A survey by the Producers’ Roundtable and Pact has revealed that UK independent filmmakers are typically making just £6k a year from their film producing work with the organisations proposing guidelines for change.
149 independent UK film producers were surveyed revealing 75% of independent film producers who had made 1-2 feature films earned less than £6k a year over the past 5 years for their film producing work.
53% of independent film producers said they had given up their fee multiple times to get their films made, with 77% saying they had done this at least once.
30% of BAFTA nominated/winning independent film producers earned less than £10k over the past two years for their film producing work.
83% of independent film producers think being an indie producer in the UK today is not sustainable.
The UK Producers’ Roundtable, in association with Pact, has released a set of guidelines to help protect emerging producers working in the UK film industry.
Established by Loran Dunn of Delaval Film, Sophie Reynolds of SONA Films and Helen Simmons of Erebus Pictures, the Roundtable has over 100 members. The group was formed after the trio repeatedly heard stories of producing peers being forced to defer tiny producing fees, creating a financial barrier to entry.
The survey respondents included BAFTA and BIFA nominees and award winners, Screen Stars of Tomorrow, BAFTA Breakthrough Brits, and BFI Vision Award recipients.
“The producers we are talking about are not at the very beginning of their careers, they are three, five, ten years in. They are being supported by public and private financiers here in the UK and abroad and are receiving accolades for their work. And yet, still, they are struggling to make a living,” Dunn said.
Of producers surveyed with 5-10 feature films on their CV, 67% still earned less than £15k a year over the past five years from producing those projects.
Of the producers surveyed, 31% attended private school, compared to 6.5% of people in the UK.
“It is important to recognise the privileged background that is required to live on such a low income for so many years. As a collective we recognise that many of the surveyed producers have only been able to stay in the game for so long because of other sources of wealth. We want to change that.” Simmons added.
“Our survey shows that this is an industry which expects its producers to work for very little. We want to ask why this has been acceptable for so long and how we can make producing a career that is viable for a far wider pool of talented individuals, many of whom may come from lower socio-economic backgrounds,” Reynolds said.
Warp Films, the production company behind films such as Four Lions and ‘71 , added: "In order to keep telling stories that are relevant and recognisable to people we need to create a diverse and sustainable independent film industry, and the best way to do that is to support and appreciate producers and pay them fairly.”
Hakan Kousetta and Nicky Bentham, co-chairs of the film policy group at Pact, said : “This research from the Producers Roundtable reinforces what we’ve known for a long time. The British indie film industry is not sustainable without a proper recognition of the value of the producer and Pact is strongly in favour of these industry-produced guidelines. For too long producers have been diminished and expected to have only the crumbs left on the table. If we want a diverse, inclusive and incentivised independent film sector then there needs to be a dramatic shift from the old attitudes."
The Roundtable has been liaising with BBC Films, the BFI and Film4 over the guidelines for the past 18 months and has gained the support of all three organisations, who recognise the need to support producers further.
Rose Garnett, Director of BBC Films said: “BBC Films supports filmmakers, by which we mean producers as much as writers and directors, at every stage of their careers. We’ve enjoyed a productive dialogue with the Producers’ Roundtable and we fully support their aim to make producing a more sustainable and inclusive career for all – in fact their suggestions broadly reflect our current position. We look forward to continuing our relationship with them.”
Ben Roberts, Deputy Chief Executive of the BFI, said: “Independent producers are key in ensuring cultural diversity in our filmmaking, and in working closely with them we’re aware of the continued challenges they face. The BFI’s Locked Box scheme, our Vision Awards, BFI NETWORK programmes and the recently announced Insight initiative have all been designed to support the independent production community. We have welcomed contributing to the Producers’ Roundtable and they have helped us ensure that our guidelines remain as supportive as possible.”
Daniel Battsek, Director of Film4 said: “We recognise, from working regularly with them, the challenges independent producers face in the early part of their careers. It’s in everyone’s interests that our industry produces a variety of stories from a broad range of storytellers, in order to keep audiences coming to cinemas. Film4 support the Producers’ Roundtable’s aims and will work with our production partners to help steer the wider industry towards adopting these guidelines.”
The Roundtable is also calling on private financiers, sales agents, agents, distributors, writers, directors, and those at all levels of the industry to support this movement in order to create a more sustainable industry for everyone.
“This is ultimately about protecting home grown talent at every point”, Simmons adds. “If producers are paid appropriately, they can build their companies in a meaningful way, creating growth in the industry, which in turn leads to more quality films, and ultimately, more jobs. Independent film is the training ground for new actors, directors, writers and crew; we’d be at a loss without it.”
“We’re not asking for bigger budgets, or issuing unrealistic demands. We know the constraints of the market, and that it’s a turbulent time for the industry as a whole. We’re asking for a fairer distribution of funds allocated, one which takes into account the unique risks a producer undertakes,” states Reynolds.
Here are the guidelines as set out by Producers’ Roundtable and Pact.
. 1) In order for production companies and producers to be able to sustain themselves, and the writers and directors they work with, we recommend the production fee on any film under £3m should be no less than 8% of the direct costs of production, to be divided between the producer(s) and production company(ies) as the lead producer sees fit.
. 2) Deferral of producer fees for development or production should not be encouraged, endorsed or suggested by any financier or their representatives, and the Producers’ Roundtable strongly encourages producers not to defer any of their fees, instead finding alternative solutions and savings within the budget. Most producers have already deferred their fees during the development of the project, and even successful features which find an audience are unlikely to see a return at the back end for the producer themselves, making fees pivotal.
. 3) Given the importance of talent relationships and transparency across the board, as well as a need to not undermine the fundamental role of the producer, especially at an early stage of their career, the producer must be involved in all meetings and correspondence with the writer or director, pertaining to the shared project. Financiers must not meet with the writer or director, specifically about the shared project, except as organised and attended by the producer(s). This should be the case during the consideration of the project, during development and production, and during the project’s initial exploitation.
. 4) No production financier may participate in net profits from the producer pool of net profits, even in the event of receiving a producer credit; this must be reserved only for the filmmakers.
. 5) Given the importance of film festivals in promoting and selling a film, and in career progression for all filmmakers involved, it is vital that the producer of a film is supported in attending its premiere, equal to the director, especially as salaried executive producers are often paid to attend themselves. We therefore encourage sales agents to make sure the producer is always tied to the director in attendance of any international and UK premiere of the film, including their travel, accommodation and accreditation expenses. We hope financiers will also encourage and financially support this move.
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