Using Your Car For Business

There is often confusion over this issue and it comes up a lot, so here are the key points.

If you use your car for business and have to claim for some reason, and you don’t have business cover in place (assuming the insurers find out you were driving on business) they may not pay out your claim. If you think you may need to drive for work at some point (recces, going to location, picking up props or equipment etc) then add some business miles to your policy. It’s quite cheap and it means that you are covered should anything happen.

Who or what you are driving and why is really not your concern. If the production company wants to put their talent in your car and rely on your cover that’s their problem, not yours. It isn’t up to you to insure the talent or the equipment or anything else. The production insurance held by the company will respond if the talent has an accident and is unable to continue. but with “business use cover” your liabilities will be insured and you need not worry.

Some people seem to assume you need to take on the responsibilities of the company and insure for having talent in your car etc. You don’t, although the insurance company may take the view that your job makes that a possibility and will take that into account in your premium calculation. All you need to do is protect yourself – just ask for ‘occasional business use’.

A word of caution though. IF an accident is your fault and IF you injure someone or damage equipment and IF you are NOT covered you could be in serious trouble – because the company may decide to claim against you for negligence in order to limit their losses. Without cover to protect you that might well be a major financial disaster for you. So get yourself covered.

Don’t Let The BBC Become A Memory

avatar_f9a2c6b6b2fd_128The government is currently writing a new charter for how the BBC is run. We’ve already lost BBC Three and sports like Formula 1 and the Olympics to funding cuts. We can’t risk losing more.

The BBC is part of who we are. It is our spotlight on the world and the way the world knows about us. In fact, every week 97% of UK adults tune in to the BBC online, on TV or on their radio, and more than 300 million people around the world join them. Isn’t that astonishing? And do you know the best thing? The BBC is independent and impartial, so there’s nobody looking to pocket a penny or two or push their own agenda.

The Great BBC Campaign was started by two independent television producers – Charlie Parsons and Lord Waheed Alli who think that the BBC is the best of what it is to be British, and that once it’s destroyed, it can never be rebuilt.

Don’t let the #GreatBBC become a memory, fight for it by signing up to the campaign today.

The_Great_BBC_Campaign

Christopher Lunn sentenced to 5 years jail

lunnA tax adviser and accountant to the media industry has been jailed for five years for evading more than £6 million in tax.

Denis Christopher Carter Lunn ran a Sussex-based accountancy firm, Christopher Lunn & Co, whose 7,000-plus clients included many from the media and entertainment worlds.

The firm was investigated by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and in 2010 the premises in Crowborough were searched and Lunn was arrested. HMRC uncovered evidence of a range of serious offences, which included the inflating of accountancy fees and the fraudulent use of trading losses – all intended to help Lunn and his clients evade paying their fair share of tax.

After five years of detailed investigation, Lunn was convicted at Southwark Crown Court in December 2015, where a jury found him guilty of four counts of Cheating the Public Revenue.

Jennie Granger, Director General, Enforcement and Compliance, HMRC said:

“Lunn believed he could make up fraudulent claims to benefit both himself and his clients. Hard work from HMRC officers across the department proved him wrong. This long-running investigation has already recovered £20m as Lunn’s former clients settle their tax liabilities, with more to come.

“I hope this result serves as a reminder to those who try to cheat the public purse – particularly those in the tax profession – that no one is above the law and that HMRC will relentlessly pursue tax evaders to bring them before the courts.”

HMRC has now started confiscation proceedings to strip Lunn of any financial gain he made as a result of his criminal activity.

As Lunn’s clients were unaware of his actions, they have been offered a chance to put things right for themselves by paying any tax and interest due. Any client who has not yet come forward pending the outcome of the trial is encouraged to speak to HMRC to bring their affairs up to date as many of his clients have already done. Civil investigations into Lunn’s clients have so far recovered more than £20m, with a projected £40m expected when all clients have settled.

Lunn’s son, Christopher Jonathan Lunn (Jon), who also worked at the firm, was convicted in December 2014 on six counts under the Fraud Act, after he had sent false invoices to HMRC to try to cover up the fraud in the practice.

Previous story: Christopher Lunn – Guilty

Christopher Lunn: Guilty

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 16.52.48

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)