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Producer backed out of paying me after shoot ended

I’ll try to keep this short but I came onto a shoot as a cinematographer that paid by the hour as opposed to a flat rate. Several minutes after showing up I was abruptly switched to BTS mid-shoot by the producer/director who had someone he had hired the night before replace me on camera. There was no indication that this would happen prior and I had no idea what he wanted me to shoot. I still shot around two hours of footage that sort of resembled a narrative and stayed there for nine. The next day when I asked to be paid for my time, he insulted me, told me I was on my phone the whole time and that I wasn’t getting paid at all. Obviously I was furious. While I may not have done BTS to the fullest I still provided nine hours of my time and again, it wasn’t even the job I had been hired to do. I want to threaten legal action as I have screenshots of all of our conversations where he promised to pay me as well as the original ad which is still up. How should I go about doing so?

  • This is a simple Small Claims Court case.

    Also, and I'm just putting this out there, but many years ago a local businessman engineered a dispute over grazing fees (to keep the police out of it) then gelded a friend's stallion in order to sell it without papers. This was done brutally and when we found it, it was in pain with blood all down it's legs.

    The VAT Special Investigations team agreed that even though we had no evidence of VAT fraud, this was exactly the kind of guy who needed a surprise random audit.

    He was bankrupt shortly after. People who take a dump on people, well, getting your money back might not be possible, but causing them a world of pain, can be.

    2 months ago
  • It doesn't sound like emailing him will help, but you should at least try, and mention legal action.

    Then, assuming you have his address (try Companies House), send him a "Letter Before Action" (Google it) which basically says "You owe me money, please give it me or I'll take legal action".
    You don't have to go into too much detail, just state the hours you worked and your rate (which I assume you agreed beforehand).
    Give him 2 weeks to reply. If possible, print the envelope and have 'Letter Before Action' in big red letters on it (just to make it seem like you really mean business).

    If he doesn't respond, or not satisfactorily, then it's dead easy to claim money (through MCOL), and he'll have to pay the fees as well if he loses, which he probably will. Worst case you should get half, if he does claim you were on your phone a lot (which is hard to prove).

    Let us know how you get on!

    2 months ago
  • Depends how much energy you want to put into it, how angry you are, and ahem, how underhanded you're prepared to be. Was there any signed contract between you? Its not always necessary to have something on paper if you can demonstrate the intentions of both parties before shoot start. Might you have allies from the crew that day who would act as witnesses for you? (yeah, i know the reluctance to get involved) Next; research the producer's past and if possible find other ppl who've suffered similar from him. Its gonna be hard footslogging work, easy to give up halfway thru. Lastly, don't be afraid to smear his reputation. Its only that kind of threat that's going to have any effect. Good luck.

    2 months ago
  • Forgot to say that its also your own reputation that's on the line; thats usually what bullies rely on. Btw: didn't it strike you as odd that the payment by hour a bit odd? Theoretically the producer could offer to pay you for only the first few minutes of your original role.
    The BTS stuff becomes a new contract-ish situation.

    2 months ago
  • The devil, as always, is in the detail.

    Let's not imagine for an instant, that the film and TV industry is operated by nicer people than in any other business. Sometimes I'm tempted to believe that our business suffers from more svengalis and self entitled conceit than in politics, until I'm repeatedly reminded of just how many lovable, ethical and authentic people we have too. For most, with age and experience one learns discernment. It's a sentient consciousness thing. Life lessons learned are often worth every penny lost in the learning.

    There's some reward in being able to spot apparently well presented sociopaths, crooks and swindlers, just from the proverbial turn of their collars, as it were.

    In large corporate companies and organisations the ethicality of senior management.......
    ...... well one can join the dots for one self. After half a century in the business I can tell lots of stories. It's part of the reason for my modest, and what ought to be improbable, success as a paralegal attorney. Their lawyers very often aren't as good as their contrived facards make out.

    There are fundamental principles in English and Scottish Law that even too many QC's and lower court judges seem constructively unaware of. It's a cultural conditioning thing. For the unlearned or merely presumptuous, legal action can be a minefield. But those fundamental principles are not rocket science and can guide one through. The main obstacle to such is the sort of ingrained irrationality that prevents a person from being able to see the wood from the trees.

    1 month ago
  • It's true that I've met more shits, delusionals and crooks in film than any other industry. If you can show you agreed a fee for you to turn up and do a job, and that you turned up and did a job, it's a slam-dunk in the small claims. If he felt you were "too busy on your phone" the time to dismiss you would have been when he noticed the behaviour (true or otherwise). By keeping you around all day he owes you for a day.

    1 month ago