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Production Technology Survey, 2017 - the full results

It can sometimes be very difficult to keep up. New cameras, editing kit and supporting technology are launched into the market each year, promising to enhance creative possibilities, bring down costs or boost productivity.

Televisual’s Production Technology Survey attempts to cut through this hype, asking our readers to tell us what they are using to make their shows – and which kit they rate.

We have focused on a number of key areas. First, we take the temperature of the rapidly evolving camera market. The big change this year is that Sony’s FS7 has eclipsed Canon’s C300 as the most popular model, with a now dominant position in factual production.

Next we focus on the take up of 4K and HDR. For the first time, more than half of our respondents said they have shot in 4K over the past year. HDR, meanwhile, looks set for a slow pick up; only 8% have been asked to deliver content in HDR, up slightly from 7% last year. It’s a similar story for virtual reality; very few of our respondents producing VR content.

We also look at the editing market. Here Avid Media Composer remains the leading software platform, but Adobe Premiere is gaining in popularity. Finally, we profile new and specialist kit that programme makers are using to enhance their productions, such as handheld stabilisers and drones.

To read the full Production Technology Survey, visit the Reports and Surveys section of

Posted 17 August 2017 by Tim Dams

Lessons from MAMA

Diversity – or the lack of it – has become the big talking point in TV. Amid all the debate, one organisation, MAMA Youth Project, has been actively doing something about it – for the past ten years.

Set up as a charity in 2007, MAMA Youth takes a hands-on approach to boosting the numbers of disadvantaged people in television – not only people of colour, but all disadvantaged groups, black or white.

So far, 392 people have been trained by MAMA Youth, most through a 13-week course which sees them learn on the job while making Sky One youth magazine show What’s Up TV. The course runs twice a year. 24 entrants go through an intensive initial bout of training. They apply to train in one specific role such as production, camera, sound or editing. The training is provided by execs from companies such as the BBC, Sky, Endemol Shine and Procam. The group then work as a team under an experienced exec, producer and two APs to create 6x30-mins of What’s Up.

What’s Up is produced out of MAMA Youth’s offices, provided by Sky at its Osterley HQ. When Televisual visited, some of the trainees were working up ideas for the next show, from current affairs investigations to entertainment interviews. Others were cutting footage in the MAMA Youth edit suites.

98% of its participants, says founder Bob Clarke, get an immediate short-term contract in TV. And 82% are still in TV after 12 months. “For a freelance industry, that is good,” he points out.

Bella Lambourne, HR director at Endemol Shine UK, says MAMA Youth is ‘hugely valuable’ for the role it plays in attracting people from different backgrounds to the industry. The superindie offered 16 paid work placements to MAMA Youth students last year. She describes the people who come out of MAMA Youth as “much more work ready, capable and keen” than those who come in via other routes. 

MAMA Youth alumni Laura Rouxel, took the course in 2011. The course, she says, was ‘brilliant’, because students learn on the job. She’s now an AP on shows like Mock The Week.

An experienced TV editor, Clarke was inspired to launch MAMA Youth when a colleague commented to him that there were not enough black people in the industry. “The same person had said that to me about 20 years before. I thought, ‘I’ve been here for twenty years and what have I done about it?’”

One of the most important parts of the course, explains director of operations Cristina Ciobanu (who herself went through the MAMA Youth training programme) comes at the start – recruitment. MAMA Youth has on average 240 applicants for 24 places. Of these, 80 are interviewed. It is vital to understand what support they might need during the course, she says. Some might be homeless and living in a hostal, or be coping with depression, or may have recently come from prison. But the ones that make it through to the programme, she says, have one thing in common – the motivation to change their life and put in 100% effort.

Clarke began MAMA Youth very much on the fly, while working as a freelance editor and funding it out of his own pocket. He recruited his first group of talent back in 2005. Together, they produced the What’s Up show to broadcast standards for DVD. They met in hotel meeting rooms, and even restaurants. 10,000 copes of the DVD were given away free. “I thought we could get advertisers for the second show. But it didn’t work,” admits Clarke.

But he learned from the experience, and MAMA Youth re-emerged as an official charity in 2007, producing What’s Up for DVD. Slowly but surely, TV companies came knocking on MAMA Youth’s door. In 2010, the Community Channel asked to run What’s Up on its service. Then came a crucial meeting with former Sky md Sophie Turner Laing. It led, ultimately, to Sky acquiring the show in 2011 for Sky3. In 2015, it was commissioned by Sky 1.

MAMA Youth, stresses Clarke, doesn’t exist for the show. “We exist to get young people in to TV,” he explains. “The show is a by product of this.” The charity has also expanded its training, launching digital media workshops. Still, it’s a challenge for MAMA Youth to make ends meet. Sky and the BBC are its principal funders (it costs £600k to run the charity). Clarke would like to spread that financial burden more evenly through the industry, which he notes benefits from the work MAMA Youth is doing.

Meanwhile, MAMA Youth says it is putting in more effort to help alumni get on in the industry. Clarke says a big concern is the ‘exodus’ of BAME talent. “So many are leaving. Their credits and credentials are all good. But they see others bypass them for jobs. Something has to be done to stop the loss of talent.” While not a fan of quotas, Clarke thinks they might be needed to help BAME talent move into senior roles.

To date, he thinks diversity debates and schemes have had limited impact. And that, says Clarke, is what MAMA Youth is interested in. “In ten years time, we want to have made an impact on the industry.”

Profile: Bob Clarke
MAMA Youth founder Bob Clarke didn’t have a conventional route into TV. He joined the army at 17 – partly, he says, to avoid getting caught up in trouble. He stayed 14 years. “It taught me so much – that being hard was about more than fighting. It meant facing up to everyday challenges.”

After the army, Clarke got a job in a video duplication warehouse. Then came ‘a life changing moment,’ when he was offered the chance to train as a VT operator. “I knew what it meant – that I was on a career path and could earn a decent salary.”

That moment, says Clarke, is the essence of MAMA Youth and what motivates it to help others find a job in TV.

Clarke went on to work as an editor on light ent, news and docs, eventually setting up his own facility – MAMA Productions, which led to the formation of MAMA Youth.

Clarke’s spell in the army, meanwhile, underpins the training at MAMA Youth (which he describes as a ‘boot camp’). “The British army are the best trainers in the world.”

Posted 17 August 2017 by Tim Dams

Boom or bust for the UK studio sector?

For a business that is based on bricks and mortar, it’s notable how dynamic the studio sector is.

New studios are being developed in all corners of the UK – in Scotland (Pentland Studios), Wales (Wolf Studios Wales), Northern Ireland (Belfast Harbour) and England (Dagenham, Liverpool).

Meanwhile, existing studios are busy expanding. Pinewood recently applied for planning permission to build another three sound stages. This comes on top of the five it opened last July. Elstree has finance and approval for a 21,000 sq ft stage on its backlot area. It also intends to build a smaller stage of approximately 11,000 sq ft. Space Studios Manchester (formerly The Space Project) is in the midst of building a sixth stage, measuring 30,000 sq. ft.,  part of a £14m expansion plan. The BBC’s redevelopment of Television Centre will finish in September, with three TV studios returning to market.

However, this building boom is predominantly focused on sound stages for drama and film. Studio bosses are looking to make the most of record levels of film and drama production in the UK (which hit £2.1bn in 2016). “Business has continued to be buoyant”, says Fiona Francombe, site director of Bristol’s The Bottle Yard Studios, citing bookings such as Poldark, Trollied and Broadchurch. Twickenham Studios COO Maria Walker says: “We have hugely benefitted from the rise of high end television drama.”

By comparison, fully equipped TV studios – with galleries and shiny floors – are finding business more challenging. They may be busy, but many TV studio execs say that budgets for TV shows remain under pressure (although production aspirations are higher than ever) with studios taking a hit.

At the same time, running a TV studio is expensive; the cost of upgrading them to ever higher technical standards continues to rise.  It’s a very seasonal business too, with January and August notoriously quiet months; demand reaches a peak in June and July, then October and November.

Television studios say they are having to squeeze in ever more shows and to work harder to make a decent return.

Many well known TV studios, like Fountain and Teddington, have closed after being sold to property developers – an indication that its owners think they can make more money elsewhere.The London Studios also closes next year when ITV redevelops the space. 

“The closure of those studios proves how challenging it is,” says Pinewood’s head of TV Sarah McGettigan.

Pinewood’s three dedicated TV studios are consistently busy, making shows such as Would I Lie To You. But Pinewood hasn’t gained a huge amount of work as a result of the London studio closures, McGettingan adds. That’s partly due to scheduling issues – with so many shows wanting to shoot at the same, peak times of the year, it’s very difficult to fit in any more into a finite space.

Over at Elstree Studios, managing director Roger Morris agrees that the studio hasn’t seen a huge uplift as a result of the closures, adding that the studios have been busy for the past five years. Elstree partners with BBC Studioworks, which provides technical facilities and expertise for shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Let It Shine which are made at the studio. “We provide the stages, and the BBC provides the kit and technical infrastructure,” says Morris. “It works very well.”

Elstree is also home to dramas like The Crown. Morris says the drama boom has been welcome, particularly as it has made up for a collapse in lower budget film production. But, he notes, not all TV dramas are heavy users of studios – many will be based at a studio, but will shoot on location.

BBC Studioworks plans to maintain a strong presence at its own Elstree base when Television Centre reopens in September. It has already confirmed its first booking: The Jonathan Ross Show.

Head of studios John O’Callaghan says TVC will be a turnaround facility, aiming to record as many days a week as possible by re-setting overnight. “The key is having a good balance of long-term shows which can be in the studios for many weeks and also fast turnaround topical shows.”

What’s clear, though, is that much of the growth in studios comes from drama and film. Many would concur with Adrian Bleasdale, chief executive of Space Studios Manchester: “It’s incredibly busy,” he says.

The primary competition for Space Studios Manchester is warehouses on industrial estates which have been adapted for filming. For example, a former council depot in Hartlepool is set to be converted into a film studio. Screen Yorkshire has converted a former aircraft hangar at Church Fenton into a studio, home to ITV hit Victoria. Bleasdale stresses that producers have to think ‘beyond just the box of the studio’ when selecting a studio space. He says that Space Studios Manchester offers its own ‘ecosystem’ for film and TV – from art departments to medics and camera and lighting hire.  As a purpose built studio, he points out that its sound stages are “super silent air-conditioned and acoustically treated for reverberation and noise ingress.”

Over at Pinewood, corporate affairs director Andrew Smith says the company is seeing “sustained growth in film and high end TV”. He worries about new studios being built in all corners of the UK, saying that the industry should “build on existing centres of excellence” and is in danger of “spreading the jam too thin.” Looking ahead, Smith identifies skills shortages as a risk for the industry. “This needs to be addressed immediately.”

But like many of his counterparts, Smith is quietly optimistic about the year ahead. “The level of productions that are being made and coming down the line is encouraging.”

This article is taken from Televisual's 2017 Studio Report. To see the full report, which has profiles of the UK's top studios, visit the reports and surveys section of

Posted 10 August 2017 by Tim Dams

Film 40 now available to read online

Want to know who are the top 40 film producers in the UK? Or the leading directors of photography?

Then have a look at The Film 40 2017, Televisual’s comprehensive report on the UK film industry which is now available to read in full – and for free – in our reports and surveys section.

First published in the magazine in May, the Film 40 lists and profiles the UK’s most influential film producers.

From Aardman through to Working Title, they are producers with a track record of creative and financial success in the film industry.

The report also showcases the leading film studios, such as Pinewood and Warner Bros Leavesden, which are hosting increasing numbers of big budget Hollywood shoots. 

There’s also a ranking of the UK’s top ten directors of photography, as well as an overview of Soho’s busy film vfx sector.

Posted 05 July 2017 by Tim Dams

Behind the scenes: Riviera

Expensive, starry, glamorous and international, Riviera is a perfect example of how British drama has scaled up in the past five years. Looking to tap in to the global demand for big budget, cinematic shows, Sky has pushed the boat out with Riviera – set in the world of the super rich in the south of France.

Part family drama and part thriller, it stars Julia Stiles as an art dealer and wife of a billionaire banker who dies in a yacht explosion – which sets of a chain of events that exposes the darker flipside to the Riviera’s glitz and glamour.

Executive producer Liza Marshall politely declines to reveal the budget for the show but, she admits, it was “always going to be expensive.”

That’s because, early on, Sky and the producers agreed that the French Riviera itself is a key character in the show – meaning that it had to be shot on location rather than created out of a composite of, say, Croatia and England. The Riviera is, of course, famously beautiful – and also famously pricey.

The scale of the ten-part drama is underlined by series producer Foz Allen, who spent the best part of a year in the south of France overseeing the production. “It was a big old beast of a show,” says Allen, rattling off a few stats to make his point: 9,726 extras, 16,814 meals served, 132 days shooting and 3380 scenes completed.

The production was based at Studios Riviera in Nice, and shot in locations including Cannes, Monaco, Nice and Grasse, making use of super-yachts, helicopters, luxury hotels, mansions and fast cars along the way. It was funded by Sky, distributor Sky Vision and France’s generous Tax Rebate for International Production (TRIP), which rose from 20% to 30% of budget in 2016.

The idea for the show came from Paul McGuinness, the former manager of U2, who has a house in the South of France and thought the Riviera would be a great place to set a drama. Oscar winning writer Neil Jordan then came on board and created the world of Georgina and the Clios family, in a script that was co-written by John Banville.

Marshall took the project to Sky’s head of drama Anne Mensah who was immediately enthusiastic. Says Marshall: “It sits brilliantly in their mix of programming. It’s sunny, lavish, has an international cast, is set abroad and is about the extremely wealthy – most other broadcasters would have been nervous about it.”

Riviera was greenlit very quickly in early 2016, and then started shooting in August. (One difficult and unexpected challenge was that principal photography began a few weeks after the terrorist attack in Nice).

Philipp Kadelbach, who made his name with German hit drama Generation War, was the lead director, and set the tone with DoP Laurie Rose (Fleabag, Peaky Blinders, London Spy).

They played up the strong colours and shades of the South of France, watching Jean-Luc Goddard’s classic Mediterranean set Le Mepris for inspiration. “We wanted it to be bright, colourful and filmic,” says Marshall.  Riviera was shot on the Arri Alexa, as well as the Alexa Mini.

Meanwhile, the production had to adhere to strict French employment rules, which meant Riviera could only shoot for five days a week and overtime was not allowed. “It’s very strict, but we just accepted it and built it into the budget and made it work,” says Marshall.

As a story about the super rich set in the art world, both the costumes and the sets had to look just right. The painting at the heart of the mystery is by Claude Lorrain. “We clearly couldn’t have a real Lorrain on set – the insurance would be prohibitive – so we had these extraordinary copies made,” says Marshall.

McGuiness, meanwhile, called up artist Jeff Koons, who allowed the production to use one of his La Cicciolina pictures, shown in the first scene at auction. The show also worked with Bond Street gallery The Halcyon who became its art curators. Says executive producer Kris Thykier: “The central character is a curator – it’s about her eye and her taste – and so we needed to put together a collection that was a testament to her skill. It’s a combination of great masterworks and also some extremely interesting newer artists, which I think will certainly pop in the show.

The costumes, meanwhile, were overseen by costume designer Emma Fryer, who “shopped a lot in high end fashion boutiques in London and the Riviera.” Thykier explains: “Wherever possible it’s great couture – fantastic clothing from huge designers. The detail of the show is in the shoes and the watches and the bags. The fact is that trying to create the world of the super-rich is about fine attention to detail.”

Riviera is available from June 15 on Sky Atlantic and Now TV.

Georgina (Julia Stiles) is newly married to billionaire Constantine Clios when he is killed in a yacht explosion. She is shocked to discover the fortune that maintained his lifestyle is tainted with dishonesty, crime, and ultimately murder. Helped by Constantine’s first wife, Georgina undergoes an education in lying, theft and criminality to maintain the Clios mansion and save the family from its enemies and itself.

Broadcaster Sky Atlantic
Production companies Archery Pictures, Primo Productions
Executive producers Neil Jordan, Liza Marshall, Kris Thykier, Paul McGuiness
Commissioners Zai Bennett, Anne Mensah, Cameron Roach
Lead director Philip Kadelbach
Writers Neil Jordan, John Banville
Producer Foz Allen
DoP Laurie Rose
Cast Julia Stiles, Lena Olin, Anthony LaPaglia, Iwan Rheon, Adrian Lester, Phil Davis
Worldwide distribution Sky Vision
Camera Arri Alexa

Posted 15 June 2017 by Tim Dams

Interview: Damon Beesley, Fudge Park

The comparisons with The Inbetweeners, admits Damon Beesley, are inevitable.

After all, White Gold is the first comedy he’s written and directed since the global success of The Inbetweeners.

But White Gold, he says, is rather different. Beesley describes the show, about Essex double glazing salesmen in 1983, as a comedy drama – one that follows the outrageous highs and lows of its lead character, played by Ed Westwick. “The Inbetweeners was faster paced. I knew going into the next thing, it was not going to hit the joke rate.”

But there are plenty of similarities. Two of The Inbetweeners’ lead characters, Joe Thomas and James Buckley, also star. There are plenty of outrageous jokes too. Beesley also notes the parallels between a sixth form common room and a double glazing showroom, which he describes as being populated with stunted, competitive children living in an adult world.

Beesley says the idea for White Gold pre-dates The Inbetweeners. “It’s 35 years in the making,” he explains. His dad was a double glazing salesman in the 1980s and used to bring 12-year old Damon to the showroom. “It stuck with me. There’s a lot of my dad in it. He was in my head when I was writing it.”

Well received at its press screening last month, White Gold has a brilliant, filmic opening scene which sees Westwick preening himself for work (with copious hairspray) while listening to Laura Branigan’s 1980s hit Gloria, all the while making asides direct to camera. Beesley readily acknowledges the influence of Martin Scorsese’s similarly 1980s set The Wolf of Wall Street. “I watched it and thought this is the way you do it. You have to lean in to the character’s terrible behaviour.”

White Gold is the first outing for Fudge Park, the indie that Beesley set up in 2015 with fellow Inbetweeners creator Iain Morris. Fudge Park is also producing Ill Behaviour, written by Sam Bain (Peep Show) and is set to make its first movie for release next year.

White Gold airs on BBC2 tonight

Posted 24 May 2017 by Tim Dams

Behind the scenes: The Trial

Nick Holt and Kath Mattock, the directors of Channel 4’s The Trial, explain how they created a fictional court case to reveal the hidden complexities of a murder trial

The Trial is a five-part hybrid drama doc series stripped across one week on C4 which aims to reveal the inner workings of the justice system. In it, a fictional crime is authentically tried by a team including QCs, a judge and a jury. The only actors include the accused – a man pleading not guilty for the murder of his wife - and some of the witnesses. It aims to reveal the inner workings of the justice system.

How did The Trial come about?
Nick Holt I’d previously spent nearly two years in Scotland researching and making The Murder Trial for Channel 4. I’d spent a great deal of time looking at cases and then contacting all those involved - from lawyers, to victims’ families, to the accused -seeking permission to film the trials. It was incredibly difficult getting all the consents needed. There were so many interesting cases sailing past our noses we couldn’t get to. So we created a fictional case.

Tell about your approach to making the film?
NH It was almost like making a nature documentary, we baited the traps, edged back, erected hides and shot the lawyers in their natural habit on the rig. As soon as the door of the court closed it was vital the trial – and court – behaved exactly like a real one. I’d seen a drama called Murder on the BBC and was fascinated about how they’d used documentary grammar in a fictional/drama setting. I contacted Kath Mattock, the producer, and we always ended up talking about the space between drama and documentary, what could one unlock in the other.

Kath Mattock I’m an avid watcher of documentary - I never feel like I know where it’s going to go. Drama narratively can feel very predictable and controlled, almost sealed off. The most recent drama I made, Murder for BBC2, which also involved intensive trial research, was all told in direct to camera testimony, CCTV and archive footage and was largely inspired by Errol Morris’ film The Thin Blue Line. This direct access to characters has an impact. It breaks the fourth wall of drama.

Tell us about the development process
NH We knew the two key aspects to this were seeing into the world of the lawyers and a jury. Both are entirely off limits as far as the UK legal system is concerned. We wanted a case that felt ‘normal’. With the help of writer Sarah Quintrell, we went for a case that jurors might see themselves in, a domestic setting rather than, say, a gang related murder. We kept as close to the real jury selection process as possible. In our case we filmed in a recently decommissioned Crown court in Newbury. We then sent letters to homes within that catchment area saying they’d been selected for jury service – the only difference being our letters referenced C4 rather than the CPS. We then had a large pool of potential jurors available during our shoot dates. As in real life, they turned up for jury selection and 12 names were randomly selected by the court clerk.

We wanted lawyers who were going to embrace the series. They needed to be comfortable with the premise (many weren’t) and willing to share the tricks of the trade. We were delighted with Max Hill QC and Michelle Nelson prosecuting and John Ryder QC and Lucy Organ defending. A very experienced judge would also be needed to oversee proceedings. We were incredibly fortunate to find the Rt Hon Brian Barker CBE QC who’d recently retired. No one alive has judged more murders at the Old Bailey.

How did you prepare for the shoot?

NH Preparation for filming was single handedly the biggest aspect of the production. For the lawyers to feel they were trying a real case, they needed all the evidential bundles they’d expect in a real case. We ended up creating some 800 pages of evidence with all the requisite witness statements, phone logs, CCTV material, forensic, police and SOCO material. We also had to cast the case. It was important we cast actors who could adapt to the live element of the court. Many of the witness were giving evidence live – unscripted – for hours on end. It was vital they, and their stories, could hold up to intense scrutiny.

KM We shot all the police interviews as improvised pre-trial as they had to be served as evidence along with all the CCTV which gave a real exciting sense of how this was going to come together. Led by ex-officers in real time, it gave a measure of what we were dealing with at two and three hour stretches.

The actors were totally immersed in their own timelines for the above and we refreshed this before we went into court. Each day in court had an actor pre-meet and was responding in some way as the trial evolved. The QCS approached it diligently and adversarially as they would a normal trial and day in court. As for the jury, they started out excited, then entered into the world of the story and the burden of decision took a real weight by the end. Shooting the scripted and the additional archive was relatively straight forward!

What were the key challenges of making it?
KM Staging the court case as a two week event that ran as close to a real trial as possible. It placed extraordinary demands on the actors. We rehearsed and developed the characters and story with the actors over a two week period.

What kit did you use?
NH We shot the courtroom on the rig. We used near 40 rig cameras throughout the building. As in real cases, there’s a great deal of personal phone, video and stills material. The drama scenes were shot on an Arri Alexa.

Did the series change significantly in post production?
KM Balancing the reveal of the story over five episodes and the balance of court experience to interview to exterior court room material was constantly evolving. Much of the density and detail of the story we had created just couldn't hold in five hours; the sheer volume of material was overwhelming for a period before it really started to take shape .

The Trial starts on Sunday 21 May at 9pm on C4

Broadcaster C4
Indie Dragonfly, part of Endemol Shine Group
Commissioning editors David Brindley, Amy Flanagan
Exec producers Jon Smith, Emma Loach
Directors Nick Holt, Kath Mattock
Series producer Hamish Fergusson 
Producer Andy Litvin
Writer Sarah Quintrell
Line Producer Kat Young
DOPs Simon Tindall, Carlos Catalan
Designer David Bryan
Editors Ben Brown, Richard Graham, Martin McDonnell, Simon McMahon, Chris Nicholls

Posted 18 May 2017 by Tim Dams

Televisual Salary Survey 2017: the results

Pay is always a contentious and divisive subject in TV and production. There’s little transparency or uniformity in pay across the industry, with many people earning different rates for the same job even at the same company.

The Televisual Salary Survey attempts to shed some light on the issue, asking our readers to let us know (anonymously) about their pay rates over the past year. We had over 600 replies to this year’s survey, which form the basis of calculations below.

It is important to stress that they are only a rough guide, given how widely pay can vary for each job. Broadcasting union Bectu is also a good source for minimum rates for certain key jobs.

First the headline findings. The median average annual earnings have risen since last year’s survey, up from £45k to £46.9k.

This 4.2% rise in pay chimes with the fact that the majority of our respondents (53%) say that their salaries have increased over the past year, while 33% say they have stayed the same and 14% that they have fallen.

The rise is likely driven by buoyant levels of production in the UK, with plenty of shows in production helping to support levels of pay, particularly in sectors such as drama and film.

Drama is comfortably the best-paid television genre, with a median salary of £55k, well above other genres such as news (£36.5k) or documentaries (£45k).

Meanwhile, commercials is the best rewarded of the production sectors with a median salary of £55k, above indie TV (£52.5k), film (£50k) or corporate (£40k).

Some of our survey respondents confirm the upward pay trend too. “In drama, salaries have risen with the increase in volume and scale of work,” reports one drama producer, who calls the rise “about time too” after a long period of stagnation.

A freelance editor adds: “Overall I feel that there’s a slow upward trend, or at least I’ve had less people arguing over rates and a more realistic approach to payment. It’s still a struggle to get BECTU minimums but more seem willing to adhere to them, or at least get near.”

Still, it’s surprising how little positive feedback about pay levels there is within the industry. Many say their earnings have risen after flat lining for years – and then only in return for doing much more.

Says one self-shooting director: “The downward pressure on salaries for shooting directors and shooting PDs has eased in the last 12 months or so with the possibility of negotiating small increases. But wages are still below where they where and where they should be considering the hours, the expectations, the responsibilities and the multiple roles performed (camera, sound, directing, producing...) all at once.”

There’s also a widespread belief that salaries have not increased equally. Many in production departments – such as producers, production managers, line producers and co-ordinators – complain that their pay has not increased in line with their editorial and technical counterparts.

Others complain about the “extortionate amounts’ paid to top levels of crew and to top talent. Many in post production also say they are the ones who are most feeling the downward pressure on programme budgets. “Editors pay hasn’t moved for 20 years,” says one editor. “The minimum BECTU rates are £305 per day. Many employers are coming way under, some by £50 a day.”

Pay rates in London still outpace those in the nations and regions too. The median pay in London is £50k; outside it is £40k. Our survey shows that the annual earnings of a London based producer director are £55k, while one in Bristol earns £52.9k. Meanwhile, a production manager in London might earn £52k, compared to one in Brighton on £36k.

The high costs of London, however, eat into any perceived pay advantages that the capital might have, say many respondents. “My wage might go up a little when I demand it, but the rising cost of rent and living in London means that my friends and I don’t feel any more well-off,” says one edit assistant on £25k. “My rent, despite being fairly low compared to others, is still over half of my take-home pay. I earn less than most of my friends who work outside of the industry.”

Pay levels at the entry level of the industry remain a huge cause of concern. Runners, for example, earn an average of £11k a year. Says one series producer (on £51k): “I think the pay for runners is shocking and it concerns me how often they work for less than minimum wage due to long hours on a weekly rate. I don’t allow this on my productions but am shocked how indies don’t seem to recognise this issue.”

One runner reports: “There are still companies offering work below National Minimum Wage. Last year, I was offered £425 a week for a rotating six day week on location for a prime time BBC1 programme, which is well known for doing 16-17 hour days. It is getting beyond tedious going to interviews and finding this is what a company thinks is acceptable.”

Many at the lower end of the pay scale say that production is rewarding only for the well connected few. One sound recordist says: “I never find enough work to live on.  A small percentage of professionals get the lion’s share of the work whilst others like me struggle to get a foot in the door.”

And it’s often those supported by the bank of mum and dad who can afford to stay in the business. Competition to break into the industry is so high that employers can offer low salaries knowing that a young person will take it. A runner laments: “The only runners who can afford to progress are the ones bankrolled by wealthy parents. These subsidised runners are our future producers. In 10 years time posh kids will rule TV and output will be one dimensional.”

Once again, the Salary Survey highlights that women tend to earn less than men. The median pay for a man is £51.2k, and £40k for a woman. It’s a source of much comment from female respondents to the survey. “I know that less qualified blokes earn more than me,” says one female AP.

A female producer adds: “Freelance women, particularly in the more junior editorial roles, generally ask for a lower rate than men due to less self-confidence in their experience/abilities and less desire to play hard ball on rates.”
This comment only emphasises how the production industry is one where there is huge variation as well as lack of clarity on pay rates. As such it naturally favours people who negotiate hard without knowing exactly what their counterparts are earning. But, hopefully, the Salary Survey has provided a little extra ammunition for that next negotiation.

How our pay survey works
Televisual emailed readers asking them to respond anonymously to our online salary survey. We asked what they were paid in 2016, and for details about their age, gender, job and geography. We had 615 responses in all.

The annual figures quoted in the article are based on median earnings. Some 53% worked full time for a single employer, and 42% were freelance. 48% worked in indie TV, 16% in post and 16% for a broadcaster. 57% of our respondents were men, 43% were women.

This article was first published in the March edition of Televisual. To subscribe, visit

Posted 10 May 2017 by Tim Dams
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