Young film makers are often exploited

Posted 18th April 2017
by BellyFlop

I witness a common pattern of events amongst younger film makers. They are so keen to make videos that actually being paid a fair amount for their efforts (or at all) becomes an afterthought.

Before they know it they have a reputation for putting a huge amount of effort in their work for little financial award. Eventually either two things happen – they burn out and give up once they realise they are frequently being exploited, or they change career path once they get offered regular work.

Some would say it’s a lesson they need to learn to survive in business – well, I’m hoping a few will learn that lesson quicker by reading this blog post.

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Camera and edit equipment is not cheap – the cost of a film needs to cover a fair wage and the kit costs.

Now some of these film makers could potentially be our competition, but I don’t care – my moral compass says taking advantage of someone’s creative passion and naivety can cross a line. When I first started as a business I didn’t know what to charge (and our prices are still considered by many business friends as slightly lower than they should be), it’s taken a good few years to get it almost right.

When a young, keen, film maker prioritises pleasing others with their work over getting paid a fair amount for their efforts they are often open to abuse.

 

Older more experienced people in business know better but they see these creative individuals as a chance to make easy money. There is a very common  type of person that takes advantage of them too.

Here are a couple of examples I know of:

  • Someone who regularly makes short videos doesn’t agree a price up front, so often ends up saying to a customer once the work is done ‘Just pay me what you want’.
  • One company gets a film maker to do regular work for them in return for access to their service. A quick calculation and this person only earns about £24 a film- if each film takes about 8 hours to film and edit, they are on less than half of the minimum wage. 
  • One ‘middle man’ would often change the goal posts once a filming project was agreed – by requesting further filming sessions unpaid, and also stipulating payment terms would be as erratic as they choose – but at least they would drive around the film maker in a very nice car.

Video production is an unusual service- it’s hard to have a set price on what you offer. Web designers, printers, photographers are all services people would expect to pay for. But video is hard to put a price on – yet something that is in demand more and more.

Working for free- this is our policy on offering work experience.

 

Bellyflop.tv are clear on prices (and display them on the website here) but we are a business with staff, office, insurance, broadcast kit, and many other overheads which are reflected in our costs – the price reflects our experience too.

A fairly new film maker will offer services for less and it depends on their experience – but nobody should be expected to work for less than the minimum wage regardless of experience (current minimum wage rates are here), especially when you factor in the equipment costs.

How can people rent their own home, buy a car, start a family and enjoy life when they get paid peanuts?

If any film makers want some help with establishing what they should be charging for, please just send me an email and I will be more than happy to give you some guidance in confidence.

More guidance about work experience is here.

 

Author: Jonathan Robinson is the founder of bellyflop.tv and is camera operator for most of the filming carried out.