Thursday, July 7, 2011

Don't be a P(i)RAT(e).....

On the news today it was reported that there has been a rise in video and film piracy thanks to the reduction in household incomes and the increased speed of broadband connections which are making illegal downloading easier.  A 'pirate' was interviewed. When asked if he was concerned that he was having a direct negative impact on film making and putting people out of work he was unapologetic.  'They get paid enough' he said.

Well buddy, let me just help you out a bit on this one.  While it might not affect the producers and directors, further down the production chain it has a dramatic impact. Yes, by and large jobs in film and tv production are well paid... when you're working. When you aren't you don't get anything.   Most people in film and tv are on Schedule D tax. If they are out of work, most can't even claim benefits as they are assessed on their previous years accounts so if the previous year was a good one it's just hard luck. No state help for you. What? You paid 40% tax last year? Tough!

Pay and conditions in the film industry have declined dramatically in the last few years. While my work colleagues are all moaning about losing their over-generous car allowances, The Husband is working for the same company he worked for in 2004 for £250 pounds a WEEK less. Holiday pay is now deducted from your paycheck each week then paid back to you at the end of the shoot so in reality you are paying for it yourself, there is no sick pay, maternity pay, and certainly no time off unless it's as a result of death, plague or pestilence. Pensions? Not a hope. Accomodation allowances are rarely paid now. If you work away from home you have to pay for your own accommodation.  Try finding reasonably priced accommodation for 3 or 4 months. It's hopeless. Letting agencies don't want to know as it's too short for an assured shorthold tenancy, private landlords are equally wary, which leaves hotels or serviced apartments, all of which are hideously expensive. And if you think they'll do you a good deal for a long let, think again. They know they have you over a barrel.  The Husband recently worked on a production where the set designer was living in a caravan in the car park of the TV studios. Oh, yes indeed. It certainly is a glamorous life! 

Further down the production chain, the runners and assistants, who previously could have expected to at least be paid their expenses, now often have to work for nothing.

Negotiating a deal with a production company has become a largely pointless exercise.  If you don't like their terms and conditions then there is probably a long queue of unemployed people lined up behind you who will.  The Husband has been told several times recently 'If you don't like it......' 

When there is work, the hours would make the average person feel faintly queasy.  The Husband's average day will start at 6am to be on set at 7am and then he'll work through until maybe 9 or 10 at night. If he's actually on set he might get a lunch break, if he's not then he won't.  Most filming weeks are now 6 days as the productions need to get the filming done as quickly as possible to keep costs down. The one 'day off' is usually spent dressing sets in preparation for the first day's shooting of the following week. How else can they get it ready?  Overtime is not paid. Family life is non-existent. In the 'old days' we would globetrot with him, going away on location for months on end. The production always provide a nice apartment or hotel suite - though he always had to pay extra when we were with him.  Holidays were spent in Barbados (although usually on cheapie last minute deals because you can never plan ahead).  These days we can't afford to go with him as all accommodation costs  must be covered ourselves. This year's holiday will be spent in France trying to get the rent money out of our non-paying tenants.

When The Husband started out, the industry was a closed shop. No Union Membership. No Job. You had to be proposed and seconded by current members or you couldn't get in.  While I'm not a wholesale fan of unions, in film and tv they did fight for their members and conditions and pay were far better.  Since they have lost their influence, pay has decreased, working days have got longer, deferred payment productions have increased (this is where you work for low/no pay and are paid when the film starts to make money, assuming it ever does).  The Husband's pay has not really increased in the past 10 years and in the last few has dropped dramatically.

With the financial crisis, the heart was cut out of UK film and television production funding. Productions closed overnight and work dried up. The Husband, who was used to working 10 out of 12 months at the very minimum suddenly had no work for nearly two years. Two years during which time he had to cash in his pensions, use up all our savings, even sell personal possessions to pay the gas bill.  We know other people who were far worse off, who lost their homes and everything they owned. We know of some who took their own lives.  I learned to feed my family for a few quid, grew my own vegetables and became fairly proficient at make do and mend.  It's alright if you are Kirstie Allsop, doing it for faintly nostaligic reasons, not because you have to, some may say it's character building. I just think is was shit.  Meanwhile, Mr Video Pirate thinks they're all well paid fat cats. The truth is that every penny that is taken away from UK film and television production is a penny that is not paid to someone who is, in all likelihood, already struggling to make ends meet. Not the producers. They'll be fine.  But the people lower down, the ones just starting out and trying to make a career for themselves. The ones who will have to work well past conventional retirement age just to claw back what they lost in the recession. I've told The Husband that we'll both be working till we are 80 then it's straight off to Dignitas.  He laughed. He thought I was joking.....

Film and TV production is now picking up. The Husband has been working flat out since last September on a number of different projects but all up in Manchester, a long way from home in the South West.  Still, it gave him the chance to share the Granada TV canteen with the 'guests' of The Jeremy Kyle Show recently. I told him to keep his distance otherwise he might find himself in the comfy chair having a paternity test for some slapper from Scunthorpe.  You see what I mean about the glamour!

UK art department crew are the envy of the world. They are, without doubt, the most incredibly talented film and television professionals in the world. They produce top quality films for a fraction of the cost of their US counterparts. We should be celebrating them, not taking their livelihoods away. Times are tough for everyone but please, give them a chance. Don't be a P(i)RAT(e)!

14 comments:

Perpetua said...

A totally justified rant from the heart, Wylye Girl! Illegal downloads are theft, just as piracy is theft. It might sound swashbuckling to call it piracy, but it's illegal and immoral and to be condemned without reservation. Hope things improve for The Husband before long.

the fly in the web said...

Yet another legacy of the Thatcher revolution....unions were certainly not a wholely good force, but look what happens when the legs are cut from under them.
I blame Scargill. If he had called for a ballot, other union leaders would have been forced to support the miners as their members wished...as it was, he enabled them to turn their backs and in so doing let 'market forces' take over, making working life much less secure.

O.K., off the soapbox now...and good luck with the non payers....we had a couple who came up with any excuse under the sun not to pay....including the poor standards of hygiene which proved, on investigation, to be cows shitting in the field across the road!

Wylye Girl said...

Perpetua, they are theft. Plain and simple. I mean, you wouldn't dream of going and sitting outside your neighbour's house and watching the film they rented from Blockbuster through the window, would you? Grrr...! I've just edited my post to reflect the fact that TH is now working flat out, thank goodness, but the whole industry is still precarious

Fly, I snorted at your last sentence. It reminded me of some previous tenants we had at one of our UK properties who stopped paying his rent as he claimed that toilet water was getting into the drinking water supply. He shut up when we offered to get an Environmental Health inspector round to check it but if it was OK he would have to pay the £300 costs. The letting agent got him out within a week. As we know, France is a whole different ballgame!

Steve said...

Hear hear! That investment has been hit hard in our film industry strikes me as insane - how timely that The King's Speech did so well. When times are hard people need escapism more than ever to help them cope - TV, film, art, culture - have a very real health effect on the nation and should be supported. Anyone who undermines that deserves to be shot. Or in the case of pirates... hanged!

The Vegetable Assassin said...

Nothing beats seeing a movie in a theatre but it's so damn expensive these days. Maybe if theatres charged less they'd fill more seats and everyone would win? It wouldn't combat pirating but it would certainly help offset it or persuade the occasional someone to go see a film as opposed to just acquiring it through nefarious means.

I know you were talking about the UK industry and it's certainly different, but for a moment, can I just mention the US film industry, and say maybe if those idiots didn't spent 200 million dollars making a film then whining when they don't recoup and blaming piracy for the poor return on their shitty movies that are all effects and no substance, they'd spend a lot less, and be more concerned with things that do matter like plot and story and then maybe people would pay to go see them instead of just downloading them out of boredom. I know this is off the point you were making!

OK this sounds like I was having a dig at you and I so was NOT! :) You make a fair point. And a good, true one. Having said that, I'm not saying I've never downloaded a movie from the webz, as that'd be a lie. Guilty! I don't do it a lot but hell, if I can't see it any other way I'm going to find it somewhere. If it's something I truly want to see I'll go see it at the theatre.

You hate me now, huh.

About Last Weekend said...

Promise not to be a pirate! Sounds like your husband works unbelievable hours and that two years you went through hard stuff, but not in a Good Life way. My sister is a TV journo and the other one is a documentary maker so i know there is no end to the hours you are expected to work...

Mother Hen said...

I had no idea about the film industry so thank you. I will have a real go at my chicks if i hear they are thinking of surfing the net for a movie to watch. I am guessing it is old movies as well as new ones. Piracy is piracy after all.
Thanks for the lesson.

Wylye Girl said...

Absolutely Steve, if it continues we'll all have to join Rock Choir!

Veggie, I could NEVER hate you my leetle veggie massacreist. I get what you are saying about the cost of movie tickets but it's not the people who work on the films who set the prices yet they are the ones who lose out. I think when most people think about film/video piracy they think about the big movie distributors and think 'hey, they can afford it' but it filters down to the people who make the movies. Twas ever thus I know. You are sooo right about the US film industry though. So much dross is pumped out at such huge production costs. Madness!

Wylye Girl said...

ALW, it's been a challenging few years for sure but one thing I should add is that The Husband loves his job despite the hours, the stress and at times the downright madness of the industry.

Mother Hen, if it makes just one person think about the implications of piracy on the film makers, rather than the distributors, then I'll be happy.

Perpetua said...

Hi Wylye Girl,

Just a quick note to draw your attention to my latest post "The 7 Links Project" and warn you that I've nominated you as one of my list of 5 bloggers to link in with the project. I do hope you don't mind and that you find it as enjoyable as I have done.

Wylye Girl said...

Why, thank you Perpetua. This looks like fun!

Elaine said...

An excellent post Wylye Girl. I admit that I had not really thought deeply about the repercussions of pirate films (not that I have knowingly bought/viewed any), and I suppose I just thought it was the shops which sold the DVDs who would suffer. I feel fully educated now.

Trish @ Mum's Gone to... said...

Fascinating insight, Wylye Girl. I've always refused pirate dvds when people have offered to lend me them. What amazes me is how sensible law-abiding people think it's ok to watch them and how they think I'm odd to refuse.

Wylye Girl said...

Elaine, you're probably not alone in not realising exactly where the axe falls in this. Glad to be of service

Trish, well done you!

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