Just because you love directing, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be paid properly for it.
As an organisation, Directors UK has a long history of pay negotiation successes. But what can directors really do when discussing their pay with an employer, one-on-one? Drawing some inspiration from our friends at the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, our Head of Legal Affairs Donna Thomas and CEO Andrew Chowns have provided a few tips.
1. Don’t be afraid to talk about money. Directing may be your passion but it is also your business. It’s your livelihood, not a hobby.
2. “Speak to my agent!” is not just a phrase. If you have an agent, tell the producer they must speak to your agent before anything is agreed. This way you don’t have to be bad cop in negotiating your terms.
3. If your meeting starts with “none of us are getting paid until after the programme has aired” step backwards real slow, don’t break eye contact and make a dash for it! It’s more than likely they have no intention of paying you at all. No-one who is involved in a serious project will expect you to work for free.
4. Always have a polite pleasant resting face, but be firm.
5. If a producer suggests you do any development work ask them casually in conversation, without fiddling, what they will be paying. Remember your resting face.
6. If the producer says that they have no money for development, tell them your overheads mean you can’t afford to work for free. This one deserves a resting face without breaking eye contact.
7. It is rarely, if ever, true that there really is ‘no money’ in the kitty. Really! It is a standard negotiating ploy by negotiators working for employers – they are told to say this first. If you stand firm you may be surprised by what you achieve, and don’t break eye contact.
8. These days most employers are reluctant to work with someone they do not know, or who does not have relevant experience. You may regard this as unfair, but take a breath and think! You can turn it to your advantage – it probably means that they do not have many other options than you, and that they really want you to do the job. Use this to your advantage.
9. Do your research before the interview. Ask your fellow directors what they have been paid for similar work; check on the Directors UK Campaign page for our information about pay.
10. Be prepared to walk away. If a producer is really interested they’ll find a way to pay you. If they won’t pay, they probably don’t know your work enough, and won’t pay you your true worth.
11. Always be clear if your rate includes or excludes holiday pay. If they say you don’t get holiday pay, check this with Directors UK or another legal representative.
12. Most important, send an e-mail to the producer confirming the terms on which you are prepared to work, including the rate of pay you are agreeing to accept. This is especially important if your employer fails to send to anything in writing about your deal terms before you begin work. Terms put in writing, be it email, text or tattoo, are usually harder to dispute.
13. If your employer fails to confirm anything in writing about your terms of work, be afraid….very afraid. Does it make sense to trust someone who doesn’t give you a contract?
14. If your share of back end participation is like working out a Sudoku puzzle, ask yourself, “why is this so complicated?” and refer your contract onto a legal or accountant specialist to break down. They will explain to you why you are going to receive only 0.00001% of the profit and a concessionary packet of M&Ms. Don’t give away your work for free!
15. If you are a Directors UK member and unsure what to do, contact us at [email protected] and ask for advice. Helping Directors UK members is our job, and our service is free to members.