Film, TV and Audio

Equity has been involved in creating the plans for the resumption of television, film and audio. We are determined to secure a safe environment for you to return to 

Equity’s staff in the union’s department of recorded media cover your work in television, film, streaming platforms, audio, commercials and new media. In response to the crisis they have been conducting intense and complex negotiations with employers across the sector to secure the best contractual situation for members. 

Staff have also been dealing with individual contractual disputes, feeding back on industry recovery plans and resumption of production documents. Our distributions team have been getting your money from royalties and other secondary payments out to you as soon as possible. “We have been fighting hard to get the best deals for members,” says John Barclay, Head of the Recorded Media Department at Equity. “We know that by achieving financial protection for artists during this crisis it goes some way in safeguarding members’ careers and the ability for them to return to the industry as productions resume. Our focus is also on the industry recovery schemes and we have been giving our direct feedback on the plans to restart the industry. Members concerned about their working conditions can be confident that they will have the union’s full support. I want to give a huge thank you to the Equity deps on the shows and Equity staff for their hard work and resilience during this challenging time.”

Equity secured financial support for artists working in continuing dramas. This included shows such as Holby, Casualty, Eastenders, Doctors, River City, Pobol y Cwm, Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks. Regular cast members under contract on those programmes receive a monthly payment during the period when filming was suspended.

“This unprecedented situation is one to which the terms of the collective agreements with the broadcasters and PACT (the employers’ negotiating group) were not designed to address. Therefore, Equity worked with all of our negotiating partners to arrive at an agreement around emergency payments,” adds John. “We know that artists’ pay across the various productions occupy a wide range and many are not paid significant sums. Plus, many artists on the casts of the continuing dramas and across the sector have not met the eligibility requirements for the government self-employed scheme and so it is crucial that they receive some financial support during the crisis.”
Further Covid deals have been secured in television production and independent film with companies such as BBC Studios, ITV Studios and Lime Productions.

During the height of the crisis audio work via home studios was still active and staff have been supporting members in that sector. Television Commercials have also carried on and provided many challenges for members and staff as they were undertaken at a home with many additional elements that are not usually required of performers on a commercials set.

Staff have been involved in the British Film Commission/British Film Institute recovery guidelines for the resumption of filming. The staff covered areas pertinent to performers across the industry along with Equity’s concerns relating to vulnerable groups such as those aged above 70, performers with disabilities and BAME members to ensure no groups of performers are left behind once production resumes. Comments were also submitted to the Broadcasters recovery guidelines and staff have also been liaising with our sister French Union the SFA. This is to understand more about the French Presidential announcement of a Joint Government/Industry insurance fund for the audio-visual industries. Staff will feed any information into the UK recovery documents/guidelines.

Equity Distribution Services (EDS) have continued to send money out to performers, with the total paid out in 2020 now just under £3.2million.

Launched at the end of 2017, EDS ensures that performers receive royalties and other secondary payments for those engaged on Equity contracts arising from the terms of the union’s collective agreements. The funds collected and distributed by EDS are paid in addition to those issued by broadcasters and television companies which are also due under the terms of the union’s agreements.

Now more than ever Equity members need the payments secured by the EDS, and the Equity distribution team have transitioned seamlessly to remote distribution: of the three distributions in 2020 two have been carried out
during lockdown.

The first distribution of 2020 saw more than £1.1 million sent out in January, with payments including new funds collected for 41 films made under the Cinema Films Agreement, two HBO TV series (Band of Brothers and Rome) and royalties for The Avengers.

The films included Florence Foster Jenkins, which was paid for the first time, World War Z, Fantastic Beasts, The Dark Knight and Tomb Raider 2. More than 40 cast album recordings were also paid, including The Girl from the North Country, and first-time payments for The Girls.

In April, during lockdown, the Equity team carried out the next distribution of the year remotely, with a total of £715,000 being sent out to performers. Payments included programmes broadcast on Channel 4’s 4Seven channel, 7 MGM film titles made under Equity’s cinema film agreement, Game of Thrones royalties from HBO, payments from Canal Plus for classic series The Avengers and New Avengers, and royalties for a number of cast album recordings.

May’s distribution totalled £908,000 and was sent out to over 5,000 performers who were engaged on Equity contracts on a range of radio, television, film and cast album productions. These included payments from radio drama, comedy and entertainment titles broadcast on Radio 4Extra between April 2018 to March 2019. Equity negotiates an annual lump sum payment under a licensing agreement with the BBC to allow the programmes to be used on their digital radio channel. Equity processes all programme data and calculate and issue payments to Equity-contracted artists as part of the agreement.

May payments also included programmes broadcast on the main Channel 4 terrestrial channel that have been picked up by cable viewing audiences in the Republic of Ireland. This is another annual licensing deal struck by Equity with Channel 4 that delivers a yearly lump sum for us to process and allocate to eligible performers. The Recorded Media department monitoring the use of members’ work outside the standard TV network, and ensuring additional income for these extra exploitations of audio-visual performers’ work. First time payments from HBO for the TV series Strike Back; Film royalties for feature films Loving Vincent and Kinky Boots, and several cast album recording royalties including Everybody’s Talking about Jamie.

The total paid out to performers since the Distribution Service launched at the end of 2017 now stands at £37.4million.

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