss the way forward it may be because proboards is having problems at the moment (esp for Sky Broadband users).

    If the page won’t load, try this instead:

  37. Alex May March 20, 2010 at 7:56 am #

    Chris, I really think you’ve taken this all the wrong way. Or has the tabloid journalist in you won the day? Great read but your write-up isn’t ‘on the ball’. I know you’re hurting from the ‘spanking’ we got… but really! I’m coming round to BECTU’s way of seeing it and dealing with it. That’s how tired I am of abusive practices.

    I’ll post my full write-up later.

  38. Mark Morris March 20, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    Seriously Rich I am chilled out and I object to you and Benetta patronising me.

    You have your say and I have mine that is what a debate is all about. When people tell me they are afraid intimidated and worried that is always the argument of those who cant win in a fair way. Already that is and has happened here.

    Oh good grief. Mark Morris, there’s two hours worth of footage, all of which needs to be digitised, split into web-sized chunks and uploaded.

    There is no need for that Benetta I already apologised for that and Mark has already lambusted me in spite of this You adding to it means you either dont read the posts or are looking to undermine me. Very bad show.


    That means a lot of work for someone and I don’t imagine it will be online before Monday or Tuesday at the very earliest.

    lOOK I already apologised for that you like calling me out on the same thing and stretching it dont you. But I can tell you film ITS already digital and as for manageable chunks of 15 mins I could have done it in a few hours anyway if you take longer Im not complaining.

    It will probably be later than that, being realistic. No-one’s keeping it from you;

    Again I already apologised for that How long does this go on for?

    there isn’t some kind of conspiracy to deny you access.

    I’m a conspiray theorist now?

    It’s just a big job for which there is no allocated budget so it will take a bit of time.

    No-one is “forcing into law” anything at all either. Forgive me if I sound irritated: it might be simpler if I just recorded a loop denying that, since I’ve been saying it non-stop to you for what seems like weeks.

    You represent an organisation who have members who say something else so this was directed at them but you sidetrack my comments Now go ahead and say those supporters are not members etc certainly vocal enough though.

    “members or a crowd who arent members but followers trying to stop collaberation projects.” What do you mean? Is this another conspiracy theory?

    BECTU wants to bring in a law that means people cannot work for free and that means an end to collaberation BUT YOU know this thats why you say you want to reach a middle ground on the one hand and yet YOU SAY nothing about those who attend your meeting and demand an end to collaberation projects.

    Are we now accused of padding out the hall with sympathisers?

    Did I say that?


    (We’ll ignore, for the moment, the fact that no-one is trying to stop collaboration projects and that this has been reiterated countless times) Is it possible instead that many people came because they also have concerns about regulation and exploitation in the indie film sector?

    The meeting was about bringing in the minimum wage and this will effectively STOP collaberation projects Chris Jones tried to reach a compromise and middle ground but it seems that BECTU as an organisation want the minimum wage ENFORCED and who cares about collaberation. NOW there may be some in your organisation who sympathise but sympathy doesnt cut it if collaberation is no longer allowed due to a law that enforces the minimum wage does it.

    That’s what I believe. They’re the same concerns voiced in the Shooting People poll – or perhaps that was also a bunch of left-wing loonies bent on “stopping collaborations”. I think we just heard from a lot of people who have genuine concerns about the ways things are at the moment. Not union members or sympathisers or some bunch of rented fifth-columnists, but people who’ve been bruised by their encounters with some low budget filmmakers.

    tHE SHOOTING PEOPLE POLL Clearly said they want the choice to collaberate and work for free and not have the minimum wage forced on them.


    As to the forum, I have no control over how and when the activation email is sent out. Perhaps your spam filter caught it? It often happens.

    NO I checked and I tried to activate THREE times.

    NOW DO the right thing and debate fairly without undermining side tracking and fake annoyance.

  39. Alex May March 20, 2010 at 8:08 am #

    Couldn’t resist posting this fun question: What does BECTU make of the expected 70,000 Olympic Volunteers?
    I worked in production on the ’92 Olympic Ceremonies, so I reckon the country is saving something in the order of (70,000 x 3 months x 12 hours x £5.80 NMW =) £438 million pounds plus expenses and food. Will this be legal? Will the National Minimum Wage apply? Where do we stand?
    (I had a very well paid job, but useless experience for CV or future jobs)

  40. Benetta Adamson March 20, 2010 at 8:51 am #

    Mark Morris, I’m not going to respond here. Part of the problem is that this is a moderated blog which makes responding directly to your questions and assertions difficult since they don’t go up in real time.

    I think, from looking at the members list on the Indie Film Forum, that you’ve now managed to join up there (twice, as far as I can see). So I’m copy/pasting your comments here and will reply over there.

    (Clicking on my name here should link you to the new forum, if there’s anyone still wondering where to find it)

  41. Mark Morris March 20, 2010 at 8:51 am #

    Okay Benneta I finally managed to join your forum and posted this.

    As I understand it BECTU wants to change the law that means enforcing the minimum wage for all those who work in making films.

    EFFECTIVELY a law like this will mean an end to collaberation projects where working for free is a way to learn showcase and build a CV as well as valuable experience.

    So who are the people who make films in this country? Apart from channel four production companies are very few and far between mainly because the film industry is sewn up by America who own most of the theatres decide what gets shown and have massive clout and say in what gets made. But sometimes just sometimes through the true grit and determination of a beaten British film industry someone breaks through.

    OKAY so for the most part anyone who makes a film will likely lose their money in fact its almost a certainty. to play in this game you need a big budget and NO ONE here wants to risk millions. Unless you have a Millionaire who has a kid who wants to be a film star make a film etc.

    These are the people BECTU have an argument with because these people feel well why should I pay you Ive bankrolled the production for my own ends and given you an opportunity to play in a world you would never get into in a feel that is a vanity project and loss making.

    Whatever the argument for the above Im not interrested Im only interested in the real harsh world of putting a film together and that means finding money that I dont have While nice plump organisations like the BFC with plush offices spend public money on everything but film makers. I as a CLEANER cant afford or get access to grants or money..

    SO I collaberate I dont mind whether its acting directing or crewing But its all good experience and something I enjoy.


    I’ve outlined my position in this..

    SO Whats BECTU going to do?

    Bring in a law that says everyone in the business must be paid the minimum wage and pay lip service and sympathy while the law means an end to collaberation? Thats mine and now others fear that we have already been labelled as not relevent anyway.

    IF BECTU want to bring in a law then they must not dismiss indie film makers as the villains or lump them as independants that are the problem.

    YOU have to make a fair law and personally I dont believe a law is even neccesary That law will not be able to make allowances for collaberations. People dont want it IE shooting people survey shows that 81% want the choice to decide..

    I’d like to see ALL OF BECTU reassure Indie fim makers that there on their side not ONE member say they are and a load more members who clearly are not. I can see it now. Sorry Mark I tried to help Indie film makers but the vote went against it AS SUDDENLY I am no longer able to make films.

  42. Rich Bradley March 20, 2010 at 9:39 am #


    For the nth time, BECTU are not trying to stop collaborations. Were you at the meeting, or did you just not listen to Martin speak? He said that BECTU are trying to make the co-operative model work for no budget films, which sounds to me very much like the head honchos at BECTU want to help collaborations, and only cut out the producers who are exploiting people. I am utterly exasperated that you refuse to realise BECTUs stance – that of looking for a solution, not of standing in the way of your films.

    I am staggered firstly by your refusal to listen to what people from our side of the fence have said, and secondly by your refusal to attempt to find a way to make it work for everyone. Because that is what we are trying to do, no matter what you think.

    Neil Jones,

    You ask if BECTU were happy to support a profit participation scheme. That is exactly what Martin said in the meeting. That is the whole point of a co-operative – everyone owns a joint part of the product, and their wage is a slice of the profit. Perhaps in film it needs to be tweaked slightly, to account for who put money into the budget, and the relative work people put in (IE the runner wouldn’t get the same number of “shares” that the director does”). It’s a model that needs work, they admit, but surely it is worth a look?

    Personally – and I’m a member of BECTU, but not an important one – I would prefer to get paid NMW than get my food bought. It would allow me to bring my sandwiches in if I were at home in the evenings, and save a little money to pay the rent and buy myself a beer on the weekend. Because sadly in a capitalist economy art does not pay the bills as well as cold hard cash.

  43. Christopher Hughes March 20, 2010 at 9:56 am #

    Benatta. Forgive my over simplification of BECTU’s article. Yes I agree with you entirely about getting more results from honey than vinegar. I straddle both sides of the argument BECTU member, shooting people member, someone who works for free and someone who has worked for major film and television companies. So I have seen many sides, which is probably more than most.

    My points about the BECTU rate card are something I noticed years ago that echoed the BBC rate card where those who consider it don’t quite understand the roles with in it. In an industry that works on the principle of “camera day” prep and wrap time is not included a 12 on camera day could add at least another two hours which is both part of the job and not considered overtime. Assistant Directors, Costume Make up, Drivers all work excess of camera hours every day, so the hourly rate when the rate card is less in reality than what it would appear in either the 8h, 10, or twelve hour day. So far from wanting the Union to endorse lower rates I would suggest better more realistic rates in context. Unless we go back to the Studio System where everyone clocks in and out at the studio gate people including producers will never get a true picture of what hours are involved and there for the true costs.

    Going back to the BECTU articles conclusion, “would-be film-makers aspire to work in a sector which not only upholds the law but which delivers on the promise of nurturing talent and allowing that talent to prosper. The sector, as a whole, is manifestly not delivering on these obligations right now.” I do not recognise this picture from my experience, if I have ever had a work experience person on set I have damned sure they, are learning something, enjoying it and safe. But maybe I am in the minority.

    My main concern with this whole debate comes down to this protection of those who are being taken advantage of, something I will be the first to stand up to and those of us with more experience who know what we are doing in every sense not been able to contribute to projects for free with out consequences of being vilified or used as a whipping boy against producers and directors. If we could separate the two points I believe this would be a good start.

  44. david baker March 20, 2010 at 10:04 am #

    We all know the obvious that there should be a fair way to do things, most filmmakers are not exploiters.

    But its really too disturbing to me that there is even a debate on whether people have the right to work for free or not. Thats scary!

    I spent years as an actor working on no budget films, and it was beneficial. Why? I could not afford drama school, even though I passed auditions.

    Doing no budget films let me learn about acting. It was my drama school. I was not exploited. None of the films made money. Why? The filmmakers were all exploited. But again, they were not, as they were doing these films for their showreels. Learning

    Full respect to you chris for attending this meeting and speaking out.


  45. Alex May March 20, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    As they say on those unmoderated message boards:
    Obvious Troll is obvious.
    (Don’t rise to the bait)

  46. Mark Watson March 20, 2010 at 10:20 am #

    @Mark Morris – Mark, the meeting was not “about bringing in the minimum wage”:

    1. It exists anyway, and applied to film production as well as almost all other industries.

    2. The Minimum Wage regulations do not seek to prevent collaboration and does not enforce payment on people who do collaborate

    3. The meeting was about opening the process of developing a model whereby filmmakers can work collaboratively without any Minimum Wage issues

    4. BECTU is the oprganisation who is setting about constructing this model way of working collaboratively.

    5. I have registered on the site you mention, received an activation email and am now a member. so have many other people. The proboards activation process is automatic, no human being gets involved so cannot be preventing you from signing up. Given that, is it just possible that the problem you are having is at your end?

  47. neil jones March 20, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    Rich Bradley.

    Thanks for your response, I’m pleased to hear that BECTU are planning on trying to work a frame out so that profit participation means indie film can go forward. I think the majority of us would be happy with this, IF the guidelines made sense.

    On the expenses issue not being paid if NMW is, glad to hear you agree with this, however I’d be keen to hear someone who works for BECTU also voice an opinion.

  48. Mark Watson March 20, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

    I don’t work for BECTU (and am not a member either) but I would guess that their response would be that if there is enough of a budget to pay the Nat Min Wage (and it were due) as well as meals, per diems etc then the NMW would come first.

  49. Mike Busson March 20, 2010 at 7:01 pm #

    It’s an interesting point and I’d quite like to see the official take.

    As you know, Mark, most of the kinds of jobs that get referenced on the Watercooler website say that travel expenses and catering will be provided but no wage.

    A producer could go down the line of saying “Yes we’ll pay you but you have to make your own way there and bring your own breakfast and lunch”.

    I guess that would mean no nasty email from Pat Duggan but a possible revolt on day one of the shoot…

    Anyway, as an aside, I think it would make more sense for people to ask specific questions on the BECTU board ( than on Chris’ blog. As we know, Chris has to manually approve any comments and, as a result, the conversation can get disjointed. Plus Chris is probably tearing his hair out having to moderate everything!

    Finally, in answer to Sharons question directed at me 07:29pm Friday, the suspicion (not that there was any in my original question but there you go) was based on your own article with the rather inflammatory headline, which I see you have now edited, that originally said something along the lines of excerpts or clips would be put online.

  50. Mark Watson March 20, 2010 at 8:01 pm #

    Well yes, some that feature on the Watercooler talk about catering but to putvthis in its proper context, they all also say there’ll be no pay, or profit share of any description – and are all films with a planned comercial future! I’m sure crews would be more than happy to get paid for their work, even if they have to give up the free lunch – they’d certainly be quids in…

  51. Stuart Pearce March 22, 2010 at 7:23 pm #

    So label all your requirements as ‘volunteer’ requirements.
    From the governments own website:

    Your employment rights as a volunteer: Most volunteers don’t have a contract of employment and so don’t have the rights of an ordinary employee or worker. These include the right to a minimum wage, holiday and sick pay, and other statutory rights.
    Your employment rights
    If you volunteer, you’re normally told about this in a volunteer agreement. This is usually part of a set of documents, which includes a volunteer policy and voluntary work outlines, like a job description.
    The volunteer agreement should explain:
    what supervision and support you’ll get
    insurance cover
    equal opportunities
    how disagreements will be resolved
    Minimum age
    Many voluntary organisations give children volunteer work, provided they’re covered by the organisation’s insurance.
    However, in order to protect children from being exploited, the law limits what children under school leaving age can do (you are under school leaving age until the last Friday in June of the school year in which you turn 16). For example, if you are under 14 then you are not allowed to work for a profit-making organisation (this is true whether or not you are paid).
    Health and safety
    Under health and safety law, an organisation only has to have one paid employee to be an employer. If you’re volunteering for an employer, it must assess any risks to your health and safety and take steps to reduce them – just as if you were a paid employee.
    If there are different health and safety risks for volunteers than employees, then the protection you’re given should reflect this.

    Pay, expenses and training
    As a volunteer, you’ll generally be excluded from the National Minimum Wage and receive only basic expenses for your work. Expenses don’t count as wages, as they’re repaying you for costs you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t been volunteering. Normally expenses will be limited to money for travel and food/drink as well as repaying you for money you have spent (or will be spending) on things you need for your work.
    If you receive any benefits in kind they are likely to be limited to what you need while working such as food and drink and, if you are doing work away from home, accommodation. Training for your work may also be provided.
    If you receive any other payment or benefit in kind for volunteering, this may mean you are actually classed as an ‘ employee’ or a ‘worker’. These categories have a specific meaning and have particular employment rights associated with them – the article on employment status explains more.
    Examples of benefits that might mean you are classed as a ‘ worker’ include:
    receiving training that’s not directly relevant to your voluntary work
    receiving a fixed regular amount for ‘expenses’ that is more than you spend

    I’m not for a moment suggesting this should be a way of sidestepping the issue. I’m making the point that as soon as two parties begin to become entrenched in their positions both turn inward and then it’s a case of how can we get around something rather than how can we resolve the issue together.

    As for the whole minimum wage debate. I would suggest that BECTU focus their efforts on Producers and companies that have had a track record of generating income from their work. And unfortunately that does include many established industry producers that still expect free labour

    As for the rest, unless BECTU want to kick this newly technology empowered and democratised industry back to the stone ages – I would suggest they leave well alone. Unless of course it is all about closing the shop to all but the select few who have access to government money and of course the well off.


  52. Nick Hughes March 22, 2010 at 10:23 pm #

    Chris…You are right; a film set should be a benevolent dictatorship as time and budget pressures will not tolerate anything less. In the words of Commander Straker in Gerry Anderson’s “UFO”: “I’ll listen to any reasonable suggestions, and then I’m going to tell you how it’s going to be”.

    As for the minimum wage debate, my solution is simple; make any production with a budget under £10,000 exempt from having to pay NMW. Any film costing that amount or less is mostly likely to be a short film or a showreel with very little backing from any major companies.

    I’m not tarring all BECTU members with the same brush, but I have heard some call for a cull in the film industry…that will just purge young or new people and leave the comfortably well off with jobs. How is that fair? These vehement critics seem to want to pull the ladder up after them and leave talent who are unfortunate enough not to have contacts or patronage floundering.

    Co-operative film making, where the Boom Op gets the same say and profit share as the person who wrote, produced and is putting up the lions share of the funding is also massively unfair. A lot of the vehement BECTU arguments seem divorced from the reality that most film-makers put up with…the view from the Ivory Tower must be fine, pity a lot of us can’t also enjoy that view.

    Keep up the good work, Chris and Jess.

  53. Mark Watson March 23, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    Stuart, it can’t be a matter of how you “label” these people (or how they label themselves) as HMRC say it doesn’t matter what you call people, it’s how you use them that matters. Treat someone as a worker and they, de facto, become one and not a volunteer.

  54. Matt Dykes March 24, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    I was at that debate. I was the bloke from the TUC who put a couple of questions to Jess.

    I didn’t actually think that it was that hostile, lively yes, but was there really “hate” in the room? Nor did I find it especially one sided. The Shooting People folk sat either side of me were pretty robust in their positions (and their heckling too!). Fair play, its an emotive subject.

    Of course, I have a position close to BECTU’s. So you may think I’m biased. But I genuinely don’t think anyone in the room tried to depict indie film makers as “evil” or characteurs of exploitative employers.

    Its hardly suprising though that people get emotive. Its livelihoods we’re talking about. And while I appreciate Chris’s argument in favour of consensus, I do find it a bit disingenous at times when employers use the “we’re in this together, we agree on 90%, can’t we just get on” argument.

    Afterall, that 10% is pretty important and, at times, there’s opposing views created by the relationships within the production process.

    Its not that easy to reach consensus therefore and it shouldn’t be too surprising or depressing when you can’t get it every time.

    Even so, I thought it was a good event. And it certainly made it clear to me that these issues aren’t always clear cut, of course. I was sympathetic to much of Jess and Chris said. I only believe that the starting point should be “how do we ensure that we can meet our obligations to pay people for their work” and find a solution based on that. I guess Shooting People have it the other way round.

    I’m not sure I quite get Chris’s point about the lack of runners in the room. There were plenty of people in there performing all sorts of functions who are not getting paid. The legal right to paid work surely applies to sound engineers as much as runners? Or am I missing your point?

    Anyway, I was heartened by the pragmatic approach taken by BECTU. Martin struck me as someone genuinely looking for negotiation and solution. I was less sure of Jess and Chris’s final position which appeared to me to be a wee bit defensive and can’t do. But that’s probably my bias coming out there.

    But I think its great that you stood up and got involved and it led to a lively and challenging debate.

  55. Sharon Cannings March 31, 2010 at 10:23 pm #

    I’m an actor and also a low budget filmmaker who pays everyone who works on my films.
    If the enforcement of NMW shuts down all low budget filmmaking then I’ll have a monopoly- bring it on!
    Plus, I’ve often heard it said both on here and elsewhere that if you can’t afford to train at drama school or film school then working for nothing is the cheaper option.
    Working for free is not cheap. At least 6K in lost earnings a year, if you’re busy. It drags down the rates for all those that did find the money to train. It also excludes everyone but the rich in this business- those who can afford not to take a wage will keep working.
    Being working class isn’t the exclusive right of the struggling filmmaker you know.
    I welcome BECTU’s stance on this as Equity have been very slow off the mark. Unions are in place to protect the rights and working practices of its professional members, striving to improve wages whenever possible. Of course BECTU should take this line. What other stance could they possibly take without producers walking all over them? A strong union is essential.

  56. Steve February 23, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    So what happened to the film? Has it ever been released by BECTU?

  57. Chris February 23, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    Yes, it’s on YouTube

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