The challenges facing U.K. independent producers have been laid bare in a survey that shows that many earn less than £6,000 ($7,800) a year for their film producing work.
According to the Producers’ Roundtable survey, 75% of independent film producers who have made one to two feature films earned less than £6,000 a year over the past five years from film producing. In total, 149 independent film producers were surveyed.
Meanwhile, 30% of BAFTA nominated/winning independent film producers earned less than £10,000 ($13,000) over the past two years for their film producing work.
Some 53% said they had given up their fee multiple times to get their films made, with 77% saying they had done this at least once.
Not surprisingly, 83% of independent film producers think being an indie producer in the U.K. today is not sustainable.
Following the survey, the Producers’ Roundtable, in association with producers’ alliance Pact, has released a set of guidelines which it says will help protect emerging producers working in the U.K. film industry (see below).
Established by producers Loran Dunn, Sophie Reynolds and Helen Simmons, the Roundtable has over 100 members.
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“The producers we are talking about are not at the very beginning of their careers, they are three, five, 10 years in. They are being supported by public and private financiers here in the U.K. and abroad and are receiving accolades for their work. And yet, still, they are struggling to make a living,” Dunn said.
Of producers surveyed with five-10 feature films on their resumes, 67% still earned less than £15,000 ($19,500) a year over the past five years from producing those projects.
Of the producers surveyed, 31% attended private, fee-paying schools, compared with 6.5% of people in the U.K.
“It is important to recognize the privileged background that is required to live on such a low income for so many years. As a collective we recognize that many of the surveyed producers have only been able to stay in the game for so long because of other sources of wealth. We want to change that,” Simmons added.
“Our survey shows that this is an industry which expects its producers to work for very little. We want to ask why this has been acceptable for so long and how we can make producing a career that is viable for a far wider pool of talented individuals, many of whom may come from lower socio-economic backgrounds,” Reynolds said.
The Roundtable has set out a series of five guidelines for emerging producers to help companies and producers sustain themselves:
1) The production fee on any film under £3 million should be no less than 8% of the direct costs of production, to be divided between the producer(s) and production company(ies) as the lead producer sees fit.
2) Deferral of producer fees for development or production should not be encouraged, endorsed or suggested by any financier or their representatives.
3) The producer must be involved in all meetings and correspondence with the writer or director about the shared project. Financiers must not meet with the writer or director, specifically about the shared project, except as organized and attended by the producer(s).
4) No production financier may participate in net profits from the producer pool of net profits, even in the event of receiving a producer credit; this must be reserved only for the filmmakers.
5) Producers of a film should be financially supported to attend festival premieres, equal to the director, especially as salaried executive producers are often paid to attend themselves.
Hakan Kousetta and Nicky Bentham, co-chairs of the film policy group at Pact, said: “The British indie film industry is not sustainable without a proper recognition of the value of the producer and Pact is strongly in favour of these industry-produced guidelines.”
Rose Garnett, director of BBC Films, said: “We’ve enjoyed a productive dialogue with the Producers’ Roundtable and we fully support their aim to make producing a more sustainable and inclusive career for all – in fact their suggestions broadly reflect our current position.”
Daniel Battsek, director of Film4, said: “Film4 support the Producers’ Roundtable’s aims and will work with our production partners to help steer the wider industry towards adopting these guidelines.”
Ben Roberts, deputy chief executive of the BFI, said: “Independent producers are key in ensuring cultural diversity in our filmmaking, and in working closely with them we’re aware of the continued challenges they face.”