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October 2017
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    Hiring top talent and investing heavily in development have been key to growing his Bristol indie Plimsoll Productions, says founder Grant Mansfield
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    What ever genre you work in, you need to be lens savvy. Here three DoPs guide us through the lens market, picking out the models they like to use in drama and factual
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surveys

Salary Survey 2015 Back to Reports & survey Listing

It's possible to earn a good living in production. But, according to Televisual's 20th salary survey, falling budgets are bearing down on salaries and working conditions. Tim Dams reports

First the good news. It is possible to earn a very decent salary in the television and production industries. The median salary according to Televisual’s 20th pay survey is £45k a year – compared to an average UK salary of £26.5k.

A producer can expect to earn £46.5k while an offline editor is likely to take home £47.5k. The median salary of a director is £58k; for a series producer and exec producer it is £70k and £90k respectively. Many also say their pay has risen over the past year, with 43.5% reporting their earnings are up – compared to 14.2% who say they have fallen, and 42.3% who report they have stayed the same.


Amid a surge of high-end drama and film production shoots, there’s talk of talent shortages in some departments which are helping to buoy salaries.

However, as in previous years, the feedback to the salary survey is dominated by concerns that tightening broadcaster programme budgets are continuing to bear down on salaries and working conditions.

Many individuals say they are working harder and for longer hours – but for little extra money.

“My rate has not changed since I started being a freelance in 2008. I am also expected to work longer days without overtime for the same daily rate,” says one offline editor, who charges £250 a day. Another freelance production co-ordinator on £27k reports that she has recently returned to the industry after eight years, “and the salary hasn’t changed.”



Flat-lining pay, of course, means a falling salary in real terms after increases in the cost of living are taken into account. “Salaries in this industry do not reflect inflation. I know many directors who are considering switching professions. Working at these rates for less than six months a year is just not sustainable,” says a producer/director.

There’s also a feeling that experience is not necessarily valued. A freelance producer in his 60s on £30k adds. “It’s hard for very experienced people to find decently paid employment because commissioners are driving prices down and consequently productions are hiring the cheapest (i.e. least experienced) crew available.”



The long hours culture is a common complaint. A series producer says: “My biggest bug bear is people expecting us to work seven days a week and to only be paid for five.” An engineer adds: “For the hours we work, the money isn’t as good as it first looks.”

However, a producer/director hints that things might be improving: “I find it pretty grim that in real terms I’m doing more work for less money per week than I was earning five years ago. But I am optimistic that things are slowly back on the up.”

Many respondents feel that their jobs have been steadily devalued as filmmaking has become more accessible. “The director, the camera operator and the sound recordist have seen their roles diminished now that ‘anyone can do it’, says one Cardiff-based producer/director.”

“The whole production line in television has been completely devalued, from the rate charged for equipment to the worth of crew with over ten years experience,” adds a sound supervisor on £50k.



Plenty of others air concerns that there is an increasingly wide disparity between the pay of programme makers and senior executives. “There still seems to exist a widening pay gulf between those staff at the coal face – including runners, researchers, APs, directors and even series producers – compared to executives, commissioners and management,” comments one producer/director on £65k.

Certainly, entry level pay is a major concern. Many say low levels of pay for new entrants make it difficult for them to earn enough in expensive cities like London to continue in the industry. This, in turn, means that new recruits tend to come from more affluent backgrounds, and do not reflect the diversity of the UK population. “Pay is not high enough at entry level to support a good mix of social backgrounds in the industry, leading to loss of cultural plurality,” points out one director.

A colourist adds: “As in every other year, salaries are fairly stagnant and very poor at the lower end of the industry. Until rates go up the industry we will see a talent drain to other industries where younger people can earn a decent wage without having to work for minimum rates for years before getting anything like a living wage."



There is also disquiet about rates of pay for different jobs. Many claim that salaries in technical departments such as lighting and cameras are rising while those in production, accounts, art or locations do not. There are gripes that sparks, camera and boom operators can claim overtime, whereas others don’t. “We all do the same filming days. Some work longer hours than others and have less downtime and yet are still not being awarded the same financial benefits,” says a unit manager.

Others say certain creative roles – such as editors and producer directors – have seen rises while production management roles have not. “Business roles are paid significantly less than creative ones, despite being a key part of the production process,” complains one head of production.



There are also differences between genres, with many pointing out that documentary and specialist factual is less well paid than factual entertainment, drama or entertainment. “Making factual television does not pay enough to live in London,” says one producer/director. People working in post production are more vocal than most sectors about pay rates. “Rates for editors have not changed since 2009. This is a 17% pay cut after inflation. We have more to deal with more rushes chaos than ever before. Time for a proper renegotiation,” says one editor.



Once again, Televisual’s salary survey shines a light on the disparity in pay between men and women in the industry. The median income of men is £49.1k, compared to £39k for women – a difference of over £10k. The gap has narrowed slightly since last year when it stood at £13k. One female manager at a camera rental company on £30k comments: “My salary has remained the same over the past five years. I currently earn less than my male colleagues in the same role.” Televisual’s salary survey has highlighted the disparity between male and female rates of pay for 20 years. But examples like the above suggest it will remain for some time to come.



How the Televisual Salary Survey Works

Televisual emailed readers asking them to respond anonymously to our online salary survey. We asked what they were paid in 2014, their age, gender, job title and whether they thought pay levels were rising, falling, or staying the same. We had 681 responses in all.  The annual figures quoted in the article are based on median earnings.  The survey skews towards Televisual’s readership, which tends to reflect more senior levels of the business. Respondents had a median age of 39.  55% were male, and 45% female. 56% worked full time for a single employer, 39% were freelance, 3% part time and 2% unemployed. 42% worked in indie TV production, 17% in post production 20% at a broadcaster, 6% in corporate and 4% in a facility.





 
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