Just a quick glance at the following selection of the UK’s top 50 directors is enough to make one realise the depth of filmmaking talent that exists in the UK.
It’s a list that contains many of the very best directors in the world. From Christopher Nolan, Hollywood’s director du jour, through to Ridley Scott, Danny Boyle, Stephen Frears and Mike Leigh, it’s full of household names who have made some of the greatest films ever made – ones that have earned Oscars, Baftas, critical acclaim as well as billions at the box office.
We’ve selected the list with the help and advice of leading film producers, agents and film PR executives. The directors who have made the list are those that have made a film in the last 18 months, or who are shooting now or look set to do so by the end of the year. As such, it is meant to be a list of some of the UK’s top directors working now, rather than the UK’s all time top directors.
We’ve divided the list into three categories, running alphabetically. First up are top flight directors, whose names alone are enough to attract major funding to a project and whose films have generated big returns at the box office and/or multiple awards.
Then comes the rising stars, the directors who have made acclaimed, memorable features and who could be poised to become household names.
In the third category are the specialised directors, often considered some of the UK’s finest film-makers and who make auteur, indie British films that win awards, play at top festivals and enjoy critical acclaim.
TOP DIRECTORS Danny Boyle - the Oscar winning director of Slumdog Millionaire is counting down to the London Olympics, for which he is artistic director of the opening ceremony. Also in post production is art heist film movie Trance set for a 2013 release. Credits: 127 Hours, 28 Days Later, Trainspotting, Shallow Grave
Kenneth Branagh - Branagh’s directing career took a surprising turn with last year’s well received action movie Thor. He’s set to direct Kate Winslet in the adaptation of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. He’s also linked to Paramount’s relaunch of action thriller Jack Ryan, based on the Tom Clancy spy novels. Credits: Thor, The Magic Flute, As You Like It, Hamlet, Frankenstein, Peter’s Friends, Henry V.
Stephen Daldry - after winning an Oscar nomination but polarised reviews for his last film, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Daldry is now on Olympics duty as creative director of all the Games ceremonies. Credits: Billy Elliot, The Hours, The Reader, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
Stephen Frears - the Oscar nominated director’s latest, Lay the Favourite, starring Bruce Willis and Rebecca Hall, played at Sundance in. He’s reportedly readying a remake of his 1984 chase movie The Hit and is linked with John Hodge’s adaptation of Young Stalin. Credits: Tamara Drewe, The Queen, High Fidelity, The Grifters, Dangerous Liasons, My Beautiful Laundrette
Paul Greengrass - the man who reinvented the spy thriller with Bourne is now directing Tom Hanks in Somali pirate drama Captain Phillips, based on the true story of a sailor taken hostage and rescued by Navy Seals off the coast of Somalia. It is set for release in spring 2013. Credits: Bloody Sunday, The Bourne Supremacy, United 93, The Bourne Ultimatum, Green Zone.
Tom Hooper - the Oscar winning director of The King’s Speech began filming Working Title’s adaptation of musical Les Miserables, starring Russell Crowe, in January. Credits: The King’s Speech, The Damned United, Longford (TV)
Phyllida Lloyd - Lloyd’s Mamma Mia! is the fourth highest grossing film ever at the UK box office. A respected theatre director, Lloyd reunited with Meryl Streep once again for this year’s Oscar winning The Iron Lady. Credits: Mamma Mia, The Iron Lady
Peter Lord - together with Nick Park, Lord has been at the centre of the remarkable success of Bristol’s Aardman Animations for over 30 years. His most recent film The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists opened last month. Credits: The Pirates!, Chicken Run
John Madden - the Shakespeare in Love director’s amiable The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel drew in the neglected older audience in droves earlier this year. He’s now working on a Showtime TV drama pilot, Masters of Sex, starring Michael Sheen. Credits: Mrs Brown, Shakespeare in Love, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Sam Mendes - the American Beauty director is now shooting the latest Bond film Skyfall, which could make for an odd but intriguing addition to the 007 canon. Credits: Away We Go, Revolutionary Road, Jarhead, Road to Perdition, American Beauty.
Kevin Macdonald - alternating between indie and studio films, Macdonald returned to his documentary roots with his recently released Marley. He’s readying Meg Rosoff adaptation How I Live Now. Credits: State of Play, The Last King of Scotland, Touching the Void
Roger Michell - the Notting Hlll director’s latest - Hyde Park on Hudson - is set for release this year, starring Bill Murray, Laura Linney and Olivia Williams. Credits: Morning Glory, Enduring Love, The Mother, Changing Lanes, Notting Hill
Mike Newell - the veteran director is the latest to tackle Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, adapted by One Day’s David Nicholls and said to play like a thriller. It’s set for release this year. Next he will take on an adaptation of Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach. Credits: Four Weddings and A Funeral, Donnie Brasco, Pushing Tin, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
Christopher Nolan - probably the most powerful director in the world at the moment, Nolan brings his acclaimed Batman trilogy to a conclusion this July with The Dark Knight Rises. He’s enjoyed huge critical and box office success for his recent films, including the Oscar nominated Inception. Credits: The Dark Knight Rises, The Dark Knight, Batman Begins, Inception, Insomnia, Memento.
Guy Ritchie - Having racked up over $1bn in global box office with two Sherlock movies, Ritchie is one of Warner Bros favourite directors. He’s now set to direct Warner’s version of TV classic The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and, reportedly, the third outing of Sherlock. Credits: Sherlock Holmes 1 and 2, RocknRolla, Revolver, Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Tony Scott - top flight Hollywood-based director whose long career has delivered classic action hits Top Gun through to 2010’s Unstoppable. Credits: The Taking of Pelham 123, Déjà vu, Man on Fire, Spy Game, Enemy of the State, Crimson Tide, True Romance, Days of Thunder, Beverly Hills Cop 2, Top Gun.
Ridley Scott - veteran director releases his hugely anticipated sci-fi epic Prometheus (pictured above) in June and starts production in the UK on Cormac McCarthy screenplay The Counselor in July, starring Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt and Penelope Cruz. Credits: Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven, American Gangster, Robin Hood
Matthew Vaughn - the producer of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch has emerged as a top director in his own right and is readying a follow up to his blockbuster X-Men: First Class. Credits: Kick-Ass, Stardust, Layer Cake, X-Men: First Class
Edgar Wright - having made his name with low budget zombie hit Shaun of the Dead, the prolific Wright has now graduated to the big time. After 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Wright is linked with Disney’s remake of TV series The Night Stalker and has been penning a long planned version of Marvel’s Ant Man. He’s also produced Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block and co-wrote Spielberg’s Tintin. Credits: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, Spaced
Joe Wright - there’s huge anticipation for Wright’s film version of Leo Tolstoy’s classic Anna Karenina, which stars his regular muse Keira Knightley and is adapted by Tom Stoppard. The Working Title film is released in September and comes after mixed receptions for his last two features, Hanna and The Soloist. Credits: Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, The Soloist, Hanna.
Rupert Wyatt - smart and considered a real talent, Wyatt became hot property after his low budget hit The Escapist. He’s since more than lived up to expectations with his first studio picture Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a critical and commercial smash. He’s making a sequel for Fox, and is then set to direct Charlize Theron in Agent 13. Credits: The Escapist, Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
David Yates - with the last four instalments of the Harry Potter franchise under his belt, David Yates is likely to tackle something more modest for his next venture - chosing to adapt Your Voice In My Head, a memoir written by Emma Forrest. Emma Watson is expected to star. Credits: Harry Potter, Sex Traffic (TV), State of Play (TV)
RISING STARS Richard Ayoade - best known for his role in the IT Crowd, Ayoade’s debut Submarine was well liked but didn’t break out. Film4 is also backing his follow up The Double, a new comedy ‘inspire by Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella. It stars The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenberg and shoots in the UK this year. Credits: Submarine.
Joe Cornish - one half of the Adam and Joe presenting duo, Cornish’s sci-fi action comedy Attack the Block marked him out as a director of real promise. He also co-wrote Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn. Credits: Attack the Block
Eran Creevy - having cut his teeth on music videos, Creevy’s micro-budget Shifty was one of the most impressive UK debut features in recent years. He follows it up this year with the glossy and slick UK action thriller Welcome To The Punch. Credits: Shifty
Duncan Jones - one of the best emerging talents in filmmaking, Jones has two films under his belt - Moon and Source Code - both of them acclaimed. Has great vision and the ability to direct solid action thrills. Credits: Moon, Source Code
Asif Kapadia - another British director on Olympics duty, Kapadia has been commissioned to make short film The Odyssey for the Games. Has made few films since his visually striking debut The Warrior in 2001, but his Bafta winning feature doc Senna put him back on the map. Credits: The Warrior, The Return, Far North, Senna
James Marsh - the Oscar winning director of doc Man on Wire returned to his fiction roots this year with Sundance competitor Shadowdancer, an IRA thriller set for release in September. Credits: Wisconsin Death Trip, The King, Man on Wire, Project Nim, Shadow Dancer
John Michael McDonagh - brother of Martin McDonagh (below), he wrote and directed last year’s surprise hit The Guard and is now following it up with Calvary, a darkly comic drama about a priest that also stars Brendan Gleeson. Credits: The Guard.
Martin McDonagh - four years after his acclaimed debut In Bruges, the Oscar-winning (for short film Six Shooter) McDonagh has written and directed the Film4 backed Seven Psychopaths, which stars Colin Farrell and Woody Harrelson. Credits: In Bruges
Rufus Norris - theatre director Rufus Norris’s debut Broken has been handed the opening slot for Cannes’ Critics’ Week. It’s an adaptation of Daniel Clay’s novel, and stars Cillian Murphy and Tim Roth. Credits: Broken
Rupert Sanders - commercials director Rupert Sanders has had the kind of career break that most can only dream of, making his first ever film for Universal. Starring Charlize Theron, his revisionist and effects heavy Snow White and the Huntsman shot in the UK and is released in June. Credits: Snow White and the Huntsman
James Watkins - Watkins is a horror specialist who directed Daniel Radcliffe in The Woman in Black. Just three weeks after opening in February, it became the most successful British horror ever at the UK box office, taking £14m. Credits: The Woman in Black, Eden Lake.
Ben Wheatley - Sightseers, Wheatley’s Film4 backed follow-up to 2011’s acclaimed Kill List, plays in Director’s Fortnight at Cannes this month. It’s billed as a dark comedy about a caravan trip in the North of England that goes badly wrong. Credits: Kill List, Sightseers
Susanna White - White directed kids’ (and parents’) favourite Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, and has forged an impressive TV directing career on both sides of the Atlantic. She’s behind Tom Stoppard’s upcoming adaptation of Parade’s End for BBC2. Credits: Boardwalk Empire (TV), Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, Generation Kill (TV), Bleak House (TV)
Mat Whitecross - moving between docs and films, Whitecross’s Ian Dury biopic Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll was well received. He has just finished Ashes, a thriller starring Ray Winstone. Credits: Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, The Road to Guantanamo, Moving to Mars
SPECIALISED/ARTHOUSE DIRECTORS Andrea Arnold - one of most distinctive directors to come out of the UK, former TV presenter Arnold first came to attention with her Oscar winning short Wasp in 2003. She followed this up with two Cannes prize winning films, Fish Tank and Red Road, and last year released Wuthering Heights to somewhat mixed reviews. Credits: Wuthering Heights, Fish Tank, Red Road
Gurinder Chadha - the director of Bend it Like Beckham is reportedly moving away from romantic comedies for her next project, and is writing an historical epic based on the partition of India in 1947. Credits: It’s A Wonderful Afterlife, Bride and Prejudice, Bend it Like Beckham, Bhaji on the Beach
Paddy Considine - the actor made his award winning directorial debut last year with Tyrannosaur and is developing another film with Film4, the adaptation The Year of the Locust, the true story of a journeyman boxer and shady promoter in the US. Credits: Tyrannosaur.
Terence Davies - Sunset Song, Terence Davies’ long-awaited project based on the dark Lewis Grassic Gibbon novel, is finally set to go into production later this year after a decade of trying. Credits: The Deep Blue Sea, Of Time and the City, The House of Mirth
Ralph Fiennes - Fiennes is following up his directorial debut Coriolanus with The Invisible Woman, an adaptation of Claire Tomalin’s book about the relationship between Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan, an actress nearly half his age. Credits: Coriolanus
Terry George - the Hotel Rwanda director won an Oscar this year for his short film The Shore. Credits: Hotel Rwanda, Reservation Road, Whole Lotta Sole
Jonathan Glazer - the Sexy Beast director’s latest is the long gestating Under the Skin, which stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien in human form who travels through Scotland to snare human prey. Backed by Film4, it is released this year. Credits: Sexy Beast, Birth
Mike Leigh - having built his career in theatre and television, the curmudgeonly Leigh ranks as one of the UK’s most feted film directors who is known for evolving his scripts while improvising with his actors. Credits: Another Year, Happy-Go-Lucky, Vera Drake, Topsy Turvy, Secrets and Lies, Naked, Life is Sweet
Ken Loach - Loach’s latest The Angels’ Share plays in competition at this month’s Cannes Film Festival. Loach has competed for the Palme d’Or on 11 previous occasions, winning in 2006 for The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Credits: Kes, Raining Stones, Land and Freedom, My Names Is Joe, Sweet Sixteen, Looking for Eric
Steve McQueen - following the success of Shame, artist turned director McQueen has cast Chiwetel Ejiofor in his next project 12 Years a Slave, the true-life story of a New Yorker kidnapped as a slave in C19th Louisiana. It shoots in June. Credits: Shame, Hunger
Shane Meadows - Meadows has successfully mined the experiences of his teenage years for a series of acclaimed films, and enjoys a strong reputation for working with and bringing out the best in actors. His last two projects – follow ups to This Is England – were for television. Credits: Somers Town, This Is England, Dead Man’s Shoes, A Room for Romeo Brass, Twenty Four Seven
Peter Mullan - actor and director Mullan has enjoyed strong reviews for his third feature Neds, which returned him to the Glasgow of his youth. Credits: Orphans, The Magdalene Sisters, Neds.
Lynne Ramsay - after a nine year hiatus following 2002’s Morvern Callar, NFTS graduate Lynne Ramsay returned last year with Cannes competitor We Need to Talk about Kevin. Credits: Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar, We Need to Talk About Kevin
Michael Winterbottom - one of the UK’s most versatile and prolific directors, he’s now filming The King of Soho about London porn baron Paul Raymond. Credits: 24 Hour Party People, In This World, The Trip (TV)
This article was taken from Televisual's May 2012 film issue
(For an updated, 2013 version of this article click here)
To mark the opening day of Cannes, here’s an exclusive round up of the UK's top 40 film production outfits taken from Televisual’s May 2012 issue.
The British film industry is currently enjoying the best of times and the worst of times.
Home grown hits such as The King’s Speech and The Inbetweeners have delivered awards and huge box office. The UK is also a magnet for big budget Hollywood shoots, with features such as Prometheus, Snow White and the Huntsman and John Carter employing thousands of crew.
But it’s still an industry that remains as tough as ever in which to do business. In particular, financing and getting films made has not become any easier.
Former UK Film Council chairman and ex-Polygram boss Stuart Till summed up the situation neatly last month at a Bafta debate on the future of independent production. Citing the box office rewards of The Inbetweeners and The King’s Speech, he said: “It’s like a one arm bandit. The jackpot pays out more, but the chances of hitting it are getting less.”
The UK does have, however, several factors in its favour that increase its chances of hitting this global jackpot. In particular, the UK has benefited from the existence of a stable and easily understood film tax credit system that can deliver up to 20% of budgets.
Most importantly – and as the following pages demonstrate – the UK boasts a wealth of world class filmmaking talent and a respected film heritage.
The UK’s talent pool – so evident as you scan the lists of top directors, producers, DoPs, vfx houses and studios in this film special – provides a solid base to make acclaimed UK films and reassures Hollywood that its big budget shoots are in good hands here.
The UK’s top producers
Below is a list of the top 40 film production companies in the UK, which has been compiled with help and feedback from a number of leading film producers, agents and film PR executives.
The companies selected are those that have a track record of making films that attract box office, critical acclaim and awards. They are not just producers for hire – rather they are producers who look for and develop scripts, attach talent to projects, raise finance and risk their own money in films that they believe in. Missing from the list are companies that are owned by broadcasters (like FilmFour and BBC Films) as well as outfits that are predominantly distributors (Lionsgate, Pathe) or financiers (Prescience, CinemaNX).
The companies vary considerably in size and scale. We’ve chosen to list them alphabetically, but if we did try to rank them, it’s clear that Working Title would sit at the very top of the list. Having produced over 100 films and generated over $5bn at the global box office, the producer of Notting Hill, Elizabeth, United 93 and Green Zone is on a completely different scale to other production companies here. Fully funded by Universal Pictures, it feeds prestigious films with a British and European sensibility straight into Hollywood.
The top-tier of film production companies would then comprise about 15 other outfits. They are companies that make one or two films a year – some of which, like The King’s Speech or Slumdog Millionaire, become global phenomena.
Those companies are: Aardman, Big Talk Pictures, Cloud Eight, DNA, Ealing Studios, Ecosse Films, Heyday, Hammer, Number 9, Recorded Picture Company, Revolution, Ruby Films, Seesaw and Vertigo.
Aardman Animations - Peter Lord, David Sproxton, Nick Park
Bristol’s Aardman has won four Oscars, and over the past 40 years has established itself as a world leader in model animation. It’s been a productive year for the studio that takes years to make its lovingly crafted films - it’s just delivered two movies for Sony in less than six months, Arthur Christmas and The Pirates! Aardman is a fully integrated company, with successful TV, commercials and digital divisions too. Credits:Chicken Run, Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Flushed Away, Arthur Christmas, The Pirates!
Archer Street Films - Andy Paterson, Anand Tucker
Production started in Scotland last month on Archer Street’s latest, the long gestating adaptation of The Railway Man. Oscar winners Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman lead the stellar cast in the £12m film about the true story of a Scottish prisoner of war and his journey to confront his Japanese captors. Archer Street was launched after the success of producer Paterson and director Tucker’s 1998 hit Hilary and Jackie. Credits:Girl With a Pearl Earring, Beyond the Sea, Burning Man
Bedlam Productions - Gareth Unwin
Bedlam’s Gareth Unwin partnered with See-Saw on the The King’s Speech, for which Unwin became an Academy Award winning producer. Working across film and TV, Bedlam is now shooting Zaytoun, about an Israeli fighter pilot who is shot down over Lebanon, and is readying The Lady Who Went Too Far with The King’s Speech writer David Seidler. Credits: The King’s Speech.
Between The Eyes - Ben Pugh, Rory Aitken
Set up in 2005 to make films, ads and music videos, Between the Eyes’ first film was the Bafta-nominated Shifty. This year sees the release of its anticipated second feature, Welcome to the Punch, directed by Eran Creevy, a British attempt at a glossy action thiller like Heat. Credits: Shifty, Welcome to the Punch
Big Talk Productions - Nira Park, Matthew Justice, Kenton Allen
Big Talk is one of the UK’s most highly regarded production outfits that’s enjoyed success across film and comedy TV. It also has a track record of finding and working with young and upcoming talent – many of which, like Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, have now graduated to the big time. Big Talk is taking Ben Wheatley’s black comedy Sightseers to Cannes this month, where it plays in Directors’ Fortnight. Credits: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Paul, Attack the Block, Sightseers, Rev (TV), Spaced (TV), Him and Her (TV)
Blueprint Pictures - Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin
Riding high after its latest film – John Madden’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – topped the UK box office earlier this year, Blueprint’s next release is Ol Parker’s Now is Good. After their success producing 2008’s In Bruges, Blueprint is reteaming with director Martin McDonagh and star Colin Farrell for upcoming black comedy Seven Pyschopaths. Boss Pete Czernin is a close friend of David Cameron, while Broadbent was previously a co-founder of Dragon Pictures and Mission Pictures with Damian Jones. Credits: Becoming Jane, In Bruges, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Now is Good.
Cloud Eight - Christian Colson
Christian Colson hit the big time with Slumdog Millionaire. A frequent producing partner for Danny Boyle, Colson won an Oscar for his work on the film and was also nominated this year for 127 Hours. Colson most recently produced Boyle’s upcoming art heist thriller Trance, starring James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson. Credits: The Descent, Eden Lake, Slumdog Millionaire, The Scouting Book for Boys, Centurion, 127 Hours
Cowboy Films - Charles Steel
‘A serious talent’ is how one rival describes Cowboy Films’ Charles Steel, who has found success focusing on both feature films and TV drama. Run by Steel, working alongside producing partner Alasdair Flind and TV development producer Sara Murray, its most recent credits include Kevin Macdonald’s feature doc Marley and C4’s drama hit Top Boy. Cowboy is producing MacDonald’s next film, How I Live Now, a teenage love story set against World War 3 which is set for a June shoot. Credits: Marley, Top Boy (TV), The Last King of Scotland, Fire in Babylon.
DJ Films - Damian Jones
A blue chip producer whose most recent film The Iron Lady won Meryl Streep an Oscar, Damian Jones has just produced the upcoming Fast Girls. Hoping to cash in on Olympic fever, it charts “the rollercoaster journey of a British female sprint team.” Jones was previously partnered with Graham Broadbent at Mission Pictures, but set up on his own in 2003. He’s just signed a first look deal with Pathe UK. Credits: The Iron Lady, Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, The History Boys, Kidulthood. Welcome to Sarajevo.
DNA Films - Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich
Known for its brilliant deal making, DNA is behind some of the most distinctive UK films of recent years. DNA was the recipient of large amounts of lottery cash soon after the creation of the UK Film Council in 1997 and went on to strike a joint venture with Fox Searchlight which yielded films like 28 Weeks Later and The Last King of Scotland. DNA is putting the finishing touches to Dredd, Alex Garland’s re-imagining of Judge Dredd which is directed by Pete Travis. Forthcoming projects include a Garland supernatural thriller that he will direct, a project with BBC Films and Fox Searchlight, a contemporary musical, as well as a variety of TV projects. Credits: 28 Days Later, The Last King of Scotland, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go
Ealing Studios - Barnaby Thompson
Ealing Studios is the UK’s only vertically integrated film studio, making its particularly British brand of films like St Trinian’s as well as owning legendary facilities Ealing Studios. Its Ealing Metro arm also focuses on international sales and distribution. Ealing is now in development on another of its hugely successful St Trinian’s films. Other upcoming Ealing productions include Nina Simone biopic Nina, written and directed by Cynthia Mort and the thriller Vanished directed by Pete Travis. Credits: The Importance of Being Earnest, St Trinians, Dorian Gray, Burke & Hare
EON – Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson
The home of the James Bond film franchise, Eon is very much a family business and is run by original 007 producer Albert R ‘Cubby’ Broccoli’s daughter Barbara and stepson Michael G Wilson. Their first film in charge of Eon was 1995’s GoldenEye and they are set to release Skyfall later this year, with Sam Mendes directing Daniel Craig in his third outing as 007. Credits: Quantum of Solace, Casino Royale, Die Another Day, GoldenEye, Octopussy, Moonraker, Live and Let Die, You Only Live Twice, Goldfinger, Dr. No.
Ecosse Films – Douglas Rae, Robert Bernstein
Ecosse has a strong reputation in both film and TV. Last year it released Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights, and is set to shoot Girls Night Out this year, based on the true story of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret being let out of Buckingham Palace for one night to join the VE celebrations in 1945. New films in development include: Treasure Island, On Green Dolphin Street and American Adulterer. It’s also remaking its BBC1 drama Mistresses for ABC in the US. Credits: Mrs Brown, Becoming Jane, Brideshead Revisited, Nowhere Boy, Wuthering Heights.
Hammer - Simon Oakes
Legendary horror brand Hammer hadn’t released a feature for over 30 years until it became part of Guy East and Nigel Sinclair’s Exclusive Media in 2008. Now, after years of false starts, it’s enjoying huge success with its ‘smart horror’ output, most notably 2012’s Daniel Radcliffe starring The Woman in Black which has taken over $125m worldwide. Follow up The Woman In Black: Angels of Death is now in the pipeline, as well as features The Quiet Ones, Boneshaker and Gaslight. It’s diversified too, launching a publishing imprint through Random House and plans a Hammer Theatre of Horror. Credits: Let Me In, Wake Wood, The Resident, The Woman in Black
Heyday Films - David Heyman
One of the UK’s pre-eminent producers, David Heyman struck gold as the producer of the Harry Potter franchise for Warners, and his Heyday Films has a first look deal with the Hollywood studio – one of very few such deals in the UK. War drama St Nazaire about the British commando raid in 1942, directed by Potter’s David Yates, is on the cards. November sees the release of space drama Gravity, starring George Clooney. Credits: Harry Potter films, I am Legend, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, Page Eight.
Independent Film Company - Luc Roeg
A diversified and highly regarded business which specialises in development, financing, production, sales and distribution, Independent produced Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. Projects in development include adaptations of Bernard Cornwall’s Azincourt and Dean King’s Skeletons on the Zahara. Credits: We Need to Talk about Kevin, Mr Nice
JW Films - James Wilson
JW Films is one of the production companies behind Jonathan Glazer’s upcoming Under the Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson. Run by former Fox Searchlight and FilmFour exec James Wilson, JW Films is also producing Sophie Fiennes’ The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. Described as a ‘cineaste’ who is drawn to edgier material, Wilson is also a director of Big Talk Pictures. Credits: Under the Skin
Liberty Films - Stuart Fenegan
With a background in commercials production, Fenegan’s first film was Duncan Jones’s well received debut Moon. The pair set up Liberty Films together, and are understood to be working on a massive Ian Fleming biopic that will be directed by Jones. Credits: Moon.
Neal Street - Pippa Harris
Set up by Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris and Caro Newling in 2003, Neal Street spans film, TV and theatre. Its TV arm produced BBC1’s ratings smash Call the Midwife, while its film operation is readying long delayed Ian McEwan adaptation On Chesil Beach and is making Nick Murphy’s Blood starring Paul Bettany and Brian Cox. Neal Street’s theatre division, run by Newling, produced Shrek The Musical. Credits: Revolutionary Road, Starter for Ten, Jarhead.
Number 9 Films - Stephen Woolley, Elizabeth Karlsen
Number 9’s Stephen Woolley together with partner Elizabeth Karlsen hardly need any introduction, having produced some of the UK’s most distinguished films from the 1980s on. Upcoming releases include Mike Newell’s highly anticpated Great Expectations and Neil Jordan’s Byzantium and it’s also readying John Crowley’s Carol. Credits: Mona Lisa, Ladies in Lavender, Little Voice, Interview with the Vampire, Crying Game, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, Made in Dagenham
Origin Pictures - David Thompson
Launched by the former head of BBC Films in 2008, Origin is in pre-production on Nelson Mandela biopic Long Walk to Freedom in South Africa which stars Idris Elba and is directed by Justin Chadwick. It’s been a busy few years for Origin, which is active across film and TV, producing the Rebecca Hall starring The Awakening as well as BBC2’s The Crimson Petal and the White. Origin has a deal with Fremantle Media Enterprises for TV distribution and producer/financier Anant Singh backs the company through Distant Horizon, the international production and distribution company. Credits: The Awakening, The Crimson Petal and the White (TV)
Passion Pictures - John Battsek
Passion is the name in feature documentaries in the UK, having produced over 25 films starting with the Oscar winning One Day in September in 1999. Passion is currently working on several new feature film projects, including - with Cowboy Films - the new feature adaptation of Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now which is due to shoot this summer with Kevin MacDonald directing. Credits: One Day in September, In the Shadow of the Moon, Restrepo, Fire in Babylon, Project Nim
Peapie Films - Kris Thykier
Former Freuds PR vice-chairman Kris Thykier set up Peapie Films in 2009, having run Marv Films with Matthew Vaughan for two years previously where he’d exec produced hit film Stardust. With a focus on international movies with commercial appeal, Peapie’s slate includes Trash with Working Title Films, written by Richard Curtis and to be directed by Stephen Daldry. Thykier’s recent producing credits include his current film I Give It a Year by Dan Mazer and Madonna’s W.E. Credits: Stardust, Harry Brown, Kick-Ass, W.E., Ill Manors
Recorded Picture Company - Jeremy Thomas
Legendary producer Jeremy Thomas has made some 60 films and continues to produce on average two a year. Thomas’ operation employs some 56 people across RPC and sales outfit Hanway Films. RPC starts shooting a new Jim Jarmusch film in July, and is readying a feature about The Kinks as well as JG Ballard adaptation High Rise. Thomas is also considering branching out in to TV production soon. Credits: Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, The Last Emperor, Naked Lunch, Stealing Beauty, Crash, Sexy Beast, The Dreamers, 13 Assasins
Revolution Films - Andrew Eaton
Prolific, nimble and smart, Revolution produces all of Michael Winterbottom’s films including his latest, the Paul Raymond biopic The King of Soho. But Revolution isn’t just a one director indie - it makes a range of other projects, including Ron Howard’s next film, Formula One epic Rush, and last year’s London Film Festival opener, Fernando Mereilles’ 360. Like many other film producers, Revolution has also successfully moved in to TV, producing C4’s Red Riding trilogy as well as Winterbottom’s hit comedy The Trip. Credits: 360, The Trip (TV), The Killer Inside Me, Red Riding (TV), A Mighty Heart, In This World, 9 Songs, Jude
Ruby Films - Alison Owen, Paul Trijbits
Ruby is an entreprenuerial and creative indie that’s on a roll. It’s diversified into TV with acclaimed dramas such as Toast and Small Island and is currently shooting Stephen Poliakoff’s Dancing on the Edge. Set up by Lily Allen’s mother, Alison Owen, in 1999, Ruby was bolstered by the arrival of ex UK Film Council New Cinema Fund head Paul Trijbits in 2007. With nine full time staff working from its Clerkenwell offices, Ruby is readying David Yates’ (Harry Potter) next film Your Voice in My Head as well as Saving Mr Banks, which has Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson attached to star in the true story behind Disney’s Mary Poppins. Credits: Jane Eyre, Tamram Drew, Chatroom, The Other Boleyn Girl, Sylvia
Scott Free - Liza Marshall
Ridley and Tony Scott’s London and LA based production outfit houses both of the brother’s films, and signalled its intention to bolster its UK activities with the appointment of former C4 head of drama Liza Marshall as head of film and TV in late 2010. Scott Free is readying Rowan Joffe’s (Brighton Rock) psychological thriller Before I To To Sleep, and has executive produced Eran Creevy’s Welcome to the Punch.
See-Saw Films - Iain Canning, Emile Sherman
Arguably the most interesting young production company in the business, the Anglo-Australian See-Saw was launched in 2008 by London based sales exec Iain Canning and Austalian producer Emile Sherman. Soon after they hit the big time with The King’s Speech, winner of four Oscars, including best film. Since then, See Saw has produced Steve McQueen’s Shame. See-Saw Films has a first look deal with Momentum Pictures in the UK and has a sister company in Australian/NZ distributor Transmission Films. Credits: The King’s Speech, Oranges and Sunshine, The Kings of Mykonos, Linear.
ShoeBox - Paul Webster
The former boss of FilmFour, Webster recently launched Shoebox with Guy Heeley and director Joe Wright. Shoebox’s first film is Hummingbird starring Jason Statham, which wraps this month. Just before setting up Shoebox, Webster produced Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina, alongside Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. It’s now in post for a likely autumn festival debut. Webster was previously head of Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Picture’s film arm, producing Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Credits: Hummingbird
Shine Pictures – Ollie Madden
Shine Pictures is the film division of Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Group, which is behind Lasse Halstrom’s Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Warner Bros exec Ollie Madden took over running the business from veteran producer Paul Webster last year. Shine Pictures has a joint venture with New Regency, and is producing the Brad Pitt starring The Gray Man, directed by James Gray, through that. Shine is also producing the big screen version of bestselling Scandinavian thriller Three Seconds for New Regency and has a sequel to Eastern Promises set up at Focus Features. Credits: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Brighton Rock, Eastern Promises, Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day.
Slate Films/Potboiler – Andrea Calderwood, Gail Egan
Experienced producers Calderwood and Egan joined forces in 2009 to co-develop a slate while keeping their standalone companies. They’re now making their adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s bestselling novel Half of a Yellow Sun, set during the Nigerian-Biafran War of 1967-1970. Calderwood also produced HBO’s TV drama Generation Kill. Credits: I am Slave, The Last King of Scotland, The Constant Gardener
Sigma Films - Gillian Berrie, David Mackenzie
Scotland’s pre-eminent film production company, the Glasgow based Sigma has produced director David Mackenzie’s films including Young Adam and The Last Great Wilderness. It also has strong links with Danish producer Zentropa, which has seen it contribute to films such as Lars von Trier’s Dogville and Susanne Bier’s After the Wedding. Sigma’s most recent film, Citadel, won the audience award at SXSW. Credits: Red Road, Young Adam, Hallam Foe, Perfect Sense, You Instead.
Sixteen Films - Rebecca O’Brien
Clever, entrepreneurial and viewed as a ‘national treasure’ by one fellow producer, Rebecca O’Brien runs Sixteen Films with Ken Loach. Their latest film, An Angel’s Share, plays in competition at Cannes this month. Sixteen is adept at working with European partners to raise finance for its projects. Credits: Land and Freedom, Sweet Sixteen , The Wind that Shakes the Barley, My Name is Joe, Looking for Eric.
Synchronicity - Colin Vaines
The Weinstein Company’s former head of European production and co-president of Graham King’s GK Films, Vaines returned to freelance production in 2010 having amassed credits including The Gangs of New York. The prolific Vaines was one of the producers of Ralph Fiennes Coriolanus, co-produced Madonna’s directing debut W.E and co-exec produced My Week with Marilyn. Dividing his time between London and LA, he’s now readying the story of gay Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas and a ghost story from Bafta nominated chiller specialist David Pirie. Credits: Coriolanus, W.E.
Toledo Films - Duncan Kenworthy
Kenworthy set up Toledo Pictures in 1995 soon after producing Four Weddings and A Funeral through Working Title, continuing to work with Working Title on Notting Hill and Love Actually. The former chairman of Bafta, his most recent film through Toledo was Kevin Macdonald’s Roman epic The Eagle. Credits: Four Weddings and A Funeral, Notting Hill, Love Actually, The Eagle.
Trademark Films - David Parfitt
Trademark is run by Oscar winning producer David Parfitt and film financier Ivan Mactaggart. Still as tenacious as ever, it recently released My Week With Marilyn which picked up two Oscar nominations. Trademark is best known for its award winning, prestigious dramas like Shakespeare in Love and Madness of King George but is actively developing across a range of genres. Next up is anticipated TV drama Parade’s End, adapted by Tom Stoppard for HBO/BBC. Credits: My Week With Marilyn, Shakespeare in Love, Madness of King George.
Vertigo Films – James Richardson, Alan Niblo, Rupert Preston
Vertigo has carved out an impressive business across production and distribution by knowing its market well and fearlessly backing ever more commercially ambitious films. Over the past few years it’s made a name for itself with an eclectic slate including hits Streetdance and Streetdance 2, as well as Monsters and Horrid Henry. Coming up is The Sweeney, while it is readying a Pusher re-make starring Agyness Deyn. Vertigo also owns Berlin post outfit The Post Republic and is a partner is sales outfit Protagonist Pictures. Credits: The Football Factory, The Business, Bronson, Streetdance 3d, Streetdance 2, Horrid Henry, Monsters
Warp Films - Mark Herbert, Robin Gutch, Peter Carlton
Warp has been behind some of the most distinctive British films of the past decade. Buoyed by the transfer of Shane Meadows’ This Is England from the big to the small screen, the entrepreneurial Warp Films has also been developing its TV business and now has at least four drama and comedy series in the pipeline, including a multinational crime story for Sky Atlantic and Canal Plus with director Kevin Macdonald attached. Warp’s strong relationship with Shane Meadows also continues and he’s shooting his Stone Roses documentary at the moment. Credits: Dead Man’s Shoes, Four Lions, This is England, Submarine, Kill List, Tyrannosaur
Wildgaze Films - Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey
Well respected, old school indie whose most recent credit was the Oscar nominated An Education. Dwyer and Posey recently formalised their partnership to develop and make distinctive, high-end films through Wildgaze. Upcoming features include Nick Hornby adaptation A Long Way Down, which has Pierce Brosnan attached, and Brooklyn, based on Colm Toibin’s best seller, which has Rooney Mara attached. Separately Dwyer has just produced Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet. Credits: An Education, The Hamburg Cell, Fever Pitch, Backbeat
Working Title - Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner
Working Title’s scale, size and success is unique to the British film industry. “There’s no other company that does what it does,” says one rival, who describes it as being like the 51st state of Hollywood. “They are in a category of their own.” Although several of its recent films haven’t matched the commercial success that one expects from the producers of Notting Hill and Bridget Jones, it remains the pre-eminent British production company of its generation, ranking as one of the world’s – not just the UK’s – leading producers. Backed by Universal Pictures through to 2015 via a new first look deal which funds its projects, it’s trusted by the studio to deliver films which marry a British sensibility with Hollywood production values. Working Title has made nearly 100 features since 1983 that have grossed over $5bn at the box office. And that’s not to mention six Oscars and 30 Baftas. The company’s 2012 slate looks strong, and includes Baltasar Kormákur’s Contraband, starring Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale, which recently posted the Working Title’s all-time biggest US box office opening weekend; Les Misérables, by The King’s Speech director Tom Hooper and starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway; and Joe Wright’s epic love story Anna Karenina, starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law. It’s now shooting Rush, the Ron Howard directed film about Formula 1’s Niki Lauda and James Hunt based on a Peter Morgan script, and Closed, the John Crowley-directed film that stars Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall. Working Title also has a burgeoning TV division Working Title TV (WTTV), producing comedy and drama content such as Birdsong and The Borrowers for UK and US broadcasters. Credits: Senna, Green Zone, State of Play, Frost/Nixon, Atonement, Hot Fuzz, United 93, Nanny McPhee, Pride and Prejudice, Love Actually, Johnny English, About a Boy, Bridget Jones’ Diary, High Fidelity, Notting Hill, Elizabeth, Four Weddings and A Funeral, Wish You Were Here, My Beautiful Laundrette.
It’s hard to believe Michael Apted’s ground breaking Up documentary series, which began with 7 Up, is now into late middle age. 56 Up, which screens on ITV this month, sees Apted document the lives of a socially diverse group of people who were first filmed as seven year old children for a World in Action special that broadcast in 1964.
He has filmed them at regular seven year intervals ever since, and his Up series now constitutes a remarkable – and surely unique – portrait of entire lives caught on film. Inspired by then World in Action editor Tim Hewat’s interest in both the Jesuit saying: “Give me the child until he is seven and I will show you the man,” and the rigid class system of 1960s Britain, 7 Up set out to discover whether or not the children’s lives were pre-determined by their background.
Apted has, since then, captured their changing attitudes and thinking at each stage of life, from the early hopes of their school days, through education, work, marriage, children and now grandchildren. But thankfully, says Apted, not until death – yet. All the participants, he says, are still alive and well.
Life, he acknowledges, has become tougher for almost the entire group than it was seven years ago. The economic downturn that began in 2007/8 has had “fairly radical effects on some.”
Their attitudes to life have changed too. “You get the feeling some people have got older and are ready to pack it in while others are ready to go out there hunting around. They are coming to an age when careers are beginning to shut down, and they are thinking of retiring – or not retiring because of their finances.“
The series is also a portrait of a country in flux. “England has changed, but not beyond belief,” says Apted. Class is not so important now, he believes. “The class system has reorganised itself so that the middle class are now the working class, and there’s an underclass who haven’t got jobs and are living on diminished benefits.”
Over time, he adds, the series has become less overtly political. “I think personalities took over around the age of 28, when the film became much more personalised and less political. I think it is still political but the politics is their lives, not opinions or statements about politics. They are living the politics.”
Apted now lives in Hollywood where he has carved out a successful film directing career on features such as Gorky Park and The World Is Not Enough. Between Up shoots he liaises with regular producer Claire Lewis to manage the process of keeping in touch with the participants and organising each production. Lewis has worked on the series since 28 Up. “She keeps in touch with them all and it is all very congenial,” he says.As each seven year cycle comes round, and filming time approaches, they begin “warming the thing up.”
“We start telling the people this is when we are going to do it and then start dealing with their issues, of whether they are or aren’t going to do it…and where they are in their lives. We keep a fairly close eye on what is going on without ever intruding. We don’t want it to become just them checking in every time and the film becoming an update.”
Apted knows many of the contributors well and several have visited him in the US. But he likes to save their full catch up until the very moment of filming. Neither will he tell them what he is going to ask. That, he thinks, keeps the programme feeling fresh and spontaneous.
The production process itself has become rather more straightforward over the years. The crews, he says, are much smaller and the kit less “elephantine”, which means the participants relax more and filming can be more intimate. Apted says he tries to keep the filming simple and “to avoid being fashionable” in a way that might make the films age more quickly and become too readily identified with a certain period. It’s for this reason that there is no music in the series.
The contributors, of course, have changed over the years in the way they deal with Apted. He believes they have become more empowered and proactive in what they want to do and say. “I think that is all to do with the way that age diminishes the difference between us every seven years. They all have their crises and whatever, but in their demeanor they are more in control and that sort of shows in the programme.”
They are also savvier about the media business. Apted thinks the advent of reality TV means it is less of a mystery any more. “People know what goes on and in some ways how to play it.” Besides, he adds: “We have known each other for so long, that I know how far I can go with them and they know how far they will let me go…I know who is never going to tell me anything and those that can’t wait to cough it all up.”
56 Up is on ITV1 on May 14 at 9pm
Born: Aylesbury, 1941
Education: History and Law, Cambridge
Career: Joined Granada TV in 1963 as a trainee. One of his first jobs was as a researcher on World in Action, where he made his mark with 7 Up which was directed by Paul Almond. Apted returned to direct the following episodes in the series, while carving out a successful career as a TV drama and then a prolific film director based in Hollywood. His credits include Gorillas in the Mist, Gorky Park, The World Is Not Enough, Amazing Grace and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He is a former president of the Directors Guild of America.
It’s possible to earn a very good salary in the TV industry. But it’s much tougher to do so if you are a woman, over 45, or at the bottom of the career ladder. Tim Dams reports on the TV industry’s salary secrets
[see DMI Productions' infographic above for the potted version]
First the good news. Many TV industry workers say that their level of pay increased during 2011.
46% of respondents to Televisual’s 17th annual salary survey said their earnings rose year on year, a particularly impressive figure at a time when many workers in other industries have seen their rates of pay flatline in this era of austerity and budget cuts.
The salaries for key jobs in the TV industry are also well above the national average of £26.2k. A producer, for example, can expect to earn an average of £44.9k, a production manager £38.5k and an editor £40.2k.
Indeed, the TV industry can provide a route to impressive wealth for those at the top of the tree. Our survey, based on the responses of 611 Televisual readers (see box on page 36 for an explanation of how it works), reveals an indie md and a script writer earning £500k, an indie chief exec on £300k, a DoP on £200k and a colourist and a post house technology director on £160k. The survey also records plenty of executive producers earning over £100k.
Now for the bad news. A majority of TV workers said their pay rates had either stayed the same (33%) or fallen (19.6%) during 2011.
Pay at the entry level end of the industry also remains very low – £14.5k for a runner, £20k for a researcher and £21k for a bookings job in a post house.
Mind the pay gap
Alarmingly for an industry that prides itself on being liberal and open, Televisual’s salary survey also provides clear evidence of a pay gap between men and women. The average salary for the men responding to the survey is £56k, while it is £49k for a woman.
It’s a point noted by many of the female respondents to the survey. “It would appear there is still a pay gap between men and women doing the same work – and men are still earning more,” notes one producer. A dubbing mixer on £25k adds: “Female salaries in my place of work are still shockingly much lower than my male counterparts. In my case I earn less than one third of what my colleague earns.”
And it’s not just because many women drop out of the workplace after childbirth, argue several respondents. “Women still get paid considerably less than men,” argues one head of development. “Even before they have children – so often cited as a reason – there is a huge gap.” Other women suspect they are being paid less than their male colleagues, but say it’s hard to be sure: “I have always worried that my rate of pay is less than would be given to a man, but it is usually impossible to find out,” writes one female series producer.
Many respondents also argue that the TV industry is ageist too. “I think my salary is reducing due to my age,” says one 63-year-old director. “Telly is a young man’s game.” Many middle aged and older production staff argue that it’s becoming ever harder to compete against younger, less experienced – but often cheaper – rivals. The survey backs this up – 41-45 year olds earn the highest average salary as a group, after which earnings decline over the years.
As in previous years, the survey reveals an industry that is increasingly polarised. Senior executives and top talent appear to be doing very well compared to those working at the coal-face of production who complain that their salaries have not changed in years and indeed have been eroded by high inflation.
“The pay in production companies is a bit like the rich versus poor gap in the UK in general,” argues one production co-ordinator. “There is a lot at the top end, peanuts at the bottom end and no middle ground.” One exec producer notes that, “there is still a huge gulf between what on-screen talent earns compared to those who make the shows in which they feature.”
A 60 year old editor uses his long experience to offer this perspective: “Salaries are relatively a lot lower for mid-level workers than 20-30 years ago, but for the top execs they are rather higher.”
Television’s squeezed middle
Many others point to the existence of a squeezed middle in TV. “Execs are overpaid! PDs are underpaid and undervalued,” is the cry of another filmmaker. “The creative salaries have risen over the past 10 years while production salaries have stayed more or less static,” notes one head of production. “At the top end of indie production I have no doubt individuals are earning a lot more than those, like us, working in the micro-indie sector where survival is a top priority,” comments an indie md.
The consensus of opinion in the salary survey points to average earnings stagnating in television, with many respondents saying that their day rates have stayed the same for many years. One Al-Jazeera producer/reporter, for example, complains that his salary has not risen in four years. A freelance production co-ordinator says she hasn’t received a pay rise at the BBC for eight years. An editor reports that, “TV editor wages haven’t risen in 10 years at least.” Likewise a freelance sound recordist says his rate has not changed in five years, while a director adds that his daily rate is now less than it was five years ago. “Wages across the industry have remained static for 10 years,” argues a colourist (on an admittedly good salary of £75k). “Wages will not and cannot increase until budgets do. I keep on wondering when we will ‘hit the wall’”. A director notes: “Director-producer rates have been pretty stagnant for the last few years – around £200 per day or £1200 per week all in and sometimes this has to include holiday rates.
Indeed the words ‘static’ and ‘stagnant’ crop up time and again in the salary survey. “Salaries have reached a depressing plateau,” writes one producer on £50k. “My salary has not changed in over six years with no bonuses or salary rises. It’s insane that a freelance producer is earning virtually the same day rate as 10 years ago. We are an industry with no income protection, and yet the perception is that we are all highly paid.”
And many point out that because of inflation, they are effectively taking a pay cut. One exec producer points out: “Rates for factual or factual entertainment directors have not improved in many years. They have been eroded as budgets fail to keep up with inflation and because of broadcasters’ own budget cuts. The knock-on effect of this is that the good directors in our industry are finding it difficult to get the financial rewards they deserve so instead move into series producing and executive roles.”
And a producer with 17 years experience in the business adds: “Salaries in the TV industry have not risen with inflation in the entire time I have been working.” Another veteran producer provides a useful perspective on the issue: “I engage hundreds of people each year. Remuneration, from headline salaries to per diems, has not gone up – and in many cases has fallen – in actual (not ‘real’) terms over the 14 years I have been a drama producer. The real term erosion of the standard of living of even those who do find regular work has been enormous.”
long hours, no overtime
At the same time as rates remaining stagnant, there’s also a common feeling that production staff are expected to work longer hours and do more for the money. “There’s lots of unpaid overtime expected by employers with no prospect of a return to pay rises,” explains a lighting director. “You have to work harder, for longer and do everything,” adds a 41 year old producer/director. “My pay includes no overtime despite many extra hours worked,” points out a production assistant on £15k a year. “It’s unfair how much salaries are being tightened as schedules are being shortened and hours are extending. It makes you resent working on a show by the end of it,” says a series producer. A director, meanwhile, adds: “It seems like you do three jobs for the price of one.”
Others claim that some of the practices in the TV industry would be illegal in any other business. “At the bottom end, you are expected to work over your contracted hours all the time for no extra pay,” notes a production co-ordinator on £18k a year. “Most companies don’t want to pay freelancers any overtime, although they want you to work 12 or more hours a day. I have never been offered any holiday pay…and get laughed at if it is suggested they pay,” says a DoP.
Many also struggle to provide exact details of their daily rates because they have to do so much overtime. Says one producer/director: “It’s difficult to answer the question about ‘daily rate’. Most contracts for folk in documentary production teams are buy-outs, so you work until the job is done, without overtime or days off in lieu. I’ve done jobs where I have worked between 14 and 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for nearly a month at a time. You still get paid your flat rate while your cameraperson, soundperson, and then editor are all paid overtime.”
Others cite a myriad of complaints about how pay is suppressed in the TV industry. “Engagements are shorter – days and not weeks. But then fixed sum agreements are often strained by increased production periods and changes caused by multiple execs, particularly at the BBC,” says one script writer, who talks of five layers of management between a producer and a channel head on one project he worked on.
A camera operator says his salary has effectively been eroded by employers setting a 12-hour day, or wanting large amounts of travel mileage included in the rate. An AP adds that there is great pressure on levels of pay – mostly by shortening production periods and forcing freelances to work harder. “I often work extra hours, unpaid, to get the job done.”
Others point out that a weekly rate of, say, £1,500 for a series producer looks good on paper. But because of the freelance and intermittent nature of TV production, it’s very difficult to earn over £30k on that salary.
does experience count?
Indeed, many say they are powerless to fight for better rates or for overtime pay. Respondents cite a ‘like it or leave it attitude’ from employers.
Because, they say, employers are able to play on the great fear that there are many others out there, particularly younger workers, who would be prepared to take on the work at cheaper rates. “Younger people are being recruited and appointed to many senior positions simply to justify lower rates of pay,” notes one 62-year-old exec producer.
“Too many youngsters are taking on too much for too little and destroying their own future earning potential,” complains one director. An editor says: “Too many desperate graduates are affecting salaries generally – and production companies take full advantage.”
“Experience does not count, except when it comes to fixing the mistakes of other cheaper, less experienced and more readily hired colleagues,” says one story producer.
There are multiple complaints that wages in post production, particularly, are depressed. “They are shockingly low – less than the average London receptionist,” says one person working in bookings on £15.5k. One colourist worries that “fewer and fewer people will see post production as a viable career choice unless they can earn a decent wage.”
Indeed, for the first time in the salary survey there is evidence of production staff looking abroad for better pay and conditions. One editor reports that pay in Los Angeles is on average one third higher than in London. A script supervisor who has just moved to Australia reports that: “Working hours and conditions are much better in Australia. I was very surprised to find that most productions work five day weeks not 11 day fortnights. Plus they don’t do buy outs... you get paid overtime plus extras.”
Not all of the feedback to the survey is negative, however. Specialist technical and operational skills continue to pay well and are even rising. “Salaries are going up in engineering,” notes one outside broadcast exec who says there is a shortage of really experienced people in the sector.
Others admit that once a person builds up a track record in television, rates of pay improve. “Once you are established, it’s well paid,” says one editor. “But before being established, exploitative pay is the norm.”
And there are riches to be had for those that pursue them doggedly. An executive producer earning £75k argues: “TV is now a hit business – there is no ‘middle market’. So if you create a hit you earn megabucks, if you make small shows you get paid peanuts. It’s now a totally open market which is exciting and also very insecure.”