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

Here’s a thing about pay.

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

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

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

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

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

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