Christopher Lunn: Guilty

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We have just heard that the jury have returned a verdict of guilty against Christopher Lunn. Here is the press release from HMRC, which also acknowledges that his clients were not aware of any wrongdoing.

So if you paid a fine you should consider applying to have this returned.

Lunn will be sentenced on 6 January 2016

More press coverage:
The Financial Times
Accounting Web
Sussex Express
The Argus

Filming with an I-Visa

i visaThere has been a lively debate in several forums about I visas and whether they are transferable to new, unrelated projects. It is really hard to find a definitive answer on the internet, and the US embassy isn’t the most approachable institution either. It is very common for recruiters to specify a “valid I visa” when advertising, so we wanted to see if we could pin it down.

So we’ve done some independent research, and we found a friendly US immigration specialist attorney who was prepared to set out the basics.

This is what I understood:

1. An I visa is issued to a bona fide member of the foreign media for the purposes of covering “informational or educational” stories in the US. The US authorities have tightened up the meaning of “informational or educational” considerably in the last ten years or so, and while it does include covering sports, news events and documentaries, it specifically excludes reality programmes, factual entertainment or formatted documentaries. The crucial factor seems to be that these are heavily produced and are not covering events which would be happening anyway and the enterprise is not “journalistic”. It definitely excludes LE and scripted programmes, and it also explicitly excludes programme wholly or mainly funded by US producers, broadcasters or distributors.

2. An I visa is issued after an interview with an immigration officer at the Embassy, where the application must be supported with documents such as a treatment, the applicant’s CV and credentials, and a contract with the employer. In theory the I visa is only valid for entry to the US if the holder is working on the same programme, or at least the same employer.

3. So what happens when you start a new project? Best practice is that the I visa holder lets the embassy know that you are working on something new and for a different employer. You will probably need to supply documentation outlining the new project, but – assuming that the new project complies with the narrow definitions of “informational and educational” – the I visa will be valid. This is best practice.

I got the impression that this step isn’t always carried out, and this is where it all becomes quite speculative. No lawyer will recommend not sticking to the absolute letter of the law, but I got the impression that as long as the new project is compliant that no-one is likely to get too upset. Obviously the best way to check that it is compliant is to contact the embassy…

Where is really dangerous is where the project is not compliant and where the embassy would turn down an application for a new I visa. If you’re picked up in the US working on such a project you would be working illegally and you run the risk of being deported and probably never working in or even visiting the US again.

IMG_4485It is worth remembering that the risk is borne entirely by the freelancer in this scenario. If you’re caught working illegally the employer will suffer no inconvenience beyond having to find someone else. You will almost certainly suffer lifelong and career-damaging effects.

Now I’m not a lawyer, and I may have got some details wrong. This is not intended to be a guide to follow: it’s meant to make you ask questions so that you’re not placed in a really difficult position.

FURTHER HELP
This website is a good source for Immigration help:
http://www.immihelp.com/visas/mediavisa/
For entertainment programmes you will need an O-Visa
http://faq.visapro.com/o2-visa-faq.asp

Here are some real experiences from freelancers
As a producer who has held an i-VISA I can suggest that the rules, though previously more ambiguous over the definitions, are now pretty clear in that the purpose of an i-VISA is for public interest/broadcast/not for profit journalism work and as such should not be applied for in relation to any kind of entertainment programming, including factual, reality scripted for profit etc.
The point of an i-VISA is to separate commercial interest from that of public (press) interest. Apply a little common sense with regard to your application and your project and you are unlikely to fall foul.
What Richard explains is absolutely true however, and those trying to ‘transfer’ the i-Visa to a new project run a serious risk of being barred entry.
It’s the U.S. Security is a big issue there. They love rules and the low grade officials love to use their power. Follow the rules and you’re fine, if in doubt expect them to be unforgiving. Best of all, don’t think you can talk your way through. I once had my maximum $5000 in cash (at the time) counted out to the dollar before allowing me entry.


I applied for an I-visa for a programme I was making- not realising that they had tightened the restrictions. After my IV at the embassy, it was deemed the programme not suitable for an I-visa and was denied. Fast forward to me going on holiday to the
US and applying for my ESTA and ticking all boxes as “no”- ESTA approved, went on my merry way. Day before holiday I checked ESTA- TRAVEL TO US DENIED. To cut a long story short, I was accused go fraudulent activity by not claiming that I had previously been denied a visa to the US (I thought it was the wrong visa and application cancelled- wrong) I couldn’t travel, lost my holiday and all cost. I fought with the embassy and eventually reapplied and had it approved, but for the rest of my life if I want to travel to the US I will have to go through a huge rigmarole. It’s no joke- they DO NOT take it lightly and they DO NOT forget. And don’t get me started on companies telling you you’ll be ok if you travel on an ESTA. If they check your phone and find even a semblance of doubt you’ll be deported and banned for 10 years as standard. It’s not worth it.

Great discussion, and pretty spot on. The thing to remember with an iVisa is that it’s a foreign media visa, which means you can’t get paid by a US company. Your iVisa is also attached to the company who petitioned, you can change the owner, but the onus is on the individual to do so. Production Companies generally don’t know the rules, or they don’t care as the onus is not on them if things go wrong.
But my advice, speak to a Lawyer and don’t even consider filming here without the right visa. I know people who are banned from the country for doing so, and it really has harmed their careers.

I had an ivisa revoked (after I’d already completed the job and was back home) for being unsuitably issued for the type of programme I was working on. It was ‘cancelled without prejudice’ which, when I investigated the term, essentially meant I should have no issues obtaining a new visa (working or tourist) in the future. Fast forward a few months and transiting through LA to another country on my honeymoon I get pulled into immigration, treated appallingly and am now ‘no longer welcome’ in the US. I spoke to a specialist immigration attorney who said I should be able to travel to the US in the future but only after applying for a new visa (working or Esta) which would inevitably be denied, thus giving me the opportunity to have an interview at the embassy and argue my case. Think I’ll just stay home!

It’s a minefield. We applied for Ivisas for a corporate project. We were filming a conference and commissioned by an American company. One of our crew got approved and the other one rejected. Of course they don’t have to tell you why they rejected you so the poor producer has to now declare that he was refused a visa if he goes to the USA.

I just got banned by them because the lady at the embassy knew the show I was working on and considered it not appropriate for an I visa. What do I get for this? Try no I visa and security questions that now make it prohibitive to apply again!

Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. I have lived in the US for many years and have noticed a real increase in UK TV job postings that state, ‘must have a current I Visa’. I was working on a shoot with the INS and had a long chat to one of the officers about I-Visas – your info is spot on. I think people’s confusion comes from the fact that I Visas are generally issued in one year increments and so the holder assumes they’re fine to use the visa on any production within that time period. Don’t risk it! Contact the US Embassy and be totally honest about the new project. I know of one director who was put on the next plane home when he was questioned about the project at US immigration – INS officers know the difference between documentaries and entertainment and they don’t look favourably on people who misuse the visa!

I don’t think you can stress how strongly America takes immigration compared to the UK. There is no 3 strikes system or anything like that, infringe the system once and you’ll be denied entry for business or pleasure.

… your info is spot on, I get interrogated on an O visa and I’m fully legal, it’s really not worth taking the risk with an I visa as not being able to travel to America is a big deal, US immigration have very long memories and are very much a law to themselves. This info should be very strongly pointed at prod companies, there are so many jobs asking for valid I visas when it’s illegal

It drives me insane when production companies post ad’s saying “MUST have valid I-visa for this project”, when 90% of the time, it is the WRONG visa to be applying for. you can seriously jeopardize someones career and freedom of movement by being lazy and not conducting adequate research for your production.
I often wonder if somebody with a different visa, like an O or an E3 would even be considered by hiring management because they didn’t match the requirements listed in the advert? you might be turning away highly qualified candidates because of your own ignorance.
Visas to the united states ~should not~ be treated like a part of someones camera kit. if you are taking crew to the united states, please take the time to seek legal council before you make a decision that could impact somebody’s life.

I was stopped at US border control in Chicago and it was made extremely clear to me that even though I had a current I-Visa it did not cover my new project as it had been issued for a previous project. Please understand that as freelancers we carry all the risk when production companies ask for you to apply with a ‘current I-Visa’. Unless it is for the same project that you are now returning to, there is no such thing and you are risking your future career by potentially jeopardising your ability to work in the US for the foreseeable future. Now I will not work in the US unless the production company gets the correct visa properly sorted for me. No visa, I don’t do the job – simple.

It’s great to see this topic get some traction. For years, having a few years left on an I-Visa has been seen as commodity or even a qualification by production companies, and as many have pointed out – it’s the freelancer that runs the risk in every instance.
My I-Visa (which was valid for 5 years) expired last year, but in that time I worked about 5 or 6 times on it. It’s shocking to read some of the stories here and I’m thankful that I wasn’t deported or banned as a result, I certainly wasn’t aware it was so stringent. And PM’s have always told me ‘it’ll be fine’ to travel on my original visa.
… 
I know that acquiring the correct visa can be a real issue, and potentially costly and time-consuming – but given some of the evidence here, it’d be great if the admins could agree on an official stance on the topic going forward.

I’ve done a short job before where we all applied for (and were accepted for) O visas. But even on arrival, I was singled out by immigration for a lot of questioning. Even now when I travel on an ESTA for holidays, I sometimes get asked about my O visa from 7/8 years ago and for assurance that I’m not going over to work. If your programme doesn’t meet I visa requirements, it’s just not worth risking it.

 
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Thinking of subscribing to My First Job in TV or Film?

Before you sign up, you may want to consider what others have said about the value of their subscriptions. Here are just a few – every one of these is a direct quote from an individual subscriber:

I paid a lot to these guys when I first started out and was always disappointed not to ever get anywhere with it!

It was such a waste of money!

I’ve emailed them a couple of times to try and get a refund but never get a response

Over the years I have sent tens of applications through those websites and as a result I was only getting upset that I wasn’t considered even for the jobs that did not require any experience

I didn’t find any jobs on there that weren’t already online elsewhere

I never received any responses to the number of jobs I applied for.

I found very limited paying jobs appearing on the site, and more internships and runner roles that, for the most part, were unpaid

Didn’t hear back from anything!

Every time I applied directly through them i never heard back. I have only used it successfully once, when I contacted the employer directly and decided to not listen to the advice of “don’t apply through employer”.

My subscription with MFJIF never got my any work

I didn’t even get an interview out of the service

Number of jobs obtained through MFJF/TV: 0

I was actually starting to question whether they were sending my applications out or not at one point…overall I haven’t been impressed and, having come across numerous other sites that offer the same/similar service for free, I have cancelled my subscription and feel a little cheated if I’m honest

Nothing ever came from my subscription or various applications

I spent 76 pounds between the two websites which was a lot when I was trying to find tv work and never got anything through the websites.

I paid MFJIF some money for subscriptions and inevitably never got any use at all from the site

I applied for SO many jobs and never even heard back

I applied to a number of jobs and never heard back from any of them

I never got any work out of the applications I made and it did annoy me for ages afterwards

I received no work

Got no work from it!

I never got anything from the service

I’ve had no interest from this site whatsoever, even when I’ve been an extremely well suited candidate for many of the advertised positions. It really makes you feel unemployable – which is certainly not the case!

I paid them £30 before realising what rubbish the site was

I sent 71 applications and got 1 unpaid internship

Absolutely nothing came from it despite a few dozen applications

Nothing came of the numerous applications i submitted via the site (the majority of which were only for work experience placements).

I subscribed to both websites…and received no paid jobs

Got absolutely nothing from it at all, and most jobs were available free elsewhere.

Out of the 29 applications made I received no response at all.

I had to cancel my MFJIF subscription last month after hearing barely anything back from the hundreds of jobs I applied for. I have a ton of experience working on independent films… I’m more than qualified for the positions I’ve been applying for.

I have had no work from them at all.

I remember applying to many things and never heard back. It often felt like sending my CV to nowhere. I have no proof my applications were even read by anyone, whether it was the people running the website, or the company recruiting. It didn’t feel transparent at all, and the level of secrecy was just unsettling, as was the lack of contact/support/help from the website

I subscribed to MFJ Film for around a year on and off and did not receive a single job.

I can’t help but wonder if the production company who advertised even received my application.

The team on these sites always sent emails offering help with cv and tips for interviews, I emailed them constantly but never heard back from them, to be honest I don’t even think the companies I was supposedly applying for received my application. I left because I wasn’t getting any jobs from the site, I realised some of the jobs were posted somewhere else for free and I never received any sort of help from them.

I applied to every single relevant job that came up in that 6 month period. I would only apply if I met the criteria and I truly thought I always applied in a professional manner and that I clearly had a lot to offer. I think I got a declining reply from 1 of 100 jobs, no other replies though

Overall MFJF was a waste of money and I will never use the site again, especially if payment was required to check vacancies that are already out there.

I have applied for many jobs on MFJITV, do production companies actually read and take these applications from MFJITV? I have applied for many but never heard anything back

I had subscribed to MFJIF previously but stopped paying after a few months when I wasn’t getting any work from it

I never received a single response back.

I subscribed to my first job in tv I think and had nothing from it. I quickly realised their jobs are advertised elsewhere so never renewed it

I’ve never even had an interview.

Many of the ‘premium’ opportunities are still work experience or talent pool schemes with little or no pay. Essentially people are paying money to apply for the possibility of gaining work experience (no guarantee at all), something which doesn’t seem fair or right at all.

I haven’t applied to every single job that comes up because I know the department I want to work in and I always read the job spec carefully, therefore I’m not always suited to the roles. However on the occasions where I am suitable I would apply in the same way as any other job – tailor my CV to the role, write a cover letter and send it off into the void. I have applied for less than 10 jobs in six months and not heard a single thing from anyone.

I never got any work through them even though I applied for every paid relevant job on the site. I always noticed that there were far more unpaid jobs on the MFJITV site than paid jobs and a lot of these unpaid “work experience” jobs seemed to advertised again and again over time for the same productions. My suspicions about this were confirmed when I heard from a PD that had worked on one of these productions that they had a constant stream of work experience people to do certain tasks.

I very quickly decided that the website wasn’t worth it as a lot of the stuff they had on there was unpaid work experience.

I applied for numerous jobs on MFJ but had no acknowledgment, responses or interviews from any. There never seemed to be many new jobs on there either, and a lot on the listings were closed and just hadn’t been taken down. Very few of all their jobs were paid – I don’t remember there being more than 1 page of paid work adverts on there. Not getting much for £60 subscriptions for a few months. The only time I ever heard from MFJ was when I emailed wishing to cancel my subscription!

I think that these sites are ridiculous as they just prey on people’s fear of not being able to find employment, or being left out of opportunities

6 months with them, paid membership, never got even the easiest 2 weeks long volunteering job and I’ve applied to a lot.

I paid a lot to these guys when I first started out and was always disappointed not to ever get anywhere with it

I used to apply thinking I am just not good enough to even get a rejection email.

I have never had any response from any job applications on there

In all the ones I’ve put my applications in for (a fair few!), I’ve only ever heard back from one. Plus, a lot of the jobs ads don’t disclose the companies advertising, so it’s tricky to know who you’re applying to further than the basic info provided by the site.

No feedback or responses.

No real benefit

Jobs are often advertised elsewhere for free

Most of the jobs advertised are posted on free sites

I applied for over a hundred roles via them over 6 months and didn’t get anywhere with any of them. I feel I conducted myself professionally and was definitely a viable choice for a worker, but I think I just got lost in the immense sea of fellow applicants.

Apparently there are people who have acquired work through this site but I’ve never met them. I have never received a single response for applications through MFJIF

Most of the jobs turn up in other places anyway.

MFJIF claims to have exclusive rights to big films jobs but I never got even a sniff of work on any of these so I am dubious. MFJITV advertises jobs that can be easily found in several other places for free so that is not worth paying for.

I never even received a response from any of the applications I submitted via the site, let alone an offer of work, yet managed to get work and places on trainee schemes through other means like the Shine Group’s online database and Creative Skillset. MFJIF was by far the least successful option for finding work and I don’t think that’s (entirely!) a reflection on my applications.

Many of the ‘jobs’ you have to pay to get access to are in fact unpaid internships

They post jobs that are posted for free on Facebook or The Unit Base (List) and they don’t offer you any sort of help regarding CVs or cover letters.

MFJIF and MFJITV rarely seem to have actual paid work anymore, lots of unpaid internships and work experience. When it started it proclaimed to be trying to stamp out this kind of thing

My first job in film – only ever got in contact with me when I wanted to cancel my subscription. Very disappointing service

MFJIF is a complete waste of money.

It’s expensive for what it is – a site giving access to work experience

I have applied to various paid and unpaid jobs but never heard back. It was just waste of time and money

I paid a total of £45 and I never got any work

Absolutely totally nothing came out of it, and I was applying again and again, and again

Sites like My First Job In Film not only take your money but also provide false hope for inexperienced runners

I made a lot of applications to both paid jobs and unpaid work experience schemes/runner pools and never heard back from any. This could of course been due to the high number of applicants/my limited experience – however since discovering most of the work post is listed for free elsewhere, except with direct employer contact details, I have serious doubts that any of my applications were actually forwarded to employers

I have applied to hundreds of jobs on their site and I haven’t had any feedback from any of them, needless to say it has been a very demoralising ordeal trying to find work because I don’t think I should be in this position.

It was such a waste of money

The jobs advertised are advertised everywhere else

I got nothing from it

I didn’t hear a thing at all; applying for everything that I was suited for both unpaid and paid.

I found the website to be totally useless, my emails were often ignored

They were a waste of money to me, didn’t help at all.

Nothing whatsoever came from it. After having paid for the subscription, most of the jobs were unpaid or ‘experience.’

During my subscription, out of all the jobs I have applied for I have never been contacted/shortlisted for an interview

All the jobs I have applied to on there have gone nowhere

I paid £80 for a years subscription. I’ve had no work from the site.

Not being successful in finding a job

Despite my existing experience in the industry I have never seen the shadow of an opportunity to thank them for.

I never had any replies from jobs on the site

I have paid for 3 one year subscriptions to My First Job in Film and 1 one year subscription to My First Job in TV. I did not receive any work from either site.

I paid for a 6 month subscription (needless to say I didn’t get a single job from this)

Although it said it would show me lots more job posts, got me absolutely nowhere

I’ve paid for subscriptions on several occasions and have had no luck in finding any work through them. In the past I’ve found the lack of information about the roles they give and the necessary payment before applying absolutely infuriating and I will never be giving them money again.

I lost £115 on that website, I still haven’t got any job from it. The only time they called me for a job interview, they didn’t actually offer the job advertised on the website and they were not going to provide expenses (it was a work experience).

I subscribed to the site with a large portfolio of work for high end clients and never once got an email in any form from a company. A friend of mine who has been on a course with the NFTS also never received any emails.

I did not only get a single response (not even feedback) but also found out that loads of the “exclusive jobs” advertised were actually found somewhere else. It is annoying and frustrating for someone like me to see how could I perfectly apply for so many opportunities advertised there but knowing it will never happen

I didn’t see any result from my applications

As a young naive graduate I signed up to my first job in film believing all those great opportunities they posted would help me on my way. So I subscribed, and got exactly 0 opportunities

I’ve certainly not got any work from the site

I’ve paid £75 in total for their subscription service, and I have yet to get a response from an employer. It’s one of those things, you don’t want to have to pay for the service, but you’re scared if you don’t you’ll miss out on an opportunity. I’m not renewing my subscription after this month. In my view, it’s been 100% useless.

I paid a £50 yearly subscription to My First Job in Film and never received a single reply from every job I applied for weekly

I paid £30 for a six month membership which of course was a complete waste of money

I have been a paying member of the site MyFirstJobInFilm.co.uk several times over the past few years, and I don’t think I have had a single response from this site

I used it for longer than 6 months and heard back from no employers despite my experience.

I applied to soo many places and have not heard ANYTHING from anywhere…not even a standard “NO” reply

In the 12 months of being a member I’ve not gotten one job. I know the market is competitive but once your application forms gone, it’s like it’s gone to Narnia!

After months of subscription and lots of applications I still never heard back

I have applied to loads of jobs through them and haven’t heard back from any of them at all. But have heard back through other websites I have used

I applied to many jobs through this site and never got even 1 reply

I do not think this site is worth paying for

If you want to find jobs in the industry, and don’t want to waste your money on sites like these you may wish to consider these free to use ones instead:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/tv.runners/
http://www.theunitlist.com/jobs/
https://www.thetalentmanager.co.uk/

Don’t give your money to job sites – an update

Following on from our survey about subscription jobs sites like My First Job in TV/Film and Production Base (and the promise from recruiters not to use them), the Sunday newspapers have shown an interest in what these companies are doing.

Here’s the article, from the Observer. And a reminder – you really don’t need to give your hard earned cash to these companies, there are masses of places where you can find all the jobs for free!

TV and movie workers revolt at ‘unfair’ fees for job adverts

James-May-Jeremy-Clarkson-009
Unsung heroes complain at being charged to apply to shows such as new-look Top Gear.

They make the tea, clean the sets and sort out lunch for the stars, and hope for an eventual promotion to a bigger, better role. But there is rebellion brewing among the unsung heroes of the showbusiness industry.

Officials connected to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have launched an investigation after about 120 angry “runners” complained that to obtain their lowly jobs they first had to pay hundreds of pounds to showbusiness employment agencies, including one site that is currently recruiting runners required for a new Clarkson, Hammond and May car show, the Top Gear-style programme to be launched by the Amazon subscription service, Prime.

The runners – who are often paid the minimum wage – claim that websites such as Production Base, My First Job in TV and Film, and Film and TV Pro were illegally charging as much as £15 a month to have access to job adverts. The Employment Agencies Act 1973 makes it “illegal, except in specified circumstances, for an agency to charge a fee in Great Britain to someone who is looking for work”.

Each of the websites claims to have successfully assured the inspectorate that its business model complies with the law, since the websites are covered by an exemption designed to permit newspaper-style job pages.

But Laura, 26, one the complainants, who did not want to reveal her identity, said she had spent “easily £120” on the Production Base website – money that she could not afford and should not have paid. “I am very angry because I come from a council estate in Ireland, I don’t have the contacts, and this world is all about who you know,” she said. “So I paid out to see the adverts. And I don’t think it is right. That money could have been spent on rent and food.

“I only had two runner jobs from the site. To be honest, the Mama Youth project, which helps young people from under-represented groups, did much more for me and is the reason I have had a bit more success.”

Mark Watson, a television director who runs a campaign to expose poor work practices in the TV and film industry, said it was not fair to charge such fees to people on the lowest rung of the ladder.

Watson, who has helped the complainants to make their stand, said: “People are now asking for their money back. I hope the companies will just say, ‘Fair enough, here is your money back’. We are talking about thousands of people affected by this. “Charging anybody of any description to see a job advert does not seem right. There are exceptions for entertainment jobs in the legislation, but when you have got a runner who has thousands of pounds of debts, then being asked for fees to just look at jobs, and apply for them – well I saw red. I just don’t think it is fair.”

Production Base is one of the longest established agencies embroiled in the row. The advert on its website, for runner positions on the Top Gear-style show, neatly describes the lucky candidates’ expected lot. “You will be the unsung heroes who help this middle-aged trio make superbly entertaining TV,” the advert says. “Wit, intelligence, top-drawer work ethic, good in a brainstorm – all of these qualities required in spades.”

A spokesman for Production Base said it fulfilled a vital service in helping people into the industry. “We were asked by the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate to clarify that our business was adhering to all relevant legislation. After very positive dialogue with them, we are happy to confirm that we conform to their guidelines,” he said.

“We look forward to working with the EAS in future. Production Base has helped thousands of people find work within the television and film industry since we began in 1996, and we hope to continue to assist the freelance production community.”

A spokesman for My First Job in TV, who confirmed that it is still in discussions with the inspectorate over aspects of its website, said: “We were delighted to engage in dialogue with the EAS. They have confirmed that we are in total compliance with the regulations.” Film and TV Pro did not respond to this newspaper’s questions.

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/aug/23/runners-revolt-unfair-fees-job-adverts-tv-film-top-gear

 

3 things all TV runners should know

1. Runners cannot be self employed, whatever a company may tell you. This seems to crop up a lot so here are the facts:

Runners must be paid via PAYE and are not permitted to be registered as self employed for their runner work. The only variation to this is that a runner can be paid gross if they work for less than seven days for a company, and there is no intention for them to be rebooked for further engagements. In this case, you can be paid gross however – crucially – the company MUST pay your National Insurance and must give you a pay slip which shows that. This does NOT however make a runner “self employed”. There is one other exception relating to getting a special letter of dispensation but it very rarely applies.

If a company tells you you must be self employed to do a job for them, or tells you you are “freelance”, or does not pay your NI then they are breaking HMRC’s rules and you will be losing out on a number of benefits by them treating you this way.

2. In terms of pay, every runner should be paid at least the minimum wage for every hour that they work. The minimum wage rates (including the new rate for over-25s) are here. To work out if you are getting the legal minimum, take the number of hours that you have actually worked (not including your lunch hour) and multiply that by the applicable minimum wage rate for your age. If the pay you receive for that day’s work is less than that amount (no matter what your agreed rate is) then you have been underpaid.

Many runners are often not paid what they should be because they are being worked for over-long hours for a rate of pay which is not sufficient to meet the legal minimum. Also, if you are taken on for unpaid work experience and are then simply treated as a worker, you should be paid at least the minimum wage for all your hours.

3. Runners should be paid holiday pay, accrued for every day they work. All workers earn an entitlement for time off when they work for a company. In an ideal world, they would be allowed to have that time off while they are working, however the demands of production mean that most TV workers are unable to take that time off during a production.

If that happens then the company should pay you an amount of money on top of your pay in lieu of that holiday. That amount comes to 10.77% of the amount you have been paid. That sum should be passed to you at the conclusion of your contract and cannot be “rolled up” into your rate of pay (- ie they cannot say at the beginning of your contract “this is your daily rate and it includes holiday pay”).

If you need personal advice on any of this, feel free to email Mark Watson on derrywatson@gmail.com. Advice is entirely free and confidential to you

 

What is the difference between “being freelance” and being “self employed”

“Being freelance” generally means that you are someone who works for a lot of different employers. It isn’t a statement of your tax position (the word “freelance” means nothing in tax terms), it is simply a way of describing the way you arrange your work life.
“Being self employed” has an official meaning however. It defines the legal status of your working life. To become “self employed” you have to register with HMRC and fill in the self employed pages of your self assessment tax return every year. You will be able to claim certain expenses against your income but you do lose some important rights.
“Self assessment” is one way that HMRC can be informed about what income you have and what tax you therefore owe. Many people have very simple tax affairs, they work for one employer who deducts tax and NI when they are paid and they have no substantial savings or investment income etc. These people do not have to register for self assessment and do a tax return every year as they have paid their tax in full automatically. When someone’s tax affairs become a little more complicated they will have to complete a self assessment tax return every year (they either apply to do this or HMRC write and tell them to). In that way they can notify HMRC of their financial situation so they can pay the correct tax. Any extra tax owed is paid in lump sums at the end of January and July every year, including some in advance for the following tax year, based on HMRC’s estimate of how much might be owed. Where these estimates are wrong, HMRC readjusts the amount owed in the following year.

BECTU – new Production Supervision branch

BECTU have set up a new Production Supervision branch, which they are inviting BECTU members and non-members to join .

The short term objective is to establish a set of Terms and Conditions as part of the current Pact / BECTU process and to follow this by establishing a rate-card for members working in these roles. This branch will aim to hold its first meeting on Saturday 18th April 2015.

To qualify, you will need to be working in feature film, TV and commercials as one of the following roles:

  • Line Producers
  • Production Managers
  • Floor Managers
  • Production Co-ordinators / Assistant Production Co-ordinators
  • Unit managers
  • Production Accountants / Assistant Production Accountants
  • Production Assistants / Production Secretaries / Production
  • Runners

If you are already a BECTU member, please click on this link and quote your membership number in answer to the first question on this very short form. http://goo.gl/forms/HbjNdsu8nq

bectu_advert_join

If you are not already a BECTU member and would like to join this branch, you can download a Membership Form here: http://tinyurl.com/bectuprodsuper

(Introductory rate offer elapses on the 18th April 2015)

Get automatic alerts when there are new jobs!

TV Watercooler already hosts a number of automatic job feeds from various job sites, but to save checking them all the time, why not use Google Alerts to watch job sites for you?

It’s really simple to do, you just need a Google / gmail  account.

Step 1
Find and copy the location of your job postings – for the Unit List it is http://www.theunitlist.com/jobs/

Step 2
Go to https://www.google.co.uk/alerts

Step 3
Enter your search like this:
site:http://www.theunitlist.com/jobs/ “Researcher” OR “Development”Google_Alerts
Replacing the items in quotes with the jobs you are interested in.

Step 4
Now choose how often you wish to be alerted, ranging from ‘As it happens’ to ‘No more than once a week’, and select the remaining options as you wish:

And that’s it.

Whenever the Unit List updates with the one of the jobs you are interested in, Google will automatically send you an email and let you know so you can check it out.

And once you’ve got that job you can simply return to the alerts page and delete it until next time.

Good luck with the job hunt!

 

Cover Email Tips

IMG_2904When emailing your CV as per the instructions on an advert, please ensure you do a cover email with it. With an average of 40+ applications for most jobs we publish, you need to give yourself the best chance of being considered for the post the employer has advertised. This starts with your cover email.

So, as an employer and viewer of many cover emails over the years, here are my top tips for you to ‘CUT-OUT-&-KEEP’ (as they used to say in Smash Hits…):

* If the name of the person is obvious from the email address you will be sending your email to, start with their name. If not, use ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.

* Keep your cover short and to the point.

* Do NOT just send a CV with a blank email – it will more than likely end up in the trash folder.

* Introduce yourself and your job title then reference where you saw the advert or the mutual contact who told you about the job.

* Using the advert itself as your reference, write a short paragraph or list bullet points mentioning your direct relevant experience.
– example; job requires previous experience with music cue sheets. Your paragraph will include something like,
“working at [x company] I completed the music cue sheets for the series and was responsible for all the delivery paperwork to the broadcaster via Silvermouse”.

* If you consider you have the direct experience required but have not actually been credited in the role you are applying for – list the skills/experience you know the job will entail and ask the employer to consider you. Make it obvious you are looking to step up because you have the correct experience but perhaps not the actual broadcast credit.

* Do NOT tell the employer about your recent ‘Gap Yah’, your kittens or how you won the 5-a-side at the weekend – keep it work focussed.

* Avoid using phrases that will be assumed. I’ve listed some here
– passion for film/tv
– team-player
– I make a great cup of tea!
– happy to do long hours
– cutting edge of tv

* Do NOT try to be funny, address the employer as mate or swear.

* Do NOT paste your CV into the body of the email cover.

* If you are coming to the end of your current contract somewhere, list your availability date and mention any flexibility you may have. Perhaps your current employer has agreed to letting you leave a week early if another job comes along. You never know – the new employer may wait for you to be free as you are the best person for their project!

* Spell check everything you have written, making sure your spell checker is set to British English (programme NOT program, organised NOT organized, licence NOT license, etc).

* Check it all makes sense and you have not spelled anyone’s name incorrectly. I have heard of a cover that mentioned working on a ‘Ripley Scott’ film…

* Check your attached CV is in either a Word or Adobe format. The extension should end with a .doc, .docx or .pdf. Employers prefer Word as they can do phrase searches within your CV.

* Sign off appropriately and formally. Just because it is an email, it is not appropriate to use ‘cheers’, ‘laters’ or a ‘x’ as you close.

supertip #001: Don’t lie on your cover email or your CV. The TV and Film industries are smaller than you imagine and you will eventually be found out. If an employer finds you have lied on your CV, they will wonder what else you are prepared to lie about…

FURTHER READING

CV Writing Tips

I am a TV runner, where are all the jobs?

A lot of TV and Film runners join subscription sites to get access to jobs – places like My First Job in TV, My First Job in Film, TV & Film Pro or Production Base.

We are worried about this because we don’t think anyone looking for a junior role should have to pay to see jobs. So we mounted a survey in January, to ask who had joined these sites and who had got work out of them. The answer was: only 1 in 6 people had got paid work through these sites, and most of those only got a few days paid work at best.

Paying to see available jobs and then not getting work as a result does not seem like a good way of spending your money. But many runners are worried that they will only get to see all the jobs if they pay someone who is providing them. They worry that, if they don’t cough up, they will miss out.

But the news is – you don’t miss out if you don’t pay.

The simple fact is that some of these sites simply copy the jobs they find on other free-to-use sites. They then post them on their jobs pages, leading those who take out subscriptions to think that they have some kind of privileged access to see jobs that other people don’t see. And some sites don’t even tell you who the employer is you are applying to – even of the jobs they have copied!

So – we are here to put your mind at rest.

I have personally contacted every single major production company, film company, corporate producer and facility company to ask them to confirm that they will always place their jobs on free to use sites like The Unit List, Talent Manager or the Facebook group: People who work in TV – Runners (log in and application to join required). And the answers came flooding back with a firm and immediate yes, they will do that (details of a few of the responses below).

runners_jobsSo here’s the deal – if you are a runner you never, ever have to pay to join a subscription site to see jobs ever again. Save your money instead. Pay off that student debt. Waste it on food. Drink it. Get a tattoo.

So if you want to know where you can find TV runner jobs, look at the list below. And if what you want is work experience, remember this: no company advertises any exclusive opportunities on any paid subscription service. They don’t have to, they get quite enough people writing in direct to have to do that (and if you write in direct your CV doesn’t get sent over in a huge pile with hundreds of others).

The lovely Lizzie Evans (a fellow runner) has also done a list of where you can find those places that offer work experience, so all the work has been done for you.

Check below then to see where the big companies advertise, and where to see all the jobs for free. The list will be updated regularly so keep coming back to have a look.

And remember – check your speling before you do send your CV…


Where to find runner jobs without having to pay

The Unit List

This is the daddy (and mummy) of all job sites. It is totally free to use and has numerous jobs posted on it every day, including jobs for runners. Follow the Twitter feed and check in on the Facebook page. And if you’re waiting to hear back, spend some time looking at the wealth of info on there for people starting out in the business.

Talent Manager

This has a paid section and an unpaid one. They list jobs from a multitude of employers. Sign up for the free service – you do not have to pay a subscription to see any jobs. They also have  a Twitter feed you can follow.

People looking for work in TV: Runners

The biggest Facebook site of its kind for runners. Jobs, advice, the opportunity to post your CV – and get advice on it if you want. If you are serious about working in TV and haven’t joined, what are you waiting for? (And yes, it’s all free)


And here is what a few of the companies have said about runners having to pay to access job adverts:

IMG Media

All their jobs, including runner positions are always sent to anyone who signs up to their weekly job list. Want a job – sign up!

Outline Productions

“We use Talent Manager and the Unit List.  It’s hard enough getting a job in the industry without having to pay for the opportunity”.

Thames

All their jobs, including runner positions (and all of those at any Fremantle Media company) are available via this link. They also say this:

“We don’t use paid sites for hiring and use Unit List and Talent Manager regularly. We also receive literally hundreds of speculative applications each year and do follow many of these up”.

Spun Gold

Spun Gold has confirmed that, no matter where else they may post their jobs ads, they always make sure they feature on free to use sites as well.

Endemol

Endemol are very firm in their commitment to widen participation by making sure that every runner has access to their jobs, whether they pay or not. They say this:

I have always felt that there is no need for new entrants to pay job sites – it is totally taking advantage of people and I have on numerous occasions told My First Job in TV not to post our jobs. I will email Productionbase and Film and TV Pro now to ask them not to post our runners jobs

And if you want to be first in the queue, keep checking in here:

ITV and 12 Yard

ITV have confirmed that runners should never have to pay to see their vacancies:

“We use our own careers site to advertise our vacancies…”

Objective Productions

“Please be assured that we do not post our jobs on sites that require a paid for subscription but instead use sites like Talent Manager, Unit List, our own website and social media pages amongst others”

CPL Productions

CPL confirm they will always use free to use sites for their runner vacancies. They say:

“I’ve made sure that our PM’s and Co-ordinators know this and also put it in our PM handbook”

Tiger Aspect

You won’t find exclusive Tiger Aspect jobs on any subscription site. They had this to say:

“We do all our Runner recruitment ourselves and advertise on our website, Facebook and Twitter. We have a separate Runner section in our website and ask all potential candidates to sign up to these so that they can get alerts when the jobs go live. Unfortunately sometimes external websites pick these up but it is not something we encourage”.

Red Productions

“Rest assured we do avoid advertising with a paid site

Studio Lambert

If you want to work at Studio Lambert (and who doesn’t?) then visit the three free sites listed above (Unit List, Talent Manager, the Facebook runners group). This is what they had to say:

“To confirm, we haven’t to date used paid sites and wouldn’t use paid sites unless we were completely stuck and unable to find someone suitable. I find that the free sites which you list very useful and applicants from those (particularly the facebook sites), combined with people emailing me directly, are usually the best way to find runners”.

So if you think you are any good, don’t let this employer be stuck and forced to use a subscription site – let them know you’re available!

Zodiak Kids

“We rarely use subscription sites and certainly wouldn’t for a runner position.  We have previously found that these sites are out of date with their advertisements and are potentially posting jobs which have already been filled for some time.  We would actively encourage runners not to use these paid sites and instead use the free ones you have listed”

So Television

“We don’t use paid websites to find runners; only more senior roles.  When looking for a runner, we do word of mouth or post on a free Facebook site”

Fremantle and Boundless

“We place our vacancies with Talent Manager and Unit List

Shine TV

Shine has its own system for filling vacancies – their talent database. If they want to find a runner they go there, so they have no need to advertise. Sign up, it’s free – and remember to keep your CV up to date.

Off the Fence

“We don’t ever advertise for runners (or any job positions). We accept CVs directly by email, file them and employ from that pool should we need to

I think it’s terrible to charge anyone for a paid site advertising jobs (entry level especially). I would never post a job-ad on one of these paid sites, and yes you can quote me on that!”

Nutopia

Nutopia has confirmed that they have put the word out to all their production managers to ensure that all their runner vacancies appear on free-to-use sites.

DSP

“I wouldn’t post any jobs, especially entry level jobs, anywhere which requires the applicants to pay to view.

Having had to work my way up from a Runner position I am very mindful of such issues for new people to the industry.  I would  also remind most runners to put their cvs on company databases (most have them now) – for example our parent company Endemol have  and most larger indies have talent managers so it’s worth keeping CVs up to date on these sites”

Hungry Bear

“I can confirm that any runner jobs that we have to advertise for will be advertised using the free sites.  Probably by either The Unit List or the runner’s Facebook group”.

Blue Zoo

“If were were to advertise for these positions in the future, we would definitely use one of the free sites you’ve suggested”

Betty

“I don’t think we’ve ever – or would ever – pay to advertise our vacancies. We read CVs that are sent to us, use Talent Manager daily and the Facebook Group when we need to. Also Creative Access internships. So feel free to allay your runners’ fears!”

STV

“We generally only advertise via free sites, usually Talent Manager and via Facebook”.

Tuesday’s Child

“I can confirm we only use free to access sites and will continue to do so”

Zig Zag

“I can confirm that we do not use the paid sites. We only use the free ones”

Oxford Scientific Films

“I think I can allay your fears.  OSF finds runners in the following ways; word of mouth/ personal recommendation; previous work experience within the company; speculative CV (kept on file); Talent Manager. We don’t use any commercial sites”

Two Four

“Currently I always go for free sites – Facebook, Unit List etc as well of course as our own website job page and twitter. Often what tends to happen is agencies/other sites then contact me to ask if they can re-advertise the job on their sites – so in addition to my posts, not instead of. This in fact happened recently when I posted on your site and My First Job in TV contacted me to see if they could also post it”

Two Four also have their online Talent Database:

Fresh One TV

“I completely agree these guys should be able to view job availability without paying for the privilege.  We’d be happy to confirm that our runner jobs, assuming they are not filled internally, will be advertised on free sites so nobody misses out!”

Twenty Twenty and Wall to Wall

“It is extremely unlikely that we would ever feel it necessary to post runner level jobs on those that require a subscription. Anyone who is interested in working for any of the companies within the group can always upload their details, free of charge, to our database via the website”

The Garden

The Garden use the free section of Talent Manager for all their jobs. They say:

“I think we all know how difficult it is to get that first foothold in the industry. We appreciate people can’t always afford to use paid for sites and we want to stretch our net as wide as possible.  We’re also very active in trying to recruit minorities so that we are a truly diverse company”.

Lola Entertainment

“Please be assured that we use Talent Manager, Unit List or word of mouth for any vacancies at Lola”

Baby Cow

“We only use Talent Manager as our search engine and a place for CV’s. I can confirm we don’t use non free sites


The following companies have also confirmed that every single vacancy they have, including all runner jobs, appear on the free section of Talent Manager. There is no need to pay to apply to the following companies:

North One, Maverick, Raw, Leopard Films, Blink, Avalon, Outline Productions, October, Cineflix, Optomen, Transparent Television, Tern, Argonon, Silver River, Crackit Productions, The Outfit, Remedy Productions, Tinder Televison, Topical Television, Liberty Bell

A big thank you to all our friends in these TV production companies for their fantastic support.

We call upon all subscription sites to publish all jobs for runners free to anyone who wants to see them, without any charges. And when they do that we will make sure you all know about it!

To feedback privately please send an email to derrywatson@gmail.com