Ballyhenry Studios in film crew payments row

Recently I visited the very impressive Ballyhenry studios at Ashford, full credit to Joe O’Connell it all looks amazing. If I did have one small issues it would be the lack of parking available. At the peak of production crew levels could reach 400. Given Ballyhenery’s location all crew will have to drive to get there, I doubt the present parking could cope. Leaving that aside Ballyhenery represents the best opportunity to increase film production in Ireland for more than a decade.

Poor management and lack of investment at Ardmore Studios over the years have resulted in international producer choosing to take their projects to other more modern facilities in central Europe and Canada.

Ballyhenry has already landed the €30m series of The Vikings. However the management and up keep of a film studio is a very expensive business in a very competitive market.

As mentioned in an article in The Sunday Times last week, negotiations are on-going (19 months) between Screen Producers Ireland to put in place a new agreement for craft workers working in film.

Both SPI and Siptu have confirmed as part of the negotiation’s the issue of travel time to Ballyhenry is been discussed. The country is continuing to shed jobs at an alarming rate, and the construction sector has been worst hit, seeking travel time will drive up production costs and not encourage producers to Ireland. In the table below it is clear to see that craft rates in film are comparable to their peers working in the industry.

Trade/Technician

Pay rates for a set  50 hour contract (Mid Budget Film)

Carpenter/painter

€1,317

Rigger

€1,188

Stagehand/labourer

€1,122

Art Director

€1,400

Location manager

€1,500

Costume Designer

€1,450

Assistant Accountant

€900

Imposing travel charges by the craft unions will not only jeopardises work for their own trades but for the entire industry, and the future success of Ballyhenry studios. I believe our film crews as skilled as those in any country, but  it is time everyone looked at the long term viability of the industry, instead of short term gains that make us even more uncompetitive.

Contact for Ashford Studios:

Shelly O’Connell Tel: + 353 (0) 404 78 700 or email: shelley@ashfordstudios.com for more information.

© Tom Dowling 2012 image by Tom Dowling.

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Vikings studio in film crew payments row

Pavel Barter, Sunday Times 25th March 2012

Craft unions want travel time payments for crews working at the new film studios in Co. Wicklow.

The makers of The Vikings a ten part TV series is due to be shot at Ballyhenry studios in Ashford, will be hit with substantial additional costs if payments are granted, film managers have warned.

“You’re talking about €22 per hour for each person” said Tom Dowling, a construction manager on films including Adam and Paul. “For a crew such as The Vikings, it come an at about €400,000.

At present travel costs are for film crews are calculated of a non-encompassing the General Post Office on Dublin’s O’Connell Street and Ardmore Studios in Wicklow. Extra costs are paid when a shoot is on location.

Financial troubles at Ardmore, which faces closure after missing out the Vikings contract, has diverted attention to the new facility at Ashford.

Unions representing construction crews recently concluded negotiation’s regarding pay with Screen Producers Ireland (SPI) and employer’s body. Unions and SPI representatives confirmed that travel time to Ashford is part of the proposal.

SPI and the unions are doing a deal that affects Ballyhenry’s commercial business said Dowling. “There were certain industrial relations attached to Ardmore. This is a time, going into Ballyhenry to have a complete break. If they sign up to that for the Vikings, it’s set in stone. Once it gets a foothold it’s difficult to get it back”

Imposing extra costs on productions at Ashford could deter film business from coming to the country, another Irish producer has warned. The Vikings is such a massive production – great for the economy and the industry. When you put it into context, that’s why it is ridiculous asking for money driving from Dublin to Ashford, instead of Wicklow.

Some producers have condemned unions over lack of transparency on crew pay, with per diems, allowances and extras often incurred. Disney which spent €54m in Ireland making King Arthur said in 2004 that it would not make any further projects in the country until trade unions dropped practices as demanding pay for tradesmen working outside the 10 mile radius of Ardmore.

In recent years there have been pickets and porters at film sets. Last year, the set of a Bollywood movie in Dublin was picketed, leading to reports in The Times of India that  the actors were left “frightened and worried”

John King a divisional organiser with Siptu (the services, industrial professional and technical union) said a lot of commentary about industrial relations were unfair and opportunistic. “people have the right to protest” Was it counterproductive I would certainly hope not. That’s why we sat down with the employers to ensure we have an agreement.

In September 2010 SPI and Siptu reached an agreement on pay for film crews. Negotiations on construction crew rates have yet to be concluded, although the Labour relations Commission is to issue proposals over the coming weeks.

These will include establishing a dispute mechanism, which the Irish Film Board, SPI and unions being able to meet on a quarrel basis to “anticipate the challenges facing the industry”

Kevin Moriarty, managing director of Ardmore, said a solution should be reached that can benefit the industry. It beholds everybody, whether we’re involved in the infrastructure, production companies or crew members to find a mechanism to work together” he said.

Pavel Barter, Sunday Times 25th March 2012

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Categories: Film and TV

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2 replies

  1. Hi I was just wondering would you know how to get a part as an extra in the Vikings series ? Many thanks KeithMcDonogh

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