The Return. Holiday pay.

A message to anyone who worked on the Bollywood movie The Return, production manager Karishma Bangera. It is very likely that you are owed unclaimed holiday pay if you worked on this production, which you can claim now.

The contracts that were issued by Filmcard Motion Pictures or Sumo Films (Surabhi Bhatnagar) incorrectly suggested that holiday entitlement due on the pay that you received would be rolled up/included in the rate for the work. This is not permissible under UK employment law and as such, you have probably been underpaid by around 10.77% of the total pay you received.

After some pressure was applied, several freelancers have now been paid this entitlement so it is well worth claiming yours from that production.

A number of people who worked on this film also had great difficulties getting the pay they were owed. If that includes you, or you would like help claiming your unpaid holiday pay, feel free to get in touch.

Soho Staff and their holiday pay policy. Roxanne Peterson.

There used to be a company which went by the name of Soho Runners. As befits the name, it supplied runners to various facility companies in Soho.

This company became somewhat notorious for avoiding paying holiday pay to the Runners it employed by failing to pay their statutory entitlement as a matter of course, but by instead relying on freelancers to make a separate claim in order to secure it (and not taking any steps to remind them to do so).

Not only that, but they had a cut off date of the end of the year by which claims could be made so if you forgot about your legal right to the payment or simply omitted to claim it at the time, come the end of the year the company could keep all that lovely 10.77% for themselves.

Nice.

The individual who ran Soho Runners was Roxanne Peterson and she has now been recruited by the company set up in its place, Soho Staff. And it seems that bad habit has followed her to the new company as exactly the same policy has been adopted by Soho Staff for all the runners it now uses.

I asked Soho Staff whether they paid holiday pay after each booking of every Runner but they were somewhat coy in their response, refusing to explicitly say what they did. Fortunately there are enough Runners in the industry with their ear to the ground (and who are not happy with the way they have been treated by Soho Staff) to share details of their practices with me.

And this is what they reveal. When someone works for this company, in order to get paid they have to fill in a timesheet in order to get paid. Columns for Start Time, Lunchtime duration and End Time, all as expected. But wait – what’s this? – no column to claim your Holiday Pay, in fact no mention of it on the form at all!! The only way to get it it seems, is to manufacture a separate invoice and put that in. Fail to do that and bye bye holiday pay.

If anyone has worked for that particular company at any point during the last year do absolutely get an invoice in for the holiday pay they are making no effort to pay you. You earned it, you are owed it and there is absolutely no reason why you should not get it.

And if you’re a Runner in the industry, do of course join the Facebook Runners page, where all jobs are free to apply to, no-one makes any money out of you and every single employer pays holiday pay – and wants you to have it.

Mohit Chhabra

Another producer for freelancers to avoid is Mohit Chhabra. He is, or at least as he claims his friends describe him, a “Movie Buff, Witty & Wise (with a) go getter attitude”

That may (or may not) be what his friends say but those who have had a professional relationship with Mr Chhabra – and have failed to be paid for their work – are more likely to concentrate on a range of other, more earthy words when they describe their feelings about him.

That failure to pay workers (on the Bollywood Film “The Return“) should be sufficient warning to all freelancers that trusting Mr Chhabra to meet his obligations once filming has been completed is not a wise course to take. Asking, begging, imploring and demanding the pay and expenses that are owed to them have proved to have had little effect and legal claims are now in the pipeline for people to secure what they are owed.

So a warning: the best way to avoid being yet another one of his debtors is to take a very wide berth around any offer of work that Mr Chhabra may present in the future.

As he says on his Starnow page, “I aspire to be a star, a superstar and rule the world of cinema and entertainment one day. It’s never too late, Yes I want to make it big and yeah I even have my 1st award speech ready in my head already” .

Fond hopes. The first step along that road could usefully be to make some amends to the freelancers who trusted that he would behave professionally and pay his bills.

Evelyn Obahor. Channel 52. Floodlight Broadcasting Network.

A very firm warning to anyone who might be considering supplying kit or working for Evelyn Obahor (“Selfless, inspirational and hard working”) on her Channel 52 venture (company name is Floodlight Broadcasting Network Ltd).

A number of freelancers have worked for her on this project in the past and have not been paid, debts which ran up to thousands of pounds and for which she has been the subject of BECTU and legal action.

Evelyn Obahor is advertising for workers again and there is no good reason to assume that she has changed her business practices. Advice is to take an extremely long barge pole and place it immediately and permanently between yourself and any offer of work. And her.

Avoid.

The Chelsea Cowboy. Leon Butler.

Word is coming in of issues on a film currently in production called Chelsea Cowboy.

Failure to pay freelancers on time is the most immediate issue which, given that the film is being Executive Produced by Idris Elba, seems an extraordinarily unwise course of action, given the potential for adverse publicity.

I’ve asked the Producer of this film (Leon Butler) why this is happening but not getting much in the way of a reply other than for them to say there are “cashflow problems”.

That, of course, is not an answer to anything. I shall be taking this to Fleet Street’s finest unless some answers come back pretty much immediately, but meanwhile if any freelancer is having any issues on the production, do feel free to get in touch (derrywatson@gmail.com).

Cowboys indeed…watch this space.

**UPDATE April 2022. After some of the crew secured the pay they were owed, the company failed to pay a number of people who worked on this production and then went into administration. A sorry saga for all concerned. Leon Butler is clearly a name to avoid for the future**

New diversity Producer and Director initiative.

This looks like a great opportunity for some lucky people…

THE NEST: TV DIVERSITY FAST-TRACK PARTNERSHIP PROJECT

The Nest are launching an exciting, unique, and fully inclusive project for fledgling Producer and Director talent in the UK. 

Are you a Producer or Director with an idea that needs to be seen on screen? We want to find the best ideas, from the best talent who’ve not had the best chance to pitch their project. Yet!

We’re looking for senior diverse talent from every under-represented corner of the UK to come forward with their non-scripted programme ideas and The Nest will help nurture them onto screen alongside their very own Executive Producer mentor.

It’s a fact “there is a woeful lack of diversity within senior positions and key decision makers.” And over the last 5 years, “in the case of disabled employees and those from minority ethnic groups (“MEGs”), the gap between overall diversity and diversity amongst senior managers has not improved in TV.

Projections suggest that if we continue on the same path, the proportion of TV employees who are disabled will fall over the next five years.” *   

There’s also a major imbalance of gender at this level; “Men are three times more likely than women to be documentary directors, according to a We Are Doc Women report, which calls for the industry to introduce a 50% quota for females. [It] found that between August 2019 and July 2020 men accounted for 72% of directors / series directors and 67% of producer directors.” **

So, The Nest are trying to change all that, and looking for Producers and Directors with ideas and representation from as many diverse backgrounds as possible, including; 

·                     Those with lived experience of a disability

·                     Those from Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds

·                     Those from lower-income backgrounds – social economic diversity (SED)

·                     Female

HOW IT WILL WORK

This is a developmental role for exceptional producers and directors, that can complement other work schedules in the background. Someone who has a mind full of their own ideas but is yet to go further. The possibilities are vast; any non-scripted TV idea for any genre – we have expertise across the industry – from reality to documentary and everything in-between.

We’ll shortlist our favourite ideas and interview the best over the coming weeks. The final candidates will be thoughtfully paired with an Exec Producer who will take them under their wing and mentor every stage; from development to pitch, and beyond.

It won’t be a paid role until a commission is won, but we will guide and nurture with a robust infrastructure; including the finances, legals, logistics and even office space – so the focus can be on the creative.

If you’re a gifted diverse Producer or Director, who would like help getting your exceptional non-scripted TV show ideas fast tracked, this is the project for you!

We like to be different at The Nest and only want to work with nice people who share our values and humanity. To get in touch, please email; danielle@nestproductions.co.uk before Friday 12thNovember 2021.

Source:OFCOM 5 Year Diversity and Equal Opportunities Report 2021

** Source: Broadcast – 13.10.21 

Vaishali Paatil. Mohaan Nadaar. ASEQ. Stone Circles Production Ltd

There are plenty of film and TV production companies which fail to pay their bills on time. It’s often because people who run these companies are often somewhat better at the creative end of things than the purely administrative. They usually get their act together at some point however, pay their workers and apologise for the delay etc etc.

But then there are the just plain straightforward exploitative types. Those who paddle around the murky end of our business, those who ritually fail to pay their freelancers on time because hey, why bother once you’ve had the work?

Mohaan Nadaar (also ingloriously featured here) and Vaishali Paatil (also known as Vaishali Karanjkar) are two of those who specialise in the latter kind of thing, with a history of not paying freelancers on time for their work. Complaints there have been many (and still are), but Mohaan and Vaishali sail on regardless, happy to hoover up another set of unwitting workers for whatever grand cinematic triumph they next have in mind.

And that, at the moment, appears to be a “Bollywood horror film” called ASEQ, being made by Vaishali’s company, Stone Circles Ltd. Things must be a bit tight for these two at the moment however because, even before putting their vision onto celluloid, they are already trying to sting freelancers by recruiting them for considerably less than the legal minimum; to wit a £1,000 fee for runners for four weeks of 12 hour days.

One would have thought that pretty much everyone has heard of the minimum wage nowadays, but not these two it seems, who are happy to offer rates which clearly don’t even graze the bottom end of a legal day’s pay for a fair day’s work – and seem quite shameless in doing so.

It would be lovely to put these two right in the firmest way possible, namely by mounting a minimum wage claim with HMRC for the work which even they wouldn’t be able to avoid.

So if you have been offered this pay rate for your work on this film (or anything similar) do feel free to get in touch (info@tvwatercooler.org) and we will help you get the pay you should have received. And if you are waiting to be paid by either of these two for any past productions, feel free to get in touch too.

Meanwhile Mohaan Nadaar and Vaishali Paatil: Freelancers beware!

Talking Lens Productions (Raza Mallal) and New Leaf Productions (Faisal Ahmad)

Word has reached the Watercooler of concerning events on a short film drama (“Letters for Lost Lovers“) being  produced in Leeds by Raza Mallal of Talking Lens Productions.

Late issuing of contracts (with terms which clearly break HMRC regulations) have now been compounded by numerous freelancers saying that they have not been paid what they are owed for their work. And now it seems that Raza Mallal is apparently washing his hands of any responsibility, despite the company throwing in delays in passing invoices on and threatening to withhold pay. 

Talking Lens is a dissolved company but the name is still being used in all communications with freelancers, while the company which issued the contracts is New Leaf Productions (Faisal Ahmad).

It seems that that company isn’t very keen to honour its financial obligations by stumping up the cash to those who are due it however, as payments are now overdue and there is no word on when they will be made.

Strong recommendation for all freelancers then is to take care if you are considering embarking on any working relationship with either company. Any updates will be posted here as and when – including whether people get paid what they are owed.

**UPDATE**

Both of these companies and individuals have now gone to ground on this, leaving several freelancers unpaid for their work. Faisal Ahmad is not responding to emails and Producer Raza Mallal is apparently now washing himself of any responsibility to ensure payment for the freelancers who worked for him.

Added to this concerns have been raised by other freelancers who have worked on other Talking Lens productions, where ex Northern Film School students were used for their work on poorly organised productions and promised “deferred payments” which never ended up being paid. Caution is strongly recommended if anyone is considering working for this set up in the future.

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.

**Edit. This film has proved to be no exception to the rule. Pavlakos has once again stiffed a number of people who have worked on this production, as he has countless times before. If you have arrived on this page via a Google search of his name, do take firm note and also – for the sake of everyone else in this industry – spread the word as widely as you can that this man is absolutely not to be trusted and that he will, with all probability, walk away with the product of your work without paying for it, in the same way that he has on so many previous occasions. BEWARE!**