Work for nothing…I need the experience…looks good on the CV

Categories: Miscellaneous 10 Comments

Now while I think it is great that media has been acknowledged by the colleges and universities, there is a big, big, BIG problem afoot within the industries. I get a lot of emails from students asking me about how to get started in camerawork etc so I know that such people read this site a lot.

The industry is being destroyed. Literally. It is being eaten from within by a gigantic maggot that won’t stop eating until every last morsel has been devoured.

Recently I was told of someone in broadcast whose day rate had been slashed from £300 a day to £80 a day. Now for many media students the idea that someone who does camerawork can get paid between £300 and £600 a day is very enticing. A lot of people think it is a way to become rich. Still others, the ones who are causing the present destruction of the industry think that they can be clever and start charging far less, or doing the work for free.

Let me tell you guys about the £500 average day rate. You might not work every day of the week. Hell on a slow month it might be your only days work! Not sounding so bloody great now is it? Even if you worked most days of the week, that money still has to account for a pot that contains business expenses such as insurance, electricity bills, phone bills etc. It also has to account for any new equipment that is needed. As well as this it has to account for days when you aren’t working, unpaid time basically.

When all the maths are done £500 a day is roughly what you need to keep your business running and to be comfortable. NOT rich. Please also take into account that camerawork is a very highly skilled profession. With that in mind it isn’t a huge amount of money at all. Many camera guys these days are barely breaking even.

This problem is made far, far worse by the sheer number of media students leaving university and being quite willing to work for free or for very low rates just to get their foot in the door. The trouble is this. The employers know that there is a constant stream of shmucks every year who will work for bread and water. Think you have a future in the industry? Think again. You’ve just helped to destroy your own career. Next year there will be more students coming out of Uni who will be hired instead of you because they, like you in the year before, will be willing to work for nothing.

When mainstream broadcast television sinks to the level of offering a budget for four hour long documentary programmes of £2,225 each, there is one hell of a serious problem. Possibly an irreversible one.

The dilution of budgets and advertisers across so many television channels hasn’t helped matters. But low ballers have made an already bad issue a lot worse. You aren’t being clever by offering really low rates. You are killing your own prospects for the future.

HDW : I came against this problem years ago when I filmed in the lucrative quality end of the wedding video market place, the cheap-skaters as I called them, the one’s too frightened to up their prices so they produced quantity rather than quality.

Joe Public don’t care how much your camcorder cost as long as you give them pictures and sound so this ethic snakes it’s way along the wedding video marketplace giving the lower end a bad name and crap prices… £80 for one days filming and one days poor editing. You get what you pay for.

I was charging £900 for our basic package seven years ago when many of my so called competitors were charging £250 for a heap of junk. I dispare that we have HDSLRs filming weddings today not because they produce lesser pictures but more the fact that it’s an open door for anyone with such a basic piece of equipment to pretend they are professional and charge for their work !

The broadcasters will always chance their arms, budgets have been slashed and so have their commissioning power but if I were told to produce four one hour long documentaries for £2,225 each I would tell them to stick their budget up their jacksie and bad mouth them on the internet…only by whistle-blowing on these cowboy broadcasters will sense finally prevail or will it…remember the hard up media student would be only to glad to earn £8,900 to see his/her work on telly and add the experience to his/her CV !

Simon you are giving sound advice but sadly those of us who have worked up the ranks are a minority to the masses of students looking for jobs and work experience, they have spent at least 3 years being kidded by their college or university that this will lead to a job at the end of it knowing all to well that less than 5% per year stand a chance of getting work in the so called “media industry”. They have also started courses on HDSLRs… for what ?…because it’s fashionable not because it’s anything like practical.

In fact there’s a great documentary… someone should follow 10 media students from 10 parts of the UK for 4 years and see who gets a job at the end of their course in mainstream broadcasting !

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