The Guardian reports today on film industry labour relations issues currently coming to a head in France where the government of Francois Hollande is set to introduce measures to improve the basic pay and working conditions of crews employed in French film production.
Producers are up in arms, claiming a cost burden the local industry cannot support. This amid allegations of gross exploitation of workers, particularly those at entry level who work long hours for little pay in the hopes of gaining experience and a foothold in the business.
One wonders what they would make in France of the situation that reportedly arose here over the last year, where crew and service providers to a production were offered a mere 20c in the Euro for what they were owed.
As I heard it, the usual threats could be smelt under the table over which, metaphorically, this deal was offered. That is - bite the bullet and there'll be more work sent your way; go public and you might be seen as a troublemaker.
I wonder would an Irish producer think of offering their doctor, their dentist, their architect, or their plumber 20c in the Euro, and hint that they might find work hard to come by if they didn't accept the offer? I think the truth is that producers, everywhere, do what they can get away with. It's actually up to state funding sources to insist on basic levels of equity, for the health of the industry as a whole.
The wider backdrop in Europe is that there is an enormous amount of public money directed into production which would not take place if that money stopped flowing. Yet, despite its public sector origins, and the industry's almost complete dependance on it, the disposition of the funding is nowhere near as transparent as it should be.
Producers, their advisors and other intermediaries account for an overly large proportion of the public spend before the output ever reaches the screen and, increasingly, European films are the poorer for it. Arguably the tail is wagging the dog. More and more it's looking like this cannot go on forever.
We're experiencing a production boom here at the moment. The time might never be better for finally working out the long-standing industrial relations issues and introducing the kind of transparency (not dodgy statistics) that lets everyone one know, in the absence of commercial self-sustainability, where public money is going.
As the French union representative quoted in the Guardian article puts it, we shouldn't have to choose between the social rights of technicians, workers, directors, artists and films' very existence.
Also from the Guardian today this story about one of the infamous tax-dodge film frauds caught by revenue officials in the UK. This line from screenwriter Paul Knight stands out... But nothing in Knight's criminal past prepared him for the shady world
of British film, he says. "Now I'm in an industry that seems to have
even more crooks in it."