Alyina Fatima Sajawal. Akhilesh Tirumala. Nicole Sabeva.

If anyone has been contacted by Alyina Fatima Sajawal, Akhilesh Tirumala or Nicole Sabeva for work on a Bollywood horror feature film shooting in Cardiff from 20th October please could they get in touch (info@tvwatercooler.org – all in confidence).

It appears that this production is generating some concern amongst freelancers for the illegal rates of pay being offered. More on this to come, but meanwhile freelancers should be very cautious before entering into any working relationship with this individual or the production in question.

**UPDATE** If anyone has taken this work, they should be aware that, whatever may have been promised, the individuals behind this production have a considerable amount of form for failure to pay freelancers.

Be warned that the chances of anyone seeing any actual pay (whatever has been promised) for their work is pretty much nil.

More to come.

Something dodgy going on…

…in the world of TV recruitment it seems. In the shape of a mass of fake applicants for jobs in the industry. Reports are coming in (as they are fond of saying on the news) that a number of apparently well qualified applicants for TV jobs advertised on Facebook add up to less than they appear when the individuals themselves turn up for interviews.

Here are a few names of some who have applied for jobs, and their email addresses. All have manufactured their references using proper mainstream companies, claiming previous positions at companies which (on inspection) turn out to be false:

Dami Osipitan <damiosipitan@gmail.com>

Deborah Elugbadebo <delugbadebo36@gmail.com>

Lydia Oyewole <lydiatoyeyinka@gmail.com>

Afolabi Moronkeji <afomoro9@hotmail.co.uk>

Nana Esi Sarfo <sarfo.nanaesi@gmail.com>

kelvin osei <kelvinjosei@hotmail.com>

Ibby Baidoo <ibbybd0@yahoo.co.uk>

Emmanuel Akinnuoye <eman.akinnuoye@gmail.com

Sharon Osei-Agyeman <sharonosei@hotmail.co.uk>

uyi ilenbs <uyi-ilenbs@hotmail.com>

Wonu Owokoniran <wonuXO@outlook.com>

osezele ilenbs <oilenbs@gmail.com>

One of these applicants let slip that they had used the services of a company called “Helpers House” (helpershouseldn@gmail.com), which might mean that they were victims of some kind of scam themselves, or maybe not.

Either way, these are applicants that are unlikely to be worth following up, not least because they may very well, if you let them in through the door, walk away with the contents of your production office on the first day.

Recruiters beware!

Olalekan Alabi. Cold Laundry: Avoid.

As a wise man once said: “if you give first you will always get back”.

Actually he isn’t quite so wise, and it’s not immediately clear whether the author of that phrase was being totally ingenuous when he said it. It comes from the lips of one Ola Alabi (on his Linkedin page), a fashion designer who seems more keen to take rather than give, if his recent record is anything to go by.

That record includes hiring a number of freelancers and then, when presented with invoices for their work, disappearing without trace and refusing to respond to emails. Olalekan also says on his page “I have a love hate relationship with fashion”, the hatey bit probably being related to the fact that his, and his wife’s, latest venture Cold Laundry has recently gone belly up via a creditors’ voluntary liquidation.

Businesses go down the toilet all the time of course, and for a variety of reasons, however the experience seems not to have taught Ola any life lessons as the hiring (and stiffing) of these freelancers happened after his last venture failed, albeit he still hired people under his “Cold Laundry” label. One would have thought that the least he could do, if he was having cash flow difficulties, would be to be frank and honest about it, however Ola seems to have disappeared without trace, happy to take the work they’ve done and run away with their money.

We’ll keep an eye out for his reemergence, but meanwhile let’s leave the last word with him. His final wordly-wise aphorism on the Linkedin page is: “Art comes first”. Fair enough I guess, however payment should really come a very close second….

Ola Alabi – freelancers avoid!

Post expires at 9:29pm on Thursday September 23rd, 2021

A first job for those with no experience.

There are many who – quite rightly – complain that most job adverts for new entrants to the industry seem to want people with experience. It does of course make it really difficult to get that first break.

So a tip of the hat or hats off to those very lovely people at Hungry Jay Media who have made steps to address that very issue with a job which specifically requires applicants with no prior credits:

May be an image of one or more people and text

Bound to be lots of applicants so craft your applications thoughtfully and carefully – no just throwing in a standard CV!

Locked Down and Locked Out – the experience of working mothers in TV production

At the best of times, balancing motherhood and a career in TV is incredibly tough. Every year many find that it is simply too hard to juggle the competing demands leading large numbers to drop out every year.

This past two years has, of course, been far from the best of times and a new report lays out how Covid has affected TV working mothers in bleak detail: Locked Down and Locked Out: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mothers working in the UK television industry.

The report, published by The Institute for Screen Industries Research at The University of Nottingham, in partnership with Telly Mums Network, SMTJ and Bectu, finds that the pandemic has had multiple impacts on working mothers’ lives:

49 percent of survey respondents said they had been unable to accept work due to childcare related issues.

Over 55 percent had been part of a production that was either cancelled or postponed.

And 54 percent said they had not been able to find enough work.

The report provides some key recommendations for immediate and longer-term actions that they say must take place to mitigate the effects of disrupted working lives of mothers in TV in the future.

Will they happen? It’s over to broadcasters and production companies; now is the time to take up the challenge.

You can read the full report here.

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.

Rob Shannon. Shannon Productions.

There is, it seems, still the odd employer out there who hasn’t heard about the minimum wage regulations (1999). Not many now as, like World War 1 soldiers, time takes its toll and they inevitably drop away. Now everyday folk tend only to remember those bygone unpaid days with “do you remember when” and “we were so primitive back then” type comments.

So quite a shocker to find the Neanderthal spirit still alive and well in at least one tiny corner of film making land in the form of erstwhile actor Robert Shannon of Shannon Productions, who is seeking to recruit unpaid workers for a feature film he is producing. When asked why he was not paying at least the minimum wage to the runners/drivers he was seeking to recruit to work on the production, this was his response:

Probably be a bit of a shock for Rob to hear that we don’t burn witches or get cockerels to fight to the death either any more, so one wonders how professional the whole shoot is likely to be.

If he does contact you and offer unpaid work on this film (or anything else he is playing around with), do take a wide berth around it, and him.

Freelancers beware!

Leopard Pictures and the missing holiday pay.

The battle for holiday pay in our industry was one which freelancers won many years ago, a right confirmed by BECTU in a landmark European court victory in 2001. Most companies now do the right thing, adding holiday pay on top of the rate (usually 10.77%) and, where time off has not been taken, paying it at the end of the contract.

Most companies – but not Leopard Pictures, where numerous freelancers have been in contact to say that the company has been failing to pay holiday pay on top of the rate for the job on their current production “Hard Cell” starring Catherine Tate (and others).

What this company has been doing is agreeing a rate with a freelancer and then, after they have started the job, have then issued contracts which say that the holiday pay is “included”. That despite official guidance that it is unlawful to “roll up” holiday pay into a rate:

I asked the company about this, who did not deny that this was their practice. I was then referred to Amanda Goddard at the parent company Argonon who was initially happy to discuss the issue but then abruptly decided to pull up the drawbridge, offering only that anyone who had an issue with this should contact HR. That kind of suggestion is of course entirely unhelpful in an industry where freelancers are notoriously afraid of getting a bad reputation where everything relies so heavily on word of mouth recommendation.

This all comes in the same week that BECTU released a landmark report on the treatment of workers in the industry where freelancers talk of the frustration they feel about being duped by production companies who agree a rate only to find “the goalposts are moved” once they start the job. By not adding holiday pay on top of the rate, as many honourable companies do across the industry, Leopard Productions are, at best, clearly behaving with a lack of transparency and failing to deal with freelancers in a fair and straightforward way.

If anyone has been treated like this by Leopard Pictures, feel free to get in touch, in confidence (info@tvwatercooler.org). There are already several freelancers who are pretty fed up at being treated this way by a company which is happy to proclaim its desire to outlaw modern slavery and human trafficking (how much of this is there in the UK TV industry?) but less keen to fair deal with its freelancers by behaving in the way that the majority of good production companies do.

I wonder how many of these people, or these, found that their holiday pay was included in the pay they were offered for their jobs?

Working in Television – the reality.

This week, BECTU released “State of Play”, its report on working conditions in the TV industry. It does not make for pretty reading.

No surprise to those who work in the industry of course, this can be a very tough arena in which to ply ones trade. The report draws on the experience of numerous freelancers in the industry and is well worth a read if you are currently working in unscripted TV production, or are considering a career in it. TV can be, of course, a fun industry in which to make a living but it can also be the Wild West when it comes to your rights, the demands placed on you and the structure of your working life .

So give it a read. But also think about how you can be part of making that life better for yourself and others. There are some great recommendations for action contained within it but those will only be secured if there is pressure placed on broadcasters and those in authority to achieve them. A good first step for everyone is to join BECTU. Strength in numbers and all that, and it has great benefits even if things are going well at work. Also join or follow groups like Greg’s Viva La PD or Adeel’s TV Mindset and of course all those Facebook groups where freelancers gather (and often campaign) like Telly Mums or Share My Telly Job.

And do call out bad practice if you see it at work. There should be fair recruitment, no-one should be required to work overlong hours or for pitiful pay, you should not be bullied or harassed or have unreasonable expectations placed upon, you do have the right to have a life alongside your working one. And feel free to email us if you feel you can’t call it out yourself (completely confidential – info@tvwatercooler.org), there are many ways to achieve change which don’t involve individuals putting their heads above the parapet.

Will anything ever change? It’s up to us as much as “them”.

Vox Pictures and their unpaid Runners.

There was a time, many many years ago, when TV and Film companies used to hire new entrants to the industry, use them for a few weeks and then send them on their merry way, completely unpaid on the basis of it being “work experience”.

After a while (and the odd campaign or two) news quickly spread that doing that kind of thing was a) not very nice, b) socially divisive and and c) probably illegal given that there are minimum wage regulations that all employers must work under.

So where I wonder, were the people who run Vox Pictures (Pip Broughton and Adrian Bate) while all this was going on? Word, it seems, has not reached the company’s ears that if you take on people to work for you, you do actually have to pay them so that – you know – they can put food on the table and that sort of thing, even if they are getting experience while slogging away.

Vox Pictures have been busy making “The Trick”, a “landmark film for the BBC”. Last month they took on several unpaid runners on one of their shoots to make teas and coffees, staff the car parks, work as location marshalls and support the Covid medic. These runners did this for hours on end, working full days under the instruction of the Line Producer in the hours that were dictated to them.

While doing this, not one of them received any opportunity to train or shadow, nor were they given any kind of career support or advice; they simply turned up and worked. They were also not told when they were recruited that they would not be paid, it was simply assumed by the company and they found out after they had started.

They were take on via the University of East Anglia (UEA), who offered up several of their graduating students. They were no longer studying (and anyway did not need to do work experience as part of their courses) so I asked the company – what exception of the regulations were they relying on that meant that these runners did not need to be paid, given that it could not be as “work experience”.

Vox’s answer was that, as it was an opportunity for them to gain access and knowledge to the industry, it should therefore “not be a paid experience”. It’s an interesting argument that, and one I heartily recommend you try on the staff at Tesco when you try to walk out without paying for your bag of groceries.

Given that Vox Pictures were clearly not in the mood to open their pockets (nb you can be certain that both Pip Broughton and Adrian Bate are being well remunerated by their own company for their work), I asked Chris Price, the lecturer at UEA who had put up these ex-students, if he would explain the situation so that they could get some payment (and something they could usefully use as a credit on their CV). He did not bother to respond however and it transpired that, far from doing that, he was happy to encourage the company in their endeavours not to pay any of them. Worth remembering if you are thinking of applying for a course at that particular University, their care for your prospects obviously evaporates once they’ve pocketed your tuition fee cash.

Surely the BBC would step in though, they surely would not want there to be unpaid workers on one of their commissioned productions? I asked Piers Wenger, who commissioned the film but he couldn’t even summon up the interest to reach for his keyboard to respond. So I asked BBC HR. Yes they said, the BBC is always keen to ensure that “employees, trainees and those on work experience are treated…fairly, with respect and in accordance with the law and we extend that commitment to our suppliers”. So will they do so in this case? Oh…ah…um…maybe not actually do anything, no. Well done BBC HR.

When “The Trick” does comes out, it will be worth searching the list of credits for the names of those Runners. I’m guessing you won’t find them though – the company is as unlikely to want to highlight their existence as they were to put their hands in their pockets to pay them for their hard work.

Still, they are only Runners aren’t they. Who gives a shit?

Vox Pictures. Remember the name.

Post expires at 6:09pm on Saturday September 25th, 2021