BU not legally allowed to pay actors?

  • Carli Fish

    Actor

    Hi all,

    Just wanted to check if anyone else had been contacted by students from Bournemouth University. I've had a couple of messages about short films now where the student has offered expenses but has said there'll be no other pay as they're 'not legally allowed to pay actors'.

    I queried the last one and was informed that they are told specifically by the university that they're not allowed to pay actors for legal reasons.

    I was surprised to hear this as I've been paid by student productions before. I understand there are plenty of no budget student productions but why 'legal reasons'?

    If there are no such legal reasons, it seems pretty harmful that BU are actively encouraging (or downright instructing?) their students not to pay actors. Is this worth raising with Equity?

    Of course if I've got it wrong I will immediately return any money I've been paid for student productions back to said students. Of course.

    • 17th Feb 2015
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  • Charles Delaney

    Actor

    Please don't (pay any money back to students!)

    This apparent non payment policy by BU to actors is the most absurd thing I've heard in recent times!

    If this is the case then a complete boycott should be imposed on BU by actors with immediate effect;

    They can get their 'actors' for student films from the local am-dram society or advertise for 'would be performers' in the Bournemouth local newspaper charity section !

    (Equity should also be informed immediately;)

    • 25th Jan 2015
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  • Carli Fish

    Actor

    Hi Charles,

    Thanks, I'm glad it's not just me who thought this was odd! Will drop Equity a line.

    I was only kidding about the money (I've spent it all already anyway) :)

    C

    • 25th Jan 2015
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  • Jeremy Reece

    Actor

    They've contacted me in the past. I tell them I don't work for no or low pay (and I added this wording on my profile). They seeme to stopped approaching me now. Equity negotiated a special rate for student films.

    • 25th Jan 2015
    • 3
  • Monty Burgess

    Actor

    Carli, get in touch with Equity, let them know. What they have suggested creates a preposterous situation - HMRC says if you work you legally must be paid, BU says students cannot pay actors for legal reasons.

    • 26th Jan 2015
    • 4
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    Hi, hope you don't mind me weighing in. Just had a similar situation arise but with a unusual twist. I was contacted by a student at BU asking me to take part in a music video for the band Life on film, great band but after a bit of digging and consideration I decided I didn't want to go down the unpaid student route again and explained I wasn't interested. I then received a shirty email from the student that was frankly quite rude. With this is mind I contacted BU and they have said that they are not telling students to say they LEGALY cannot pay. People I spoke to did sound a little shifty so I'm not sure if this is being said on the sly to make things easier. I second the motion to boycott as I'm more than happy to accept unpaid work but not to be insulted at the same time.

    • 26th Jan 2015
    • 5
  • Carli Fish

    Actor

    Quick update, just had this from Equity:

    "Thank you for bringing this very serious issue to our attention. We are in total disagreement with Bournemouth University about this and shall take up the matter with them. You should be aware that we are in wider talks with Creative Skillset about the use of Equity’s Student Films Agreement. There are differences of approach amongst the various films schools and universities and we are trying to achieve some level of uniformity but there is nothing to prevent a student from paying you the national minimum wage or more for work of this nature."

    ...so hopefully it'll be sorted out soon!

    Justin, it's strange the university denied it in the face of so much evidence! I did wonder at first whether the students were making it up to make budgeting easier but it seems too much of a coincidence that they all say exactly the same thing. Luckily I've not had to put up with rudeness when I've turned them down, the last girl I spoke to seemed quite put out with the no pay rule as she said it was making it really hard to find actors. Boycott probably the best option until it gets cleared up.

    • 26th Jan 2015
    • 6
  • Natalie Martins

    Actor

    Really awesome work Carli. You did the right thing contacting Equity. That is literally the most ridiculous thing I've heard to date, as excuses for not being paid go, that's pretty impressive 'for legal reasons'. Wow.

    Having said that, I've done a few gigs in the past for BU and most of the students involved have tried their best to meet NMW / Equity rates and seem to be encouraged to do so so don't be completely put off by them if you were thinking of doing a shoot with them in the future. The odd group of students simply try their luck - it's cheeky and sly, but it happens quite often with a lot of university films! Saying they 'legally can't' is ridiculous, should straight up tell them, in fact 'you legally have to'.

    And if BU lecturers are culprits in this then let's hope Equity keep an eye on them and do something about it. Chances are those if one group in one year say it worked for them, others might try their luck too, so it may just be word of mouth within classes that results in so many students trying to get out of paying their actors.

    The students that seem to come out on top are the students that value their hired professoinal actors and work collectively to best meet industry working standards and equity rates and/or provide good quality showreel material efficiently. We are providing a service… therefore we should, legally, be paid. To claim they can't pay you for legal reasons is crazy.

    Unfortunately it's that odd few that let everyone else down, let's hope BU sort this out so that all of us can get paid for our work and so our job isn't treated, simply, like a hobby.

    Well done again Carli, breaking down walls one brick at a time :D X

    • 27th Jan 2015
    • 7
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    Hi everyone and OP,

    I'm not well versed in legalities but I have worked on several student and short films, and have been recently advised on my actions with two important points:

    1. It may be that the institute in question (in this case BU) may not have the correct or proper (if any at all) insurance to cover and insure the Artists against any accidents during a job. Thus the Artist(s) will have to (knowingly or not) accept full responsibility of their own personal care and liability, in addition to the dangers and problems of the job, without any ability to take action against the institution should anything problematic or hazardous befall them.

    The only way to ensure your own safety on these types of jobs is to have third party liability insurance. Please understand that my knowledge is limited on these matters but my source for the information is well versed.

    BU will undoubtedly have all that is necessary and required to insure and ensure the safety of their students and equipment - just not you.

    2. Re: pay - you are entitled to at least minimum wage for any work you do. If the job/work is dictating to you when you need to be on set, for how long, and when you break (for lunch or wrap) then it is employment and thus should be paid accordingly. This statement is by no means legally sound, but if you are being sought for your craft and asked to consider it as you would any other paid job - they why shouldn't they also pay you like any other job?

    My suggestion would be to think well on whether it's worth putting yourself at risk; whether it's worth fighting for minimum wage; and whether you think it's appropriate for you not to be paid for your craft. It's a very grey area since there will be other Artist's who will willing take on TFE jobs without a second thought, but it's detrimental to our profession and opportunities for paid employment.

    Additionally - if these students are training for work within in the industry professionally, then it stands to reason that they should learn about how to negotiate payment with professional Artists. Otherwise it's not teaching the students how the industry really works.

    Any who. I'm sorry for the ramblings - I hope you get some clear answers for this situation, and if you do please do let us know how things are progressing.

    All the best!

    • 27th Jan 2015
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  • Charles Delaney

    Actor

    ..It's a well trodden winding road to oblivion; Doing any acting work for no pay whether it's for show reel purposes or for the joy of the craft!

    I'm going to find a link to a national newspaper article in last Saturday's edition on the FRONT page about the acting profession why it's in such a state!

    It's sobering reading!

    • 27th Jan 2015
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  • Charles Delaney

    Actor

    www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/jan/23/julie-walters-lack-working-class-actors-sad

    • 27th Jan 2015
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  • Robert Carretta

    Actor

    No pay="No" actor. Simples.Do not drive standards and pay down by working for nothing folks (especially 'low budget' commercials! ...)

    • 27th Jan 2015
    • 11
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    Hi All,

    It makes my head spin the whole question of low pay/no pay. The same problem exists in the musical world. I made myself very unpopular with a music festival committee last year. Coming from the other side of the counter I was pushing very hard for all the performers to be paid. It surprised me the opposition that came my way ! One person actually came out with " Well, its not a proper job, its a bit of fun !" Sticking to my guns sixty performers got paid. Oddly enough three members who opposed me were local business people who when challenged if they would supply their services/ products for free sent a rather large raspberry my way ! It seems peoples perception of the acting world needs to be revalued. Totally agree with members who support no pay - no play !

    • 27th Jan 2015
    • 12
  • Robert Carretta

    Actor

    Well done Trevor,thanks

    • 27th Jan 2015
    • 13
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    Ditto Robert's sentiment; thank you for believing in what we do so strongly!

    And Charles - thank you for the link. Always Interesting to read and to hear from some of the industry leading professionals.

    • 27th Jan 2015
    • 14
  • Chris Keyna

    Actor

    That's absolute rubbish because I worked with them last year and they paid me on the day. NMW

    • 27th Jan 2015
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  • Brian Croucher

    Actor

    I have seen some performances from paid actors that should have surely been withheld. Pay does not always = talent!!

    BC

    • 31st Jan 2015
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  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    Hi,

    Interesting thought Brian but surely the checks and balances to avoid the scenario you envisage lays at the feet of the casting director and subsequently the film director.

    • 31st Jan 2015
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  • Forbes KB

    Actor

    Whilst we have all seen some examples, like Brian, where you wonder why money exchanged hands for certain performances the fact remains that in the eyes of HMRC an actor becomes a "worker" as soon as the times they are required to be on set/stage are being dictated to them by an employer be that employer a student filmmaker or Sam Mendes.

    Once classed as a worker NMW legislation kicks in and that employer is required to pay the relevant rate. No worker can opt out of NMW although what they do with their payment once paid is totally up to them...if they want to donate it back then they can...either way Income Tax is due on the gross amount.

    BU's policy of not allowing their students to pay the actors they need for their film projects is all about employers liability because as soon as a wage is being paid the University is legally responsible under Health and Safety legislation for the actors wellbeing on set/location. Instructing their students not to pay their actors is actually illegal...and someone fro HMRC &/or Equity needs to remind BU and their students of their obligations.

    • 31st Jan 2015
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  • Charles Delaney

    Actor

    ..Amazing how an established institute of learning should get their sums & financial legal obligations so wrong !

    • 31st Jan 2015
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