The mandy network.

There is a site called “The mandy network” which, somewhat hyperbolically, advertises itself as the “number one network for cast, crew and creative professionals”.

It isn’t of course, as anyone who has trudged through the pages of its unpaid “opportunities” will readily testify.

It also touts its services as being “free to join”. What you discover when you join however is that you are actually going to have to pay an upfront fee to apply for the jobs they advertise.

We here at the Watercooler have that strangely old fashioned view that no-one should have to pay to apply for a job of work.  Apart from being manifestly unjust, it means that jobs become restricted to those who can afford to pay to apply, with the obvious social consequences that entails. We regard companies that peddle that kind of nonsense as being no better than the leechy things that append themselves to unprotected bottoms in the high seas.

So our advice if you are thinking of paying mandy.com for the right to apply for work is – don’t.

All the jobs worth applying for in the industry always appear on free sites such as those you find on Facebook. You don’t need to pay and you gain nothing by doing so. The only jobs that don’t appear on the free-to-use sites are the crappy “come and work for nothing for an IMDB credit” type operations. These are mostly not accepted on the reputable pages as they have no value on a CV and are a misery to work on, usually because you end up working till stupid o’clock for an underfunded, overstressed, inexperienced bunch of hopefuls making what turns out to be an unwatchable and unwatched short film.

In short then, our very fiorm advice is that you avoid “the mandy network” like the plague. Don’t waste your money on it, not least because if no-one pays, it will have to close. And if it does, those jobs won’t simply disappear, they’ll all just end up being available elsewhere for free.

And if you are looking for work, how about trying all these lovely free to use pages instead.

Spectrecom Films


This company has a longstanding and very poor record for failing to pay its freelancers on time. Caution is therefore recommended for anyone considering having any kind of financial relationship with this company in the future.

If you are a freelancer who is encountering any difficulty with being paid on time by this company, please feel free to make contact with the details and your invoice will be paid. Confidentiality guaranteed, no cost, no obligation.


info@tvwatercooler.org

John Pavlakos

A warning to anyone considering working for this individual at any point in the future.

A considerable number of people have reported being left unpaid by this Producer after working on his films through his companies “Purple Lion Pictures”, “Macho Movies” and “Liontari Films”.

Due caution should be exercised before embarking on any kind of financial relationship with either of them or this company in the future.

Using your vehicle for work: are you covered?

FB job ads frequently specify “own vehicle”.  These are most common for junior roles such as runners, because most senior freelancers either have their own transport because they’re providing their own kit, or it’s expected that a hire car will be provided.  

So what’s the problem?  

The problem is that not having the right insurance is likely to mean that in the event that you have an accident (even if it’s not your fault) or simply get stopped by the police you will be deemed to be driving without insurance, and that’s a criminal offence.

I’ve been in touch with Hencilla Canworth, a firm of insurance intermediaries who specialise in insurance for the arts and media, to find out best practice and how you can be absolutely sure that you’re covered if you want to use your own car for business.

Most ordinary car insurance covers you for leisure and domestic use, including commuting to work.  That means that the insurer expects you to use a car to travel to work but not to use your car for business purposes.  The insurer is also relying on the declaration you made about your work – an office worker in a 9-5 job with a guaranteed parking space carries far less risk than a tired runner working 14 hours on a film set.   The difference is reflected in the premium they charge, which is why a lot of people are tempted to lie (or not quite declare the truth…).  

What constitutes “business use”?  

Pretty much anything which your employer asks you to do which involves using your car is “business use”.  That could be doing a quick run to the local sandwich shop to get lunches, picking up the camera assistant because she lives just round the corner from you, ferrying the actors from location to the studio, or loading the boot up with the DOP’s prized prime lenses.   Driving yourself there (alone) is probably fine as long as your job declaration fits.

Do be aware that “business use” may well exclude some specific tasks, top of which would be ferrying actors around.  That’s because the claims on insurance if an actor is injured can be sky high, particularly if a film needs to be rescheduled or, god forbid, reshot entirely.   However you do not need “hire and reward” cover, which is for taxis and minicabs.  

What should I call myself?

Most new entrants have a whole bunch of temp jobs which they fit around freelance media work.  And if you mostly work as a temp receptionist, in a retail job or in a call centre then that’s probably what you’ve declared as your work.  My very helpful informant says that in most cases you can declare a secondary job, and it’s really important that you do that before you even think about using your car for media work.  If the drop down list doesn’t have a suitable category then you need to phone your broker.  

Using comparison sites

The problem with comparison sites is that they cherry pick the low risk jobs/vehicles/drivers, so you may well find that they exclude any media-type work.   There are specialists, like Hencilla Canworth, but it will be more expensive and you will need to check the extent of your cover – for instance, you might find that you’re excluded from ferrying actors (because of the “value” of super stars if they get damaged, I guess).   Please, please don’t cut corners on insurance:  a criminal prosecution (and civil damages) would be absolutely devastating for anyone, but particularly when you’re just starting out. 

In most cases your employer is responsible for ensuring that you’re properly covered when you’re working for them, but using your own car is an exception.  That’s why we remind recruiters who use our FB groups to advertise their jobs that they need to check that anyone they employ who will be using their own vehicle is properly insured.  

Runners’ pay – what should you ask for and should you ask for more?

Here’s a thing about pay.

Runners are often concerned about how to respond if they are asking what their pay rate is, or wonder if they can negotiate for a better rate than is being offered.

The issue is that employers in TV do not generally talk about pay until interview/offering the job. It’s been that way for around 25 years now and is unlikely ever to change as there is nothing in the employers’ interests to change it.

The way it works is that Line Producers/PMs work to a budget which has individual lines for each grade of staff they want to employ. There is a wee bit of wiggle room in there but generally speaking the biggest wiggle goes to the most desirable team members (eg the editor, a really capable PD, camera people). That leaves very little wiggle for runners, simple reason being that a lot of people can be a pretty decent runner so there is a lot of competition for every job and Line Producers know they can just pick up the next person in the queue and get them at the offered rate.

Generally speaking then, as a runner you aren’t going to get significantly above minimum wage. You can argue the toss and try to get a little more but really, you won’t get much more that what’s offered. So it’s best to regard being a runner as a loss leader, a starter job which allows you to get a better (and better remunerated) one. If you bank on getting minimum wage, anything else is then a bonus, and If you can’t work for roughly the minimum wage at the start of your career, you probably won’t make it in the business.

The best way to get paid more? (Don’t tell any PM/LP I told you this). Push for a higher rate of pay only once you’re in the door and you’ve done one show for a company/PM and you’re being offered a second gig. Once they know how good you are and you’ve shown what you have to offer, you have a tad more leverage.

And what to say if you are asked your rate? Well you could suggest what is on the BECTU rate card but a better option might be to say “I’m happy to accept whatever you think is fair”. Generally speaking you will probably then get whatever they have in the budget, which is far better than pitching for a bit more, missing and then not getting the job…

What does a Freelance Animator do?

Recently, we’ve explored What a Freelance Premiere Editor does? and discussed the different software they use. This time we want to give you more details about animation and the role of the Animator in the production industry. This guide aims to clarify what that field actually involves, helping you to find a perfect freelance animator for your next creative project.

What is an Animator?

To understand the role of an Animator it is crucial to have the basic knowledge of animation. Animation is a method whereby multiple images also known as frames are sequenced together to create an illusion of movement when displayed in swift sequence. An Animator is an artist who either makes up the images by hand-drawing or digitally creates them. Nowadays, Animators tend to work in CGI – Computer-Generated Imagery – rather than by drawing or painting images by hand, which often is referred to as a traditional animation. Animators are considered to be a part of the art industry and often work in sectors such as film, TV, video games and mass media.

How do I find a good Animator?

Animators work in various stages and even though their job still relies on their artistic abilities, they are also required to be skilled with specific computer packages. A lot of Animators decide to specialise in one field, for example character animation or special effects, which essentially can be anything – from vehicles to natural phenomena like rain or snow.

When choosing an Animator, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of the project you wish for them to work on and the role that you wish the Animator to play within it.

What can you expect from a freelance Animator?

Some of the tasks that an Animator can be responsible for are:

  • Creating sketches, artwork and illustrations in 2D
  • Creating animation from concepts and often working on the ideas directly with clients
  • Accurate and detailed visuals created frame-by-frame
  • Working with Editors on various layers of animation, such as characters, special effects or graphics
  • Designing the whole animation environment – backgrounds, characters and objects
  • 3D computer animation
  • Using software such as: Flash, Maya, Cinema 4D, Lightwave, 3ds Max and Softimage

Animators are also often judged by their portfolio rather than how many years of experience they have. Once you decide to hire a freelance Animator, remember to pay more attention to their showreel as this is a true indicator of what they should be able to offer. To avoid any confusion before booking an Animator for a project, it is always worth speaking to them about what their specific role was on a project or visual example, to ascertain which aspect of the animation they were responsible for! We always recommend calling for a chat, so you can discuss your requirements directly with the freelancer to make sure they have the right skills and software ability.

Why should I need a freelance Animator?

Animation is a great way of producing engaging content and developing creative projects. Producing great graphics is one of the most efficient ways of communicating with the audience; you could use animation for advertising campaigns, or to create branded and promotional content for your company.

How to become a professional Animator?

There are some very relevant studies that will definitely help with learning the basics and making necessary contacts. You can choose from animation, graphic or 3D design, art and film degrees or even computer-aided engineering. However, entering the industry without higher qualification is still possible but requires a showreel, a strong artistic background and solid software and IT skills.

Building a portfolio as a freelancer is the most common path for Animators who usually decide to settle for permanent jobs only after years of working for different companies and on various projects. In the meantime, there is always plenty of opportunities for self-development – from work experiences that are extremely advantageous when you are just starting up and residencies to additional courses. A thorough list of animation-related courses can be found at the British Film Institute (BFI) or UAL.

Most Animators start as studio runners so don’t get discouraged at that point – it’s one of those job roles that have quite a hierarchical structure. You may also go through positions like ‘inbetweener’ or ‘clean-up artist’, who assist the Animator and make drawings between the ‘key poses’ and re-draw sketches. At some point you will be able to progress into a junior position and if you continue to work as hard as before, you’ll become a Senior Animator sooner that you’d have thought! From that you can work on becoming a Design Manager or even Art Director.

Would love to hear your opinion on this role! Maybe you have some valuable experience to share? Start the conversation by messaging me on my LinkedIn profile – Magda Kania, Creative Resourcer at Yellow Cat Recruitment

How to move your TV job application to the top of the pile…

There you are. Sitting in your house/flat/yurt (delete where applicable) wondering if it is worth even bothering to apply for another TV job when, despite hundreds of applications, you haven’t even made it to interview stage in the whole year you’ve been applying.

What’s wrong with me? Where am I going wrong? Why are my applications getting me nowhere? (NB this is not me asking, I’m talking as you now).

The good news is – here are the answers! A top employer on the Facebook Runner’s group has come up with some golden advice to help you move your application up that list, from being a candidate for the bin to being a top of the pile prospect.

This is her advice…

I recently posted a vacancy here in the group and wanted to give some feedback. We are a kit hire facility, not production, so our viewpoint is slightly different to most of the posters here. Our vacancy was for a permanent position and it remained open to applications for a while, not the usual few hours for production runner positions.

We had an amazing response and received over 70 CVs. Sadly, the majority of these ended up in our no pile because they were unable to demonstrate that they possessed the key skills we needed despite the posting being pretty specific.

We read every single CV.

We interviewed just 6 people.

Of the 6 people we interviewed, 5 of them came from this group.

But most importantly, the person we have offered the job to, came from this group and starts with us in a couple of weeks.

This is a ridiculously competitive industry, but it is hugely rewarding and those of us lucky enough to work in it understand what you guys are up against when you’re starting out. We are part of this group not just because it gives us access to job seekers, but because we don’t just want to employ someone’s friend, daughter, nephew, etc. Diversity is what makes this industry great.

It can be really tough getting an interview, and if you’re lucky enough to get one you still have to prove you’re the person for the job. So here’s some constructive feedback for you all from someone of the other side.

  • Read the listing, it will likely give an indication of what the employer is looking for and it may even be explicit in its requirements. If there are specific requirements listed, then you need to demonstrate that you tick those boxes. State this in your application email, especially if it isn’t listed on your CV. If an employer cannot easily find that information they will put you straight in the no pile. If you are required to be within a specific location (or within a specific distance to it) say so, how else will a prospective employer know if your address isn’t liste
  • If a particular skill is an absolute necessity, it’s a good idea if you not only say you have that skill but also demonstrate that you have experience in it ‘I am able to ……’ ‘and I have been ….. for 3 years’. If we can’t find this information we will assume you are unable, so we’ll put you in the no pile.
  • Be a relevant applicant; if a vacancy is in production, or crew, etc don’t state in your CV and letter that you want to be in animation. Straight to the no pile, because you’re not going to be committed to this position.
  • Attach the correct CV – rookie error. As employers we understand and accept that applicants will have multiple CVs for different roles they’d like. Send the correct one for the role you are applying for. If you cannot get this basic step right, guess what – straight to the no pile.
  • Similarly with the application email. Address it correctly, get the person’s name right if you have it, make sure the subject title is correct. They will be receiving many applications as well as their regular emails and if they can’t easily identify yours it will be missed. …and how would you feel if you were called Dave, when your name is actually John? The no pile awaits I’m afraid.
  • And lastly, if you are applying for a junior position then I’m sorry but your showreel is irrelevant. Don’t overfill your application letters and CVs with unnecessary information, we need to be able to pull out the relevant skills easily, that way we can put you in the yes pile!

I posted these notes a few weeks ago, so some of you may have already seen them. With so many of you graduating recently I thought it useful to repost them.

And here’s a couple of additional points to the above which came up during our interview process.

  • This industry is fairly notorious for nepotism, it’s very acceptable for a common contact to make in an introduction on your behalf, but it’s not always a good thing to get your parent to enquire about a vacancy / potential vacancy / progress of an application. Whilst it’s understandable that parents want to help, you’re grown ups now.
  • If you are invited for interview turn up on time. Don’t arrive too early, and definitely don’t arrive late. If you’re really early, find somewhere to kill some time rather than waiting in the employer’s office for 40 mins. They won’t appreciate it and it will definitely stress you out. You won’t be at your best for the interview, find a coffee shop, go for a short walk.
  • Be engaged in the conversation, that means talk! Interviewees should expect to do 80% of the talking, interviewers just 20%. If the interviewer is talking more than you, it’s probably not going well. Make eye contact, sit up straight and be aware of your body language, remember we’re looking at what you don’t say as much as what you do say. We understand you’re nervous, guess what, you’re interviewer might not be the cool character they outwardly appear to be either.
  • When the interview is finished, shake their hand (please no limp wrists!) and thank them for their time. It’s a small thing, but it makes you memorable and shows maturity.

Sorry for the long post guys, but hopefully a few of you can pluck out some useful info! Good luck

Want to work in TV and thinking of going to University first?

If so, and you’re looking at TV/Film/Media courses, here are the 12 questions you should be asking on Open Day:

1. What is the kit like (shooting, editing, sound, studios etc) and can you easily get your hands on it?

2. What opportunities for work experience are there? Do they lay it on, have contacts in the industry and is it “meaningful” (ie relevant and practical).

3. Do the lecturers have recent experience in the industry? (You need to know they know what they’re talking about).

4. Do they get in guest speakers from the industry to give talks?  

5. What is the careers advice like? Do they give you individual guidance and who is giving it (again, do they have industry experience or access to good sources?).

6. Where do recent graduates go? And alumni after 3-5 years, how many are in the industry and at what level? (Remember alumni are ready made contacts of the course team and are a valuable asset when looking for work experience and a first job)

7. Does the course have accreditation e.g Screen Skills?

8. What is the largest group taught in for practical modules? Some will need to have lots of people (eg studio sessions) but some work better the fewer students there are (eg editing).

9. How is group work managed and assessed? Will you be doing work which will benefit others who might put in no effort? Group work to learn how to work in a team is important but being assessed on other people’s (lack of) contribution can be a real irritant to conscientious students.

10. What is the balance of theory and practice and what sort of theory is taught? Theory has its place of course but the amount and quality of the practical experience you get is the real value .

11. Does the curriculum meet your specific needs, does it allow you to specialise at the end of the course in a genre or role? Or does everyone have to produce/direct? Is it broad enough to introduce you to things you’ve never thought of?

11. What software is used for editing, sound, production management (if they teach those areas)? Does the course offer extras like ProTools or Avid accreditation for example.

12. What extra course costs are there? Cost for final projects (locations, actor expenses, copyright for music?). Does the uni cover these or is there a cap on how much you can spend to stop those who can afford it spending loads and having a better project just because they have more money?

Make sure you get satisfactory answers to all these (feel free to print this off as a list and take it with you). And remember, you are the customer – they have to impress you NOT the other way round!

TRAVELLING TO THE USA ON A WORK VISA

At the time of writing travelling to the USA on a work visa is becoming incredibly difficult. The Embassy is currently requiring a lot of detailed information, which they lay out in an email reproduced below.

My suggestion is to document this stuff as it happens, just in case you ever need it!

Here’s the email …

Thank you very much for your interest in a non-immigrant visa for travel to the United States. Some additional information is required at this time in order to continue the processing of your recent application. You must reply within seven days of receiving this e-mail. Please do not use a chart or spreadsheet when replying. We request that you please reply to this e-mail as thoroughly and specifically as possible with regard to the following items:

1. Your complete travel history over the last 15 years, including source of funding for travel, in chronological order.

2. The full names and dates of birth of any siblings, children; current and former spouses/civil or domestic partners/ *not* already provided in your initial application.

3. Your residence address history for the last 15 years, if different from your current address.

4. Your phone numbers and email addresses used during the last five years;

5. All prior passport numbers and country of issuance.

6. All prior occupation(s), and employers, plus a brief description if applicable, for the last 15 years.

7. Public-facing social media platforms and identifiers/handles used during the last five years. This includes any websites or applications the applicant has used to create or share content (photos, videos, status updates, etc.) as part of a public profile.