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.

Adi Chugh and Infinitrim Films – Avoid.

Anyone who has spent any time on a production knows who the hardest working person is.

Yep, usually the Runner. That poor benighted individual scurrying around supplying teas and coffees for cast and crew, slaving over hot buttered toast and laughing a little too enthusiastically at the Director’s weedy jokes.

It’s a tough life, relieved only by the thought of a career in progress and a small but welcome wage at the end of the day.

But not always it seems. Because there are, lurking in the darker parts of the world of production, some employers and individuals who like to take all that toast and tea and joke laughing, but don’t actually like to pay for it. 

Employers like Infinitrim Films and Adi Chugh:

Yes, you read it right. Everyone paid except the two Runners. It seems that Adi and Infinitrim don’t really feel the need to reward the little people. Why bother indeed? There are plenty of them around and let’s face it, they can always stack shelves after the shoot if they need money to – you know – put food on the table. 

I asked Adi and Infinitrim why they didn’t value the runners on their production sufficiently to feel they might want to actually pay them for their work, but they were strangely silent on the subject. Worth bearing in mind if you are currently a runner and Adi turns up at your door at some point in the future, bearing a script he fancies you might like to pay for.

You know what they say about being nice to people on the way up…

Adi Chugh and Infinitrim Films – Avoid!

The National Youth Film Academy and the curious case of the Trustpilot reviews…

Ever wondered how the NYFA manages to secure so many glowing reviews on Trustpilot when its courses have come in for such negative opinion elsewhere?

Then wonder no longer. The answer lies in an email from NYFA founder Rob Earnshaw to former course members, offering to cross their palms with silver if they convey lots of warm words about their experience:

I am writing to ask if you would be able to leave a review of the National Youth Film Academy on Trust Pilot?” he says.

“The reason we have created a Trust Pilot account is so that we can share with future employers and members success stories from our company. We are writing to past Members, Tutors, Parents, assistants and Mentors. The more positive reviews we have, the easier it is for us to engage with employers so as to build the reputation of the NYFA and the Members we represent”.

In case it isn’t clear what he wants, he goes on to say:

If you could leave a positive review about your experience it would be greatly appreciated

And in case you were wondering why you should bother to do that, the answer lies in nice big bold letters at the end:

We would like to offer you £25.00 for your time. Once you have created your review, please can you email me back a link to your review along with your bank details and I shall ensure that monies are paid within 2 working
days”.

So those Trustpilot reviews aren’t exactly impartial evidence of the quality of its courses then. Worth remembering if they should tempt you into forking over large sums of money for their (much lambasted) offering in the future.

Mamma Marketing “internships”

Big red flags are waving over adverts which have started appearing on various job sites over the past few weeks, all posted by an organisation called “Mamma Marketing“.

This company appears to be basing its business model on hiring “interns” to work for them to edit videos for their clients. Adverts for writers have also been appearing, based at a variety of different locations, the common theme being that those who are lucky enough to be selected will have the opportunity to receive feedback on the work they do for Mamma’s clients.

There is no mention of pay on any of these adverts (despite asking for a year’s experience) and the company isn’t answering the question either, the postings simply suggesting that paid work might be possible after 3-6 months. Coincidentally the company is also offering new business clients the opportunities of testing their services for a six month trial priced “at only a fraction of what the vast majority of digital agencies ask for“. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to join the dots here on how the company may be able to offer such a cheap service for new business…

So a warning then: if you are thinking of applying for an internship at Mamma Marketing, you may wish to check whether you will be paid for your work on their client business (and you should expect a reasonable rate for skilled work). And if you are a potential client you may wish to ask how this very cheap introductory offer is being funded.

Mamma Marketing – beware!