For the second year running, we are presenting a Hero of the Year Award – sponsored by The Talent Manager – which seeks to highlight the unsung talent of documentary and factual TV.
The deadline for nominations for this award has now been extended to 12 September. Nominations are free and can be made for anyone matching the below criteria:
They should have contributed behind-the-scenes to the factual and/or documentary industry – whether their impact is wide reaching or on a day-to-day level with their colleagues. They can be at any level of their career from new starters to established execs and further afield
The work they are nominated for should have largely taken place between June 2021 and May 2022 (the same eligibility period as the films submitted to the Griersons)
Also known as the Griersons, or Grierson Awards, the British Documentary Awards celebrate excellence across a variety of documentary genres and are a key date in documentary and factual filmmakers’ calendars. You can find out more information here.
Surprising it might seem but in 2022 it appears there is at least one employer working in the production industry (or claims to be) who has yet to catch up on a piece of legislation that was passed some twenty five years ago.
It’s the one that says that you really must pay the people who work for you and is called The National Minimum Wage Act which – to save anyone having to trawl through and parse the stiflingly dull legal language therein – basically says that if you take on someone and expect them to do work for you, that person does have to be paid a minimum amount for their time and labour.
The individual in question is called Rick Taylor, a self-described “Sports TV entrepreneur and Fashion Show personality” and also sometime alumnus of the University of Hertfordshire and former employee of British Sky Broadcasting.
Lately Rick has taken to wandering around industry employment pages on Facebook touting for workers, but not ones he would actually like to pay thank you very much:
When asked how he might legitimately be able to avoid having to pay these Runners, Rick said “like most new shows they have no/little budget none of my crew is getting paid at the moment until sponsors start paying me which won’t be until September/October (this is normal for the entertainment business)” . When the folly of this was pointed out, he responded with
Not wishing to challenge the superior knowledge of someone who has worked for BOTH Sky AND Channel 5 (as well as being a “fashion show personality”), it may benefit Rick to check out some of what has happened over the past twenty years in terms of what TV production employers now do if they want to take on Runners (ie treat them like human beings and pay them for their work). And he might consider stopping being such an arse too obviously.
Anyone who has the misfortune of working for this individual on one of his sports shows and who finds they aren’t being paid for their work, do get in touch about how to make a claim for that pay.
The article speaks for itself but one thing is fast becoming clear – if you treat workers in our industry badly, you can expect to reap the consequences. Times are long gone when freelancers bit their tongue in the face of unacceptable beahviour for fear of losing work as a result.
Now publications like Deadline (and of course, the Watercooler itself) are more than willing to stand up and call out this kind of nonsense without any danger to the livelihood of the freelancers involved (who almost always ask for anonymity and rightly get it).
Worth remembering if you find yourself a victim of companies which engage in this kind of thing. There is always a willing ear and free and confidential advice to be had (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In the olden days, way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the TV picture was made up of 405 black and white lines, employers in the TV industry had developed the bad habit of using unpaid workers to staff the junior levels of their productions on the basis that it was “good experience” for them. Bit like it being good to beat children to stop them talking too much or to make them use their potty.
We now live in more enlightened times of course. But that didn’t happen just by accident, it came about because a group of industry freelancers got together (online) and decided to agitate for something to be done to stop that kind of thing, as well as the practice of employers using freelancers for illegally long hours of work and failing to give paid holiday (or payments in lieu) to their workers.
As a result employers don’t now use unpaid workers. And they do pay holiday pay. And……well let’s put the long hours thing to one side (you can’t win them all). All in all though TVWRAP is generally now considered to have been a thoroughly good thing, loved by all and everyone (except John McVay of PACT of course, who moaned and grumbled but was summarily forced to make his members bite the bullet and treat their workers fairly).
So how did it all happen? Well if you’re interested to know then do read this, a piece that’s just been written by two whiskery old boffins from the groves of academe, one of whom being one of those very people who did that agitating thing way back then when he was a boy.
The Neurodiverse Media Community aims to connect, engage and support anyone with a diagnosis of (or experiencing) autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia or any other neurological condition who works in the media.
The Grierson Trust has opened two documentary training schemes that in partnership with Netflix. Each scheme offers eight successful trainees (aged 18+ and UK-based) intensive training, a paid contract on a Netflix documentary production lasting up to three months, an industry mentorship and more.
The schemes are for Documentary Editing and Production Management.
The Production Management scheme is open to applicants with 3+ years’ experience working in a role with transferable skills, including: excellent communication, project management, event management and problem solving. The training will focus on all the logistical and administrative tasks involved in working in documentary production management.
The Editing training programme seeks candidates who have the technical ability to edit, whether that’s on Avid or another editing software, and who want to step up to the role of Assistant Editor. Though the scheme accepts people with proficiency in other editing software, note that the training will be run on Avid.
Both schemes especially welcome applications from people currently under-represented in the industry. That includes, but is not limited to, people from ethnic minority backgrounds, disabled people, those from the LGBTQ+ community and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Another sorry tale of woe has reached the Watercooler. A film called “Swipe Fever”, produced by the three individuals listed above, where freelancers were taken on in good faith that they would be paid for their work and then discovered that the cupboard was pretty bare when they presented their invoices.
Since shooting in 2020, there has been nothing but a litany of excuses and promises about this investor and that from Mark Forstater. Hard cash however, there has been none.
Freelancers and suppliers may wish to take the above into account when/if they consider entering into any kind of working relationship with any of these three in the future.
Sites which charge industry jobseekers a fee for freelancers to see job adverts are rightly despised by all right-thinking workers in the business, given that they simply suck money out of the system while adding nothing of value themselves (given that almost all industry jobs are available on free-to-use social media pages). Sites like Production Base, Production Hive and mandy are best avoided on that basis, not least also that many are used by exploitative employers looking for unpaid workers.
It appears however that there are also now others who are trying to make a fast buck, but this time at the expense of employers. An individual called Luke Elkins in this case who, when employers post their jobs on free sites which they know and trust, simply takes them and reposts them on a page which he seeks to monetise.
The net result is that, when employers wish to close their job advert, they find they can’t effectively do that as the job advert stays live on Elkins‘ site (which they have no control over), resulting in numerous unwanted applications coming in, and of course wasting freelancers’ time and effort, who can also readily find the same adverts elsewhere. When asked to remove the adverts by employers, Elkins simply refuses to.
Elkins is by all accounts also a sometime freelancer in the business. Hopefully employers will remember the name and behaviour when he comes around looking for work, which is unlikely to be in a positive way given the continued inconvenience he foists upon them by what he does. He is clearly not the sharpest tool in the box, given that our industry often operates on reputation spread by word of mouth.
And if you are a new entrant to the industry and you want to see all the available jobs, you only need to visit this page, the largest TV job recruitment site in the UK. It’s where Elkins likes to pay his daily visits to fill his Facebook page, but why not get ahead of the queue and go to the original source as and when they’re actually put up by the employers, instead of second hand and hours later!