View Full Version : Assistant Editor Wages
12-08-2003, 04:41 PM
I was wondering what the average wage was for an assistant editor working in TV drama? I'm asking this because I know of an assistant working for a high profile production company that is only earning $750 p.w. And this is on a short-term contract - not a long running full-time position.
This doesn't seem a lot to me. When I was assisting 13 years ago I remember being paid $650 p.w. on similar shows (but for a different company.)
The assistant doesn't want to cause a scene because he is just happy to have a job, but I'm a bit cheesed off with the production company for diminishing the importance of the assistant's role... What do you think?
07-09-2003, 07:43 PM
It makes me want to puke, quite frankly.
Stories like this are cropping up again and again, both here and in the UK. With the surplus of people pouring out of college with media studies degrees & the spread of cheap editing systems such as FCP and Xpress DV, the attitiude of certain production companies seems to be that editors are ten-a-penny and they are paid accordingly. Not much thought is given to experience, and in some cases I'm not even sure they'd know the difference anyway. If people are so desperate that they are willing to work for peanuts or in some case for free, then in the long run all they are doing is selling themselves short, not to mention undercutting other editors.
Freelance wages here at the ABC went up by $5 an hour recently.....the first raise in almost ten years. You show me another industry that has been allowed to get away with that? The problem was compounded by nobody wanting to "rock the boat" and ask for more money, for fear of losing what little work they did have. Consequently, everyone works crap shifts for poor money. I've got bricklayers and plumbers coming round my house who earn more than I do. And you know what? The only people to blame for this situation occurring are...the editors.
Until we as a group demand more financial reward for what is a highly skilled job, even if this means demonstrating WHY it is a highly skilled job, then nothing will change. If I was your assistant I'd be spelling out to the production company the difference between hiring experience or hiring a student, and asking politely for a raise.
07-09-2003, 10:10 PM
Wow. What a fantastic mouthful. Personally as an editor I tell people my rates, and when they say they can hire someone else for less, I tell them that they get what they pay for. There are definately a lot of people out there who have learnt to operate software rather than leart their craft; and if they want to charge twenty bucks less per hour, they can. If their work was any good, they'd probably be less inclined to do so. And as for the employers who can't tell the difference, I really wouldn't want their product on my showreel.
As for assitant editors, I feel that there'a a lot wrong with the current role in general. It used to be a position that allowed a younger editor to learn their craft alongside a more experienced senior, whilst taking care of tedious stuff that made the whole process a lot faster; but these days it's seemingly about working silly shifts for poor wages and bizarre expectations & deadlines that I'd flip the bird to a few folks over. I can't stress how much I feel that assitants/young editors need to be more assertive about their role in the production process, and what the value of that is. I also think that a lot of people out there don't know their rights, what they ought to be paid, that sort of thing. Quite often I think that the numbers are plucked out of the air, with no regard for benchmark standards such as the MEAA's base contract wage structure. Which is on the lean end of what we usually expect for our work anyway.
I certainly believe that editors are selling themselves and their greater community of editors short; I get snitty just thinking about it, but it's not going to go away. Some uber-kid with a laptop is always going to be out there somewhere charging less than me, but those who value my work would probably be very reluctant to trade that in for a couple of ramped shots and a lack of hard-core editing knowledge. The difficult thing is sticking to your guns and not devaluing yourself. I see it as being very selective about who I work for, which ultimately puts me in a position of assertively shaping my career as an editor.
07-09-2003, 11:48 PM
... that I'd flip the bird to a few folks over.
Where'd you pluck that one from ?????
08-09-2003, 09:54 AM
If we're in the mood to get militant, maybe we should look closer to home. For example, the recent job posting on this very web site for an editor using EDIT* (a discontinued system) paying a paltry $20 an hour.
What does this mean anyway? I got a crappy sytem to work on, so I'm only going to pay you crappy wages! - Therefore I only want you to do crappy work. QED
08-09-2003, 03:19 PM
There will ALWAYS be some "cheapy" jobs posted here ... and every now and then a good one.
I don't know how we can get militant about anything unless we can threaten to go out on strike - and London to a brick, that'll never happen.
So probably the best thing we can practically do is let people know what they should be getting paid, and hope that most editors will have the courage to stick to their guns and demand a better rate.
I think no-budget/low budget is here to stay, unfortunately.
Why? Well its nothing new.
The following is from the ASDA conference website, about their star speaker this year:
"In 1953, Roger Corman sold his first screenplay, entitled HIGHWAY DRAGNET, to Allied Artists and served as associate producer on the film. With the proceeds of the sale he made THE MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR the following year, his first film as an independent producer, on the remarkable budget of $18,000.
The triumph of his initial endeavor proved that a high quality film can be made with very little money. As a result, Corman began producing a wide array of low-budget features ... "
Well whacko for him. Remarkable indeed! Where did he save the money? Probably some of it on editor's fees, even way back then.
Lets hope that when he made it big, he did the right thing by his mates and gave them a good job in the end ...
Maybe instead of bemoaning the lack of pay on the small jobs, it would help if we can get that message through to the directors and producers, too?
"THE 2003 ASDA NATIONAL CONFERENCE: Different Directions is about
successful, out-of-the-box solutions to film and television production. From
financing to film-making, distribution to direction, Different Directions
examines the entire production process and asks the question "Why do we do it their way?
Is there a better way to do this?"
There's something about that "out-of-the-box" throwaway line that worries me ...
08-09-2003, 05:41 PM
I guess my issue here is that the company offering the job in question, if you read their web site IS in the position to know better.
We've all worked on freebies for "love jobs" but this is a company involved in the business of making MONEY, if they are happy to employ someone with limited experience, then thats fine. Just pay a reasonable fee for service.
IMHO it is part of our role as seasoned editors to protect the behinds our junior ranks as well as our own. I'm cranky because I personaly have never been offered a rate as low as this, even when I was starting out.
It has nothing to do with the potential of dragging the overall rate down, for me, it's an issue of respect. We are not talking about a student short film here.
08-09-2003, 07:52 PM
Yeah, respect is a big issue. The problem is, for younger and less-certain editors and assistants, assertiveness is not usually something that comes naturally. And I think for a lot of kiddies fresh off the cab rank, even the bad wages seem good....until they find out how much they could be getting for their work under more equitable conditions....
I was chatting a few months ago to a young girl in a situation that is pretty typical - she has a prod. house where she freelances, and she is owed in excess of $6000.00....I didn't ask how much work that was for, but I get the impression it's a lot. Despite the fact that the company told her 'they simply didn't have the money to pay her', she was going in to do more work. So not only was she not asserting her rights to wages previously earnt, she was going back for more of the same punishment. Essentially she's working for free. I told her that so long as she allowed it to happen nobody was going to pay her, and even offered her some advice about unions, lawyers, debt collection....but it seemed she was very squeamish about confronting these louts, she just wanted more work...regardless of the cash not attached.
I think half of the problem is a sense of insecurity and a lack of business savvy on the part of younger editors. Do they teach you how to play Mexican Standoffs at AFTRS?? I think that as an editor you really need to be a professional on a lot of levels, not just in the suite but at the negotiation table, with your finances, all sorts of things. Perhaps we need to have an info night on how to be a hard%rse.
BTW, flip the bird is a good old american expression that I've brought o/s with me to assist me in being a hard%rse. :-)
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