On the evening of Wednesday the 11th of April, in a dark, surreptitious corner of Surry Hills, a group of Editors and other screen professionals gathered to an invitation only event… and the words ‘what are you on’ took on a whole new meaning…
This was not an underground drug-fuelled dance party (well, it wasn’t when I left at 10.30pm), but a meeting of Australian Screen Editors, who, discouraged by the sloth-like movement of pay rises for their craft, wanted to know how to get paid what they deserved, and be respected for their craft. This gathering was a culmination of over a year’s hard work by the ASE Committee, steered by VP Jenny Hicks, to release the ASE Rate Card– a realistic view of what Editors are and/or should be getting paid, a baseline to start to negotiations.
ASE President Fiona Strain ASE introduced the panel: Andrea Lang ASE, a formidable Editor with years of negotiating experience; Kelly Wood, industrial organiser with the union (MEAA); and Monica Davidson, a consultant to creatives who, amongst other things, trains people how to negotiate. What follows are just highlights of what turned out to be an evening of heated, passionate discussion and debate.
The MEAA is currently in the midst of a Get Real On Rates campaign, which aims to get the (ridiculously low and unrealistic) Award Rates more in line with what are reflected in our Rates Card. Kelly navigated the world of the union for the audience, and while there seems to be some upward movement amongst other areas of creative industries, Editors are still very under represented.
Monica launched us into the world of negotiation, and back to our premise for the night: What Are You On?. She sees a key problem in our industry being a lack of transparency when it comes to rates, and she believes that producers enforce this, and then this is re-enforced by those below them (er, us!) who are too scared to speak up.
Key points she made: Value yourself as an individual, and as a collective. Talk to each other, and don’t find out at the end of a production that your co-Editor is getting paid more than you for doing the exact same job. Start your negotiation high, and the producer will put a higher value on you. If you sell yourself short from the get-go, that is how the producer will value you going forward. We do not live in a world where film school graduates can replace us, even if that's what we think. It's not going to happen (says Guru Monica). Try and shake your Imposter Syndrome, you are a professional Editor, it is a real job.
Know your rights, know your numbers. If you are on PAYG, superannuation and annual leave are the law.A company can be fined BIG for not paying these. An alarming number of Editors in the audience admitted to being told by various companies that they do not pay holiday pay.
If you are a Company, factor in that you need to pay your own super, annual leave, workers compensation etc... Are you providing equipment etc? Do your homework. Join the Union and/or Arts Law (https://www.artslaw.com.au/). Change things in your contract you are not happy with.
(Photo by Adrian Barac.)
Monica then decided to put her money where her mouth was, and did a role-play negotiation with Andrea. This rather amusing interlude did produce some valuable tips and insights:
When the producer gets around to phoning you, they’ve done their research. They’re not going to hand over their expensive passion project to just anyone. Because they are phoning around, Andrea advises to try ‘stand out from the crowd’ – don’t talk money, ask about story, character, show enthusiasm about the project, ask lots of questions, ask for the treatment. Make them feel like they are leaving the film in safe hands with you.
Then do your due diligence. Phone around; talk to other Editors (What Are You On?), google the director.Learn to talk money! When the producer phones back to offer you the project, know what you are entitled to, don’t undervalue yourself. Ask them what is in their budget, see if you can save them money... (transcribers, assistants, VFX, equipment?) ..give them strategies for how do deals with the post. Negotiate everything up-front. Get it in writing, in a deal memo, contract, or even just an email.
A common retort heard from PMs: "We’ve never paid that before". Push back. Tell them you do get paid that. You were paid that on your last job. Email them the ASE Rate Card as a guide.
What if you don’t want the job? Andrea has a line for this: "I’m sorry but I don’t think you can afford me." Beware, though, they might agree to your rate after all!
(Photo by Adrian Barac.)
Many a heated discussion was had at this valuable, informative event – with the big take home being: we have more power as a collective. Talk to each other, ask, What Are You On?
The ASE Rate Card is a comprehensive document that will allow Editors to see where they are placed before starting to negotiate. You can find a public link to it here:
It will soon be updated to reflect 2018 rates.
NSW Committee Member
Do you love to cut but hate to haggle?
Do you crumple like a cheap suit in a pay negotiation,
and don’t have a clue what other Editors are getting paid to do the same job?
Learn how to make the ASE’s new Rates and Conditions Guide work for you.
Professional negotiators, canny Editors and a friendly producer
share tips and tricks to attaining a decent pay rate and conditions.
Monica Davidson - Producer / Creative Business Plus
Kelly Wood - MEAA
Andrea Lang ASE - Editor
In the grand tradition of rabble rousing we are gathering in a pub to be OTR and blindingly honest.
The Top Floor - The Forresters Hotel
Corner of Foveaux and Riley St - Surry Hills
Wednesday 18th April 6 - 10 pm
Eat, drink and be bolshy.