How to chase payment from independant production companies
This can be a problem; as they are independent they don’t have a professional setup or reputation to protect. But they will still have concerns about a reputation, and if it does get down to the possibility of taking them to court or filing a money claim through the government, then they are still going to be concerned about this just as any professional production company would.
What you should do before anything is in place with regards to the whole project is have all their details so the set up is professional as possible – at least on your side. So, names, phone numbers, their address (in case you need to file a money claim), the exact amount you are due to be paid, and when you can expect payment. Maybe give them this as a form to fill out as a formality, stating that you do this for every job you do as you need it for your accounts or your agent, or even just say it’s because of trouble with production companies in the past as you use this form as a standard now.
For most jobs the payment is due within a month of the production company receiving the invoice; for some it can be more, others less. For independents, they may just pay the money straight away (in my experience they do), but always ask and confirm so you are absolutely sure when you can expect the payment to be paid. It may be a good idea to ask this on set or at the theatre instead of after the job is finished, as they are more likely to be honest with you face to face, and you can call them on this if it begins to be unreasonably late.
Wait until that date for them to pay you, as money in their account accrues interest for them-fair enough. But if it does now become late there is no need to worry. Be polite and professional at all times, but they need to know that you have the payment in mind all the time, and that it will not be dropped until you get paid. It may just be a little late or they may have genuinely forgotten, so a few days after the payment window is up, send them a friendly email just asking when they will get around to resolving the payment. You may want to attached an invoice this time to keep it professional and show them you know what you are doing, and say you look forward to hearing from them. Hopefully this should be it, but if you don’t hear within 3-4 days, email again - again politely - chasing up that email to see if they have received it and if they have any response. Again, hopefully that should work.
If this isn’t working, you now need to give them a call. Again, always be professional and polite and don’t make it personal. Tell them again you’re chasing the payment as it’s late, and you just want to know when it will get paid. Hopefully this should work and they should follow this up and pay you straight away.
If they say it’s going to pay you straight away but you feel they might not be being honest with you, ask them if they can send you an email just letting you know when it’s done. Therefore you know if you didn’t get one, you didn’t get paid, and they might have tried to fob you off (although check your account anyway just in case).
So, now again wait (this can be a very long process btw, up to around 3, maybe 4 months), and if they don’t pay you again, then call them again. You need to keep chasing this up (again, very politely and professionally – don’t get angry or personal as it will not help) until something happens, which means nicely pestering them every day or every time they say they will pay you, until you get payment. Emails every morning first thing (shows you’re professional); phone calls to follow the emails up. Hopefully they will get sick of you at some point and pay you. But if not, you need to take more action, and do this after maybe a week of still getting no result. It’s time to write another email.
So, the title of your email will read ‘Letter Before Action.’ And in it you need to say that if payment is not received within seven days, you will begin proceedings to make a court claim to claim the payment. Tell them that you sent the invoice and/or request for payment repeatedly, you were professional at all times (weren’t you…?), and that as they do not have a case for not paying you, you have been left with no option but this course of action.
If you still don’t get paid, this is discretionary, but maybe send another email first thing the day after the seven days is up, saying that if the money is not in your account by close of business that day (6PM lets say), then you will begin the process the next morning.
So let’s assume it’s the next morning. I had never had to do this before, but it’s really easy and not at all time consuming. Go to:
…read all the information, and then use the Money Claim Online section, which is linked. It is name, address, the people you are claiming against etc etc, and again it is all very simple. You will need to pay a court fee which was £25 for small claims and goes up if you are claiming for more; however that is taken into account and will be owed to you by the person you are claiming against. You are also owed interest of 8% on the late payment, and there is a link to help you work it out, so you will actually end up getting more money than you were originally owed because of that interest. Once it’s all done, the form is automatically sent to them and you get a electronic copy. You also get a letter a few days later stating that the claim was sent to them, and that it can be considered served to them by a certain date which they will state.
If you still don’t get anything though, it’s in the court’s hands now so you’re not on your own but you have the weight of the law behind you, so carry on as all the correspondence says you should. If this might mean going to court, then so be it. If you drop it now, they will win, and they know they will be able to do it again with other people again and again, so it has to be followed through. Also, they might fob you off with the original amount, without taking into account the interest and court fee. No way. There is information there about them not paying the full amount, so read it and do what it says. Follow every action up until you get what is rightfully yours – no less, but no more of course. If you have a good claim, you will get it. And remember, this is just a small, independent project. They may well think that because of this, they can get away with not paying what was agreed. And now they have a letter through the courts system telling them that you are more than happy to take them to court. For me anyway, this would definitely make me pay.
When you finally do receive your money, check it with the bank. If it has been transferred or if it is a cheque, check with your bank to see when the amount will clear. Once past, then and only then drop the case. If it didn’t clear it’s again fobbing you off, so carry on as you would. And good luck, but if you reasonably do what is above, you won’t need it.