Financial help for TV freelancers

It’s the hot topic of the moment in the freelance TV world. Here’s where we are, as it stands on Tuesday evening (24th March):

An open letter has gone out to the management of UK TV broadcasters, and one to the Treasury subcommittee, appealing for help for freelancers who have spent their working lives creating Britain’s best loved (and quite liked) TV shows.

“Work has entirely dried up for the tens of thousands of people who have loyally supported [broadcasters] for years…many can’t survive and will have to leave the industry.”

That plea was picked up by Broadcast magazine in their article: Freelancers: help us survive.

“If broadcasters want a workforce when they do get underway again, then they need to figure out a way of allowing them to survive,”

At which point Netflix dug its warmly welcomed hand into its big pockets and plucked out one million pounds to provide emergency short-term relief to freelancers who have been directly impacted by the closure of productions across the UK. You can ask about applying for some of that cash here.

So now it’s over to the BBC and ITV – will they step up?

Updates (hopefully with the good news that they have) here…

Update: another letter has gone out today (25th March) too. No response yet.

Look what Netflix are doing for our industry…

From Broadcast magazine:

Industry charities establish TV emergency fund
By Michael Rosser
24 March 2020

Netflix ploughs £1m into BFI/Film and TV Charity fund for individuals impacted by production closures

The BFI and The Film and TV Charity have partnered to create the Covid-19 Film and TV Emergency Relief Fund in a bid to help support the creative community during the coronavirus pandemic.

Established with a £1m donation from streaming giant Netflix, the fund will aim to provide emergency short-term relief to active workers and freelancers who have been directly impacted by the closure of productions across the UK.

The Film and TV Charity, which is working on the precise eligibility criteria and level of individual funding, will administer the fund with support from the BFI.

It will be open to all those working in production, distribution and exhibition, and applicants are being asked to register at https://filmtvcharity.org.uk/keep-in-touch/

The charity urged those in immediate and urgent to apply for support via its existing hardship fund, which offers grants of up to £500 to provide stop-gap support. The hardship fund will sit alongside the new Covid-19 relief.

Details on eligibility and how to apply can be found here

The two organisations have also recognised the significant mental health pressures arising as a result of the coronavirus crisis and are developing new advice specifically tailored for the film and TV industries on how to stay mentally well at home.

Conducted in line with the charity’s existing Whole Picture Programme for better mental health, it will also create a new supportive community forum for freelancers.

The BFI is also leading an industry wide Screen Sector Task Force that is looking at the wide-ranging impactsof Covid-19 on the whole industry and its workforce, as well as working closely with the UK government to ensure that all of the ramifications and impacts are considered.

Netflix’s donation follows last week’s establishment of a $100m fund for creatives whose jobs have been affected by the ongoing pandemic.

Most of the funds will go towards support for the hardest hit workers on Netflix’s own productions around the world and is in addition to the two weeks’ pay the streemer had already committed to the crew and cast on suspended productions.

Film and TV charity chief executive Alex Pumfrey said: “The film and TV industry is now facing a huge threat. Many freelancers have seen their livelihoods disappear overnight. We’re entering a period of unprecedented isolation and worry for a workforce that we know from our research already suffers from poor mental health.”

BFI chief executive Ben Roberts said: ‘‘Freelance professionals are the backbone of our film and television industries, and we hope that everyone will work together to support those who have been hardest hit at this extraordinary time of need.”

He added further commercial industry partners were being asked to contribute, where able, and “play their part in helping those most in need get through this crisis”.

Netflix vice president, original series Anne Mensah added: “From electricians to carpenters, hair and makeup artists to drivers – and many more, UK crews have always been vital to Netflix’s success and now we want to help those freelancers who most need support in these unprecedented times.”

Come on ITV and BBC – you can do something like this too!

OPEN LETTER to the Boards of Management of UK TV broadcasters.

21 March 2020
Adrian Pegg, on behalf of the Facebook employment and support group ‘People Who Are Available For Work In TV’

Dear Sir / Madam,

In the late 1980s and 90s our industry changed. It moved from a secure staff workforce to a largely self-employed and freelance workforce. Since then all UK Broadcasters have benefited from reduced overheads, and no direct liabilities for sick pay, redundancy, maternity/paternity leave and so on. The workforce has responded by working flexibly and as required for the Independent Production Companies that sprang up to take your commissions.

In the last few weeks Broadcasters have cancelled commissions, Indies have ceased all production and laid off almost all of their freelancers. Work has consequently entirely dried up for the tens of thousands of people who have loyally supported you for years.

It has become apparent that while the government is rightly supporting employees and businesses with staff (including yours), freelancers have no-one to guarantee their income and at present will only have access to a pittance. Many can’t survive and will have to leave the industry. There are freelancers who are PAYE but can’t access the 80% guarantee because they have no single employer.

When you restart commissioning you will need a workforce to be ready and waiting. So how are you planning to support the hard working professionals who make the programmes you will once again rely on?

Yours faithfully,

Adrian Pegg,
Line Producer https://www.facebook.com/groups/availableforworkintv/

Free training for TV Freelancers.

At a time when the TV industry has been brought pretty much to a standstill, there are still rays of light puncturing the gloom.

One such beam is Donna Taberer – Head of Talent at BBC Content, a Director of ScreenSkills and a thoroughly good egg. Donna is offering some training from March 30th, which looks well worth the money, given that it is entirely free!

Keep an eye on Donna’s Twitter feed for more details.

Sweet Mate Productions. Shaub Miah, Sebastian Nanena and Shazz Bhunnoo.

A warning to anyone considering working for this company or these individuals in the future.

Sweet Mate Productions has recently recruited a number of freelancers to work on one of its productions (“Death Do Us Apart”) and then failed to pay them. They have also used facilities and not settled the bills for the hire of them.

As such due caution should be exercised before embarking on any kind of financial relationship with this company or these three individuals in the future as they are clearly untrustworthy in their business dealings.

If anyone else has been left unpaid by this company please contact Mark Watson, derrywatson@gmail.com.

SWEET MATE PRODUCTIONS LTD
34 Babington Court, Orde Hall Street, London, United Kingdom, WC1N 3JT

How to get a TV Production Running job with no previous experience.

by Beth Bacon, guest writer for the Watercooler.

Starting out in TV can be incredibly daunting. Finding a job within the TV world can feel completely unattainable when viewing the industry as a television fanatic. The one thing to say before anything else is, passion. You HAVE to be passionate about going into TV before you decide it is the career path for you. If you don’t love it from the outside you certainly will not like it from the inside.

I am only starting out myself, and I don’t pretend to speak as any sort of authority. But I felt writing down my thoughts about the industry as I experience each step along the way would be a good way for others following a similar path now, and in the future, to have some sort of guidance from someone who isn’t sitting in a career guidance office.

1. CV

I re-wrote my CV about 15 times before posting it on the Facebook Runner’s Group (more on that later). But, all of my guidance had been given to me by the Careers team at my university.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore the people that work in that office, they really do care about the pupils seeking help from them. But, in the case of my university at least, they don’t have particular expertise when it comes to the TV industry.

I got quite a shocking response from a particular member of the Facebook Runner’s Group, which left me quite downhearted. But every cloud has a silver lining!

I then received a flurry of incredibly thoughtful messages from producers, co-ords, PMs, you name it! One lovely lady (shoutout to Producer Emily Everdee) even gave me my first Floor Running job on a short film!

One man, in particular, reached out to me via phone. He could not have been kinder and I will be forever in his debt. He probably spent at least 4 hours with me (across separate days) on the phone giving me advice about my CV. He then gave up his own valuable time to go through my CV, make corrections, and send me back new edits via email. We corresponded many times via email until my CV was ‘perfected’ and we agreed it was ready to be sent out to employers.

Since then, I have only had positive responses to my CV – and I have even bagged myself some job interviews!

2. EMAIL EMAIL EMAIL

90 per cent of the time you will not get a response, but keep at it!

Watch the credits at the end of your favourite TV programmes, note down the names of the PAs and Production companies and send them a cover letter, CV, and a note to say that you are really keen to get some credits and would love to do some work for them as a Runner if they have anything available. Most of all, BE POLITE AND GRATEFUL.

Look out for the big work experience, graduate schemes, and internships posted by the major television networks, e.g. the BBC, Channel 4, etc.

Follow your favourite production companies on LinkedIn and keep a lookout for any posts about upcoming Runner job applications or trainee opportunities.

3. Facebook

JOIN ‘PEOPLE LOOKING FOR TV WORK: RUNNERS‘. DO THIS RIGHT NOW. RIGHT THIS SECOND.

This is where EVERYONE will tell you ALL the jobs get posted. Facebook is the place to find TV work and this is the page that will have all entry-level job traffic. Also… it has around 58,000 members (at the time of this writing) – so apply to every job that is appropriate for you. You’re up against BIG competition.

4. Network

If and when you are offered a running job, NETWORK NETWORK NETWORK.

I wrote this in my previous post, choose the right moment and, when you do, be yourself.

Stay in touch with people you get along with.

I have been lucky enough to meet some people that have been true gems. They have not only messaged me back when I have sent them overly excited messages about them being right all along, after I have just been offered another running job, but they have also made me feel like I have gained some really great friends.

5. Be proactive

No one is going to get you jobs. This industry is fearless and if you’re going to be a freelancer, which you probably are, you’re going to have to WANT those jobs REALLY badly.

Do not stop when you have enough money to pay the bills – what about that dry patch when you don’t have work for a month?! We have all got to eat guys.

Let’s not forget, you have to learn how to budget and we have all got to learn how to be on the lookout for jobs ALL. THE. TIME.

6. Don’t give up at the first hurdle

If you’re thinking giving up the first time someone tells you that you’re not good enough then you need to start growing a thicker skin to survive in the TV world.

You will get rejected, you will sometimes be unemployed. DO NOT GIVE UP.

Those butterflies of being a tiny cog in that big old clock that produces a beautiful programme for all to behold. THAT buzz will keep you going.

7. Keep watching TV

Keep your passion alive. Keep watching the things you love and that will shine through to employers.

Watch the programmes of the people you will be working for. When you write a job application for a production company, watch their shows. If you get the job, then you will not be afraid of talking about what they’ve done if you get the opportunity on set. If you don’t get the job, well then you have learnt something new from watching a programme you would not have otherwise.

Stay up to date with what is popular in terms of hit series, but also in terms of new filming styles and genres, and up-and-coming producers, actors, etc.

8. PEOPLE IN TV ARE LOVELY!!!

Most importantly, don’t be afraid! Almost every person I have met in TV so far have been absolute angels.

Yes, you may encounter the odd knobhead or two. But, as my boss at my first waitressing job told me, kill them with kindness. If someone is being nasty to you for no apparent reason, there is either something going on in their life that has made them react in that way, which means their behaviour has nothing to do with you. Or, they are a general mega bitch, and they are not worth your mental energy.

Once again, GOOD LUCK and SEE YOU ON SET!

(Beth also has a blog – Bacon’s Beacon – have a look, it’s good!)

Onecrew – AVOID!

And another one – another of those sleazy sites which seeks to milk cash out of hard working freelancers. 

The company trying to make a fast buck in this case is called “One Crew” (onecrew.co) and this one really does take the biscuit when it comes to cheek as its business proposition consists of charging you to make contact with employers who post jobs on Facebook!

Needless to say, no-one needs to hand over cash to any of these kinds of set ups in order to secure work in the industry – and (again needless to say I’m sure) it won’t cost you a single penny to log in and see all the jobs that are always advertised on Facebook groups anyway.

I’ve asked this company how their operation is legal given that companies are not permitted to charge for work finding services, however they didn’t have an answer to that question. Funny that.

It all comes to a firm recommendation then. Avoid this set-up, save your money and apply for jobs in the way that everyone does – by seeing adverts and sending in applications. You are wasting your money if you hand over cash to set ups like this lot!

TVCrewFinder – another site to avoid

Yes, another one – another of those scummy sites which pop up every now and then created by people trying to make a fast buck out of hardworking freelancers.

This one is called TVCrewFinder (https://www.tvcrewfinder.com) and it’s pretty much like all the other set ups out there that think it is somehow acceptable to charge freelancers for the right to apply for jobs.

We’ve asked the company how this fits in with the regulations that forbid any company from charging job seekers for work finding services but they didn’t have any answer to that question. Maybe the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate might like to take a look then.

Meanwhile however, freelancers beware! Paying money to these kinds of businesses is not recommended for three good reasons:

1) You should never have to pay to apply for a job.

2) Pretty much every job in the industry can be found on all the free-to-use sites anyway, including the numerous industry Facebook pages and all the sites here.

3) Paying money to these people keeps them in business and no-one (apart from the owners in question) wants that. Remember, when the sites disappear, the jobs still exist!

TVCrewFinder: AVOID! Do feel free to spread the word.

Share my Telly Job

This is a great thing – an online community built for freelancers in the Television industry who are hoping to find more flexible working contracts. It’s called “Share my Telly Job” and it seeks to enable people to be put together with like minded folk who want to – well – share their telly job.

There’s an event coming up on April 28th, where Share My Telly Job & Telly Mums Network are joining forces with ITV Loves Talent to offer a night of ‘speed dating’ for like-minded fellow freelancers who are looking to job-share.

So if you’re looking for a better work-life balance, pop along and see if you can match up with someone of the same mind because, as they say on the site, “we truly believe that the more broad and diverse the people involved in making TV are, the more enriched the stories we tell on screen will be”.

Current Job Share Friendly Jobs

And there’s also a Facebook group