Coalition for Change

There’s been a welcome new initiative in the industry which has been brewing over the past year and has now poured into TV’s cup of good things to report.

The Coalition for Change, led by freelancer (and industry superhero) Adeel Amini, has brought together key stakeholders in the industry — broadcasters, indies and freelancers – to do something to tackle issues around employment and recruitment practices, workplace culture, race and diversity, bullying and harassment, training and talent progression, new talent, mental health and wellbeing.

These are the main plesges (signed up to by all the public service broadcasters along with Sky, UKTV and industry bodies including Pact, Bectu, ScreenSkills and the Film and TV Charity):

1. Professionalize the industry. By formalizing certain practices and reducing the casual nature of our work, we can ensure a solid foundation upon which robust principles can be built.

2. Invest in people. Our industry thrives on creative individuals, but there is a tendency to see those people as disposable and replaceable — often in favor of those with privilege. With more solidified pipelines, new and diverse talent can thrive and therefore safeguard the future of an industry that must constantly reflect and adapt to the world around it.

3. Respecting talent. While investment and stronger foundations are key, so too is the wellbeing of the people who form this industry. The ability to be seen, heard and treated with dignity is a start to maintaining a happier and healthier community.

4. Creating a sustainable ecosystem. We all have our part to play in this industry, whether it’s broadcasters, indies or freelancers. By stepping up to the challenges we all face as one cohesive unit, the Coalition has the potential to be the microcosm of cooperation we would one day like to see in the industry as a whole.

Adhering to the contract is the responsibility of those who have signed up to its pledges and the steering group will meet at regular intervals to review how it is going, backed up by an annual survey mounted by Broadcast magazine

All power to its elbow. A welcome step forward, for sure.

John Pavlakos

A strong warning to anyone who might be contemplating on working for John Pavlakos on his current production “The Abomination”, made by Purple Pictures.

It’s described as an “exciting feature film starring international stars” but pretty much every time this individual embarks on making a film, he leaves a trail of debts to freelancers and suppliers behind him. Many have gone in in good faith and left vowing never to do business with him again. This film is unlikely to be any different so best advice is to use a very large bargepole to put distance between you and him.

And if anyone has any information about this production, please do get in touch (info@tvwatercooler.org). Many thanks.

“The Abomination” just about sums it up.

BBL Motion Picture Studios. Jacky Jhaj. Satinder Singh Jhaj. Sinda Realty Ltd.



**UPDATE 2. Firm warning. Anyone who might be considering working for this individual (Jacky Jhaj) – do not. If you need more information, email info@tvwatercooler.org). More details to come.

**Update, this production has become, true to form, somewhat hazardous now with issues reported including misuse of firearms, unsafe Covid practices and other (more serious) complaints being made against this Jacky Jhaj. This is him at work:

People are being paid (inasmuch as they are) via his father’s (Satinder Singh Jhaj) company (“Sinda Realty Ltd”) and all the previous warnings hold good: you would be well-advised to avoid anything to do with this set-up like the plague.**

A posting on Facebook at the weekend has huge red flags waving over it – a feature film apparently being made by BBL Motion Picture Studios, Producer Jacky Jhaj (or “Jacob Sann” or “Jacob Singh” or any one of numerous names).

The word “PAID” doesn’t really cover it however as, when people make contact, they are told that the payment is £60 “cash in hand” at the end of the day for a ten hour day and no questions asked, we’ll deal with the insurances and tax and “what not”. This little touch of the Del Rodneys from this particular (American) company does little to inspire confidence in an organisation which has risen without trace and may well disappear without one as well.

The film in question is apparently a big budget “militairly themed” affair and – so it is said – the budget has all gone on props and vehicles (Tanks, Humvees and more what nots) leaving not much in the kitty for the little people (cast, crew, what not).

But hey, no worries, the equally elusive Jacky Jhaj/Jacob Singh/Sann is apparently making FOUR more massive features this year and if you do this little job for him you really do stand a great chance of being at the front of the queue when he is dispensing patronage on those epics! He didn’t say he had a bridge he’d like to sell you as well but I’m sure he has.

The film – currently titled “Project AR” is being shot between August 15th and September 15th, 24 days filming in the London area and remote locations. It goes without saying that this screams as one to avoid. Unless you are from HMRC of course, in which case feel free to show an interest:

BBL MOTION PICTURES STUDIOS. Level 33, 25 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5LB.

Bradley John. Backlight Studio.

Another company/individual not paying the bills: Backlight Studios (now gone), run by an individual called Brad John in Manchester. Long and short of it is that this fly-by-night operator recruited a freelancer, she did the work, only for Mr John to come up with all kinds of excuses not to pay.

“Not been paid by the client…”money on its way”…”really it’s just a matter of days” blah blah blad yadda yadda whatever. If you’ve been mucked around by a dodgy company you probably know the score by now. Then, after a couple of months it seems that Brad suddenly decides the work wasn’t good enough after all. Funny that.

University of Hertfordshire graduate Mr John, whose company it is (or was), liked to talk big on the website, claiming to have helped companies “strategize and implement their creative visions” since 2016. Not much in the way of strategising or implementing now however as it seems that the company’s contact email address is now returning emails to sender and the site has been deactivated. Looks like Brad has done a moonlight flit to try to avoid his obligations. A very good reason why freelancers and companies should think very carefully before embarking on any relationship with this individual if he should pop up again in the future.

The elusive Brad also professes a love of Houdini on his Linkedin page. That probably relates more to software than escapology – or is it because Mr John admires the famed magician’s ability to get out of tight situations. Like debts to freelancers.

Brad/Bradley John. We’ll be keeping a sharp eye out for him. And freelancers beware: he is one to avoid in the future for sure.

Mindseye. Hughie Phillips. Charlie Phillips. Max Yeoman

There are, it seems, still some companies that think that Runners, being the most junior members of a production team, probably don’t need actual money handed over in reward for their work.

Curious that, given the massive amount of publicity given to the poor treatment of junior workers in TV and Film over the years. Curious also because the minimum wage regulations have been in force for over 20 years now.

So behold Mindseye, a set up that describes itself as “boutique but heavyweight”. Lightweight might be a more apt description, given that this company just wandered onto the Facebook Runners page looking for someone to put in some hard work for a film of theirs, but not actually planning to pay them anything for their hard work. 

The Facebook Runners group is, like all the others in the People in TV group, for professionals only. We don’t cater for shambling amateurs or seedy set ups who don’t want to pay their workers. We believe that Runners need to be paid as much as any other individual working on set. And those Runners believe that too, mostly because without pay they haven’t got the wherewithall to eat, drink and pay the rent.

Not sure which category Mindseye fits in (shambling or seedy) but they sure as hell fit neatly into at least one of them. The company is run by Hughie Phillips, Charlie Phillips and “surrogate brother” Max Yeoman. Not one of the nicest families you’re likely to come across in truth, given the above.

If anyone is thinking of using the services of Mindseye, please feel free to give them a wide berth. I’m sure you don’t want your production subsidised by the wages of any young workers who the company decide they don’t want to pay. Nor encourage set-ups like this to do this kind of thing.

Aaron Thomas. It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye.

Sigh. Another dodgy company has slithered out of the shadows. This one catchily (or not) called “It’s so hard to say goodbye

“It’s so hard to pay your workers” may however be a more fitting title as the individual who runs this site, Aaron Thomas, is someone who seems happy to use freelancers to make his videos but a little less happy to actually pay them on time. Mr Thomas  also has a short and not terribly distinguished record as a film producer too, including writing a film which centres on financial fraud

Strong recommendation to freelancers to tread carefully if offered work by him or any of his companies.

If you want to get paid that is (which you probably do).

Your Cinema. Pierre Godson-Amamoo. AVOID!

Anyone who has dropped in on these pages over the past few years know how we at the Watercooler feel about sites that charge for access to jobs in our industry.

Having to pay for the right to apply for work is clearly something which should not be happening in any area of work, and particularly loathsome when it becomes an embedded feature in an industry which has significant issues in terms of access for less well represented groups. Having to pay to play is something that clearly discriminates against those who are less wealthy and as such we will always call out those companies who leech off our industry in that way.

So here we go again – and this one is a particularly scummy example in the pond where these leeches lurk. The site in question is Your Cinema, set up and run by an individual called Pierre Godson-Amamoo. On his pages he hosts a large number of job adverts, almost all of which are hidden by a paywall for his “Gold” and “Silver” members

There are of course laws which cover who can and cannot legitimately be charged a fee for work finding services, but even leaving that aside there are two features of that site which are particular loathsome .

The first is that a huge number of those jobs which Mr Amamoo wants you to pay for are actually completely unpaid. Yes – you are paying for the right to apply for unpaid work.

You don’t discover that until you’ve actually paid your fee of course but that’s the nasty surprise waiting for you around about the time that he is trousering your cash and wondering what tasty bauble he can spend it on.

The second nastiness about that site is that a number of these adverts aren’t actually exclusive in any way – they very often appear on free to use sites so you are paying simply for the right to apply through his site. AND – guess what – Mr Anamoo hasn’t always actually been given those job adverts by the employer themselves, he’s simply scalped them from the internet and reposted them behind his paywall! (as confirmed by one employer who discovered this).

Enough reasons then to justify the firm warning at the top of this page. Think bargepole and wide berths.

AVOID.

Crackerjack Film Fund 2021.

Another set up which has emerged to snaffle some of your cash is the “Crackerjack Film Fund 2021“, which to all intents and purposes looks like a site where eager filmmaking applicants can apply for grant money

Kickstart your career” it says. “In our search to find emerging new talent, we are giving away £30,000 this year“.

Worth having – and the site has a seductive countdown clock on it, suggesting that you might want to get a move on and pay up before it gets to zero.

However caution is the watchword here as this apparent largesse is not quite the giveaway it seems as, buried in the application process, there is a button marked “submit £20“.

A lottery in other words. You pay the money, you might win a “Grand Prize of £10,000”. Well yes, you might.

Efforts to reach the “Crackerjack Fund” have produced no response. They also have no presence on Companies House and nothing to say who they are on their website or anywhere else to be found.

Big Capital Letters then: AVOID!

Film Forums. Richard Williams.

At a time when work is hard to come by for many people in the industry, it is probably not the wisest thing in the world to wander onto a professional workers’ Facebook page to scout around for unpaid workers to help you build your business.

Wisdom however was not a quality in heavy supply at the weekend, when this appeared on the Film & TV Production Crew UK group page:

Only three slots – don’t miss out! Well an “internship opportunity” this clearly is not, not if an internship is meant to involve some form of useful training. In fact the words of the advert strongly suggest that a more accurate way of describing this position is that of “unpaid worker” or “labourer for free”. 

Unsurprisingly the arrival of the advert prompted a strong reaction from the assembled professionals on that page, with many wondering why it was not paid, given what was being asked. The poster of the advert did not have much of an answer to that and neither did Richard Williams, the owner of the site. When asked whether, if he wanted people to do this work for free, he might consider allowing those who did it to have a stake in his new venture there was a somewaht hollow drafty noise in response.

Everyone is of course very excited at the prospect of his site “snowball(ing) into a fairly big platform, quickly”. Snow however does not put food on the table, much as it might make Mr Williams feel good, or potentially enrich him in the future.  

As a wise person once said, you have to “speculate to accumulate”. Not something that he seems to have taken on board.

No wonder he got such short shrift.