Let’s Talk About Rates

With many Assistant Directors in the AD Guild working on industry-leading titles, responsible for budgets in excess of £1 million per hour, it seems that with great responsibility comes an even greater challenge.

How does one stay competitive in their rate negotiation? And how is the increasingly demanding role of an AD changing shape making these negotiations even more important? We spoke exclusively to members of the AD Guild community  to understand this pressing issue, as well as the steps being taken to champion change. 

ADs in the UK sharing their experiences were united in their opinion that no matter what their experiences were as an Assistant Director, their desire was to hold their rate through persistence in their negotiation.

“Having been in my grade for over 20 years I know my value to a production”, shared one AD. “Therefore, I am confident negotiating for the correct fee for each type of production.  I have also reached a point where I would rather say no than take a job I feel is undervalued, on principle.”

However, there seem to be clear challenges and obstacles faced by ADs in the UK. Some of the anonymous perspectives shared were surrounding competition, fear of being out of work, and the risks associated with the milestone moment of ‘holding your ground in a negotiation’.  The request to turn down ‘poor offers’ in a bid to drive rates up is a move that many may not be privileged enough to make. However this approach, one that requires the AD Guild community to be united, seems to be essential for change. Particularly, as the role of an AD becomes increasingly demanding, all-consuming and risk-driven by nature. 

"Every year responsibilities seem to increase,” stated one member, with aspects such as “no pension”, “no security”, and “unsociable hours'  being additional negative factors. Obstacles around rate negotiation are also complicated by ADs natural appetite for progress. “Too many ADs seem willing to move up to a grade they are not ready for at a discounted rate”, shares one AD. “Rather than push to get their worth at the grade they are qualified for.”  While moving up to a grade above (at a lower rate) may seem like an immediate win, AD’s now fight to trade this instant gratification for a longer-term goal; to prove ADs nationally are united in their stance, by setting a new industry standard and abiding by it.

Our Guild has worked hard in the past year and a half to produce a fair Rate Card in association with BECTU, to help unite ADs in their negotiations, as well as ensuring a higher benchmark in rates across all grades. Those spearheading this initiative shared some of the challenges faced in its creation; “Setting the minimums was very problematic. A large minority wanted to set them unrealistically high. We were initially criticized for the minimums being too low” .

However, the survey, sent out to members, shows that this was not the case. According to AD Guild’s survey, nearly 50% are not currently achieving the minimums set out in the Rate Card, while some are pushing the boundaries higher in this area. This presented a diverse picture of the current negotiating landscape, indicating that there is still plenty of room for growth and progress, if united. This includes setting the standard at the right level based solely on real world, achieved rates.

So, what else needs to be achieved in order to see progress made? “We need to further educate members on what can be achieved, as well as how to negotiate. Additionally, to have a safe-space where members can share their successes, as well as their failures, so that others can learn from their experiences”. This is something the AD Guild seeks to provide for its community, as well as the support and resources required to action this change. 

It goes without saying that the productive dialogue surrounding rate negotiations and the appetite for change can only be considered a positive thing. Many members testified that the Rate Card is a “huge improvement”, whilst also acknowledging that previous cards by other organizational bodies seemed “completely unrealistic”, forcing the AD Guild to step up and take on the challenge. 

However, one thing seems clear; this will not be overnight progress. The AD Guild and its members must fight for it.  With the increased presence of streaming platforms, this is a golden opportunity for change. That, the AD Guild’s Rate Card, and the spirit of perseverance from its members, can only lead to a bright, competitive and empowering future.