Screen Craft Rights has collected £4m: Is some of that yours?

June 8, 2018

Over £4million pounds has been collected from European sources by Screen Craft Rights for the benefit of cinematographers and HODs working on British film and TV productions since it was established as a collecting society in 2011. The total distribution for the year to April 2018 was just under £620,000, more than double the £350,000 of the previous year. This sum received a further boost by the settlement of a claim for back-tax of £295,000 owed to craft heads by German Federal Tax Authorities, reports Nigel Walters BSC.

This was successfully negotiated by SCR’s chief executive Suzan Dormer and later cleared by HMRC. It was SCR’s good fortune to secure Dormer’s services from the beginning. She worked in the industry representing the interests of directors for 30 years. Whilst general secretary of the Directors Guild she was involved with the establishment of the Directors and Producers Rights Society, the DPRS which later became Directors UK.

Discussions are on-going with the possibility of securing a possible agreement between SCR and a Swiss Collecting Society. This follows disclosure that payments in Switzerland may not be restricted, as hitherto, to “home-grown” talent. Collecting arrangements are payable to SCR under EU Law by Germany, Sweden, Austria, Finland and Norway. Future residuals for British craft recognition will depend on the terms of the Brexit Accord. Unless such an arrangement (as exists between Norway and the EU), is ratified it would probably be optimistic and unwise for cinematographers, editors, designers and costume designers to expect further residuals too far into the future.

The success of Screen Craft Rights is an example of the collective wisdom and determination by the BSC, GBCT and GBTE to collaborate with BECTU. The collaboration between the craft organisations and BECTU was steered by BECTU assistant general secretary, Martin Spence, prior to his retirement. The initial founding members were later joined by the BFDG representing set designers. The SCR collecting society members owe much to the expertise of Dormer who has patiently sifted through many thousands of programmes to find residuals owing to eligible HODs. Present membership comprises 493 cinematographers, 497 editors, 151 production designers and 119 costume designers and stands at 1,260. 184 new members and estates joined in 2017.

The distribution of January 2018 resulted in payments totalling £500,000 to just one thousand members. Suzan Dormer has estimated an additional 3,644 people are on the database. Every one of 850 individuals listed on the website is due over £135 payment upon registration. The cost is a one-off fee for £35. As a non-profit organisation SCR costs are the lowest of any comparable European organisation. The main distribution this year will be in the Autumn, however the hunt for missing non-members and beneficiaries will continue.

Outstanding back payments over several years from Germany, Austria and Norway have now been cleared and the administrative procedure will be relatively straightforward compared to the tangled web of screenings, documentaries, features, TV dramas, studio productions, etc. The complexity of the task facing Dormer meant unravelling broadcasts’ transmission and timings of programmes across five nations, encompassing formulae involving points systems, length of screen time, genre of the work, and broadcast channels. The points system in Germany varies between 3 to 100, the guideline for differing payments to “authors”.

One reason for the establishment of IMAGO, the European Federation of Cinematographers, by the BSC, AIC, BVK and AFC some 27 years ago, was to fight for co-authorship rights for all cinematographers. The EU have made promises to modernise copyright laws. To date, they remain promises. Time may be just running out for SCR professionals regarding residuals. Despite Brexit, a ray of light may exist through our Irish members.

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