Calling All Post Producers - An Open Letter

Screen shot 2012-09-11 at 8.18.15 AM.jpgIn light of recent events that saw the tragic collapse of Fuelvfx, one of Australia's leading vfx studios, it prompted me to speak out in an attempt to hopefully spark a healthy debate about the current state of our local industry.
While it was incredibly sad to see a company like this fall over, it was also a harsh reality check on the demise of our industry.
Have we (the post industry) become our own worst enemy? The constant undercutting in both long form and commercial work may have diminished the long-term sustainability of our local industry and its highly creative talent pool.
I work for a large post house and it saddens me to say, "we're next" unless things change for the better and quickly. I really think the time has come for the local post industry (if not globally) to get together and formulate a code of practice, so we avoid constantly undercutting each other out of a dollar, otherwise make no mistake about it; it is simply a race to the bottom.
Someone mentioned in one of the Fuelvfx blogs last week that clients are getting post houses to undercut a post house that has already undercut their original quote. What's next?
We have all got ourselves into a situation where we now desperately need to win the next pitch/ project just to keep the doors open. We need to reverse the mess we're all in so we get back to some level of normality that once existed pre GFC days (remember those days?).
It is shameful to hear some rumours floating around town that a couple of post houses (you know who you are) are cold-calling agencies to say, "we will do your commercials for whatever budget you can flick us". For Christ sake, what sort of a business model is that, and what longevity does that offer anyone (including the imbeciles make such offers)?
It's about time we all stood up and acknowledged that our IP, skill set, knowledge, experience and artistry has a dollar value attached to it, instead of just giving it away for FREE along with a large fries and coke. Enough is enough.
For too long we have been an industry without guidelines, a code of practice, a professional association or guild to support and protect us. Why?
Last week was a moment in history for the Australian post-production industry (a very dark day indeed); let's make sure history doesn't repeat itself.
I encourage everyone to voice their opinion and offer up constructive thoughts and ideas on how we can all work together to fix the problem.
Ben Dover
Post Producer
If you would like to confidentially contact me to chat offline my email address is:


popi said:

Nice message.
What we all need to remember is everyone is feeling it not just post houses. So are photographers, editors, retouches, directors etc .... and Agencies! I'm always hearing of agencies laying off people.
We can't always blame the client either. They are feeling it too. I'm sure they'd like to spend more money on marketing.
Unfortunately this is the times we live in at the moment. I don't have an answer on how to make this better. An advertising union?

Agency view said:

Right now, we're living in a transitional period between two eras:

The traditional high cost, high-production-values model that most of us grew up with, and was (and still is) great at creating high quality visual content. The classic TVC.

And the new world of production, where expectations of production values align more closely with the ethos that every person in the world is a journalist/filmmaker/photographer/content provider.

(Not trying to start an argument about craft vs price, how most crowdsourced content is shit, etc... just pointing out that the more commoditised visual content becomes, the lower the expectations become across the board for commercial content, and the harder it is to justify spending big on post or shoots or whatever. Journalists are facing the same challenge)

As of today, all of us are still finding our way between these two worlds, and the transition is painful for many. It's not just us, most other industries are currently in transition from the old world, to the new. We're not there yet, but it's happening.

If it were my money, I'd be transitioning from the old post production model as soon as I could. Because there's no going back.

Of course, if you're one of THE very best, you'll survive and most probably thrive. But demand for genuinely high quaity post is shrinking, and it'll become niche before too long.

Either be the best, able to compete globally, or get the fuck out, would be my advice.

I could be wrong, but I don't think I am.

Lawrence said:

Yes, it is sad, but as one comment has already mentioned - it goes far further than the post production industry. Businesses are no longer run with strong leadership. Most times it's no longer the person's name on the door who is calling the shots (or maybe even working there). Clients, agencies, and pretty much all industries have become led by shorter term thinking and goals (share price this quarter, their next job, etc). We're now starting to reap all the 'benefits' of this kind of approach.

Reality Check said:

This is not a just a local problem, look at the mess digital domain is in, less then 12 months after taking the company public, the company has sacked 200 + employees from its Florida location and see considering bankruptcy protection. Maybe we need to consider that the industry expanded too aggressively around the world and this is the natural consolidation required to return the industry to a profitable state..... just a thought.

Finance said:

Need the financials of the company for serious debate. Further discussion is pointless. I agree the industry has commoditised itself.

Dude said:

This open letter is a mix of about five large comments on the blog about Fuel. So clearly someone was having a conversation with themselves?? I'm a post producer at and haven't heard of anyone cold calling saying they will do it for any budget. Truth is, people that do that aren't very good producers now are they? Because they aren't covering their overheads. It's clear you 'Ben Dover' arent a producer but an artist in a post house. As you don't appear to have a clue what you are talking about in regards to budgets. It's the 'favour' jobs that are killing us. And that comes from bad agency producers and account service. Creatives with awards in their eyes and pennies in their pockets.

Phil McCravass said:

Firstly I hope FUEL are successful in their current attempt to restructure their finances. That is what the administrator will be trying to do. They have not shut down or given up the fight yet!

Secondly Ben Dover is spot on that this is a race to the bottom. If Agencies charged for all the head hours they used on a project. If Production and Post houses charged full fees and paid all their crew for the time and overtime involved then the clients would not be getting the sort of service and production values they have grown to expect. I also suggest that if we were to charge at those full fee levels we would see more and more of our business going off shore to countries where labour is cheaper.

So unionising the industry and holding firm on our rates might not provide the answer. It certainly won't make the clients spend more money. We need to be honest about what can be delivered for the budget and we need to innovate and find efficiencies in our work flows. Looking at the US, UK or even the Asian markets and trying to emulate their big budget advertising work when our budgets are a quarter of the size is just nuts. Creatives / Directors always want to aim for and reference the best of the best but the the only way to achieve that in a sustainable way is to match the budgets. That's why regional advertising is not as slick as metropolitan advertising. Lack of funding. Lack of population.

Lets get real and stop kidding ourselves that the $200k the client had to spend will buy a two day shoot with post VFX like you saw at the cinema and a sound track to match. The production / post production sectors have spent years jumping at every opportunity to 'invest in a spot for the reel' or 'do this one as a favour to the agency' or 'give it to an upcoming director who will work for nothing'. We are all to blame in this race to the bottom.

Spot on said:


"It's the 'favour' jobs that are killing us. And that comes from bad agency producers and account service. Creatives with awards in their eyes and pennies in their pockets."


qwerty said:

Agency View is correct, the times have changed and the industry needs to change with it.

Personally I don't care if Fuel make it or not, just think about their staff and suppliers that will not get their money due to Fuels poor management.

All in all, clients need to stump up a few more dollars production companies and agencies need to not mark-up post houses as much!! Then there would be trillions more for post......

Just to reiterate what Agency View said:"Either be the best, able to compete globally, or get the fuck out"

@ spot on said:

Well, this should be a very easy fix then.

Forget about your business model, or adapting to changing expectations. Just say no to love jobs, and everything will be rosy.

Next problem, peace in the MIddle East.

asdfgh said:

Any agency can take the post production component of a project and sort it out directly with the post house, like they have been doing in the US for many years.

Just make it part of the agency standard bid terms. They already handle the talent and sound.

Get the director to shoot and then do one directors cut and leave the agency and client to sort the rest out for themselves. Thus saving on the production company mark-up.

I don't think the agencies want the responsibility of having to manage the post. I don't think the Post houses will offer the same discounts if they have to wait for 3 months to be paid.

I also don't think you will get the quality and attention to detail that you will get when a director and production company are managing the post and paying the bills.

It will simply cost more for the agency to do it directly. They will be slower, less available and less accountable and any money saved will get wasted on billing the client for internal agency head hours.

Agencies love outsourcing all the variable costs to a production company that is forced to make a fixed price bid.

This might be an alternate way of working but it's not the way to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

blunt edge said:

There are large post houses out there working to tired old work models. These places are loosing traction to other smaller post houses working smarter for todays market. The problem is it's these places that are quick to undercut and buy jobs just to keep churning over. But as they drown they bring the rate card down with them. Affecting everyone left behind.

Hello Possums said:

@ spot on - you are right.

pay for what you ask for, and if you don't have the budget then revise the creative.

you don't walk into a car dealership telling them you'll give them $5k, when the cost of the car is $20k.

why should post be any different?

Peps said:

Agencies listen up and take note. You are next. So whilst you Agency business geniuses are preaching to the post houses to get smarter and change the way they work, listen to your own advice. You don't think clients are going to offshore you? A pretty haircut and quirky T-shirt isn't going to save you - they have those in Asia too. Wakeup! Moveon! This is a massive 1st world problem, where wages are so high, it's economically impossible to validate. Gina Rhinehart is out there sprucing the same story and thats in a gangbusters industry. Take your creativity to a place that has a future in this country.

And Post Houses don't blame yourselves it's global economics and out of your control. You can only do what you can do to stay alive while you can.

A lens flare might fix it? said:

The industry is built of so many people who rely on selling the job they've just produced, directed, cut, animated and so on to win the next and stay employed. It takes decent people across all lines to manage expectation and make sure everyone makes profit in the process.

Technology and Social Media killed the Video Star said:

Whoever said "post is dead" is dead wrong.

What's dead is the traditional model - a big post house as the one stop shop for all your post needs with big overheads.

Who's to blame? Look to software programs that make it faster and more economic to do your post production on a mac and hire a freelancer to finish the job for you.

Look to camera equipment with cheaper prices points and high definition data you can just download onto your computer and start editing/grading with straight away.

Look to the rise and rise of YouTube and online viewing platforms vs Network free to air or pay TV Ratings and the huge media spends and you'll chart the demise of the TVC and it's budget. If marketers aren't getting the same viewing/brand engagement from TV ratings anymore, and get it from online content more strongly - then what's the point of the big dollar TVC budget??

Really, pointing the finger at the other post houses is pointless. They are not the problem. Same to pointing at production houses for accepting the budget, the agency for doing it for that price, the client for not handing down dollars for a dinosaur model that doesn't exist anymore for your average TVC or video content.

The reality is you can't compete with a mac and software suite that an agency, production company or worst yet - THE CLIENT - can do themselves and hire a gun in to do it for them.

The reality is that the media spend is changing and TVC model is slowing dying.

Artists and Producers will still have jobs. They just get on out there and freelance or work full time internally in less traditional roles and stop trying to revive a dead horse.

Price fixing? said:

Nah.... It will never happen.

scratchy is fine said:

Its not just other post houses doing it to each other... its ad agencies taking over the role of post-house. Saatchi Kite

AND: the dumbing down of our senses... internet streaming and compression means we all don't expect quality anymore in our vision and sound. quality is WORSE than ever.

Bruce said:

Its all these things, of course. But the blatant lack of integrity at a human level, that still stick in one's craw.

This YouTube video (now a few years old) says it all.
Client Vendor Relationship

Long live FUELVFX said:

@qwerty. You're a dick.

I look forward to the team at Fuel being bigger and better than ever in the months to come. I'll send them every bit of business i can. They're an incredible bunch of talented people and they've been upfront about their situation. Good on them.

Nick said:

To DUDE. Unless you happen to be on the phones at every single agency in Australia, how can you possibly say no one is making those calls to "do the work for what ever they have" BenDover claims are happening. Your claim that they aren't is just as hollow as you claim his comment is.
Also, whether it is the 'favor jobs' or bad producers / account service who are to blame, it all boils down to the same thing... the post industry is being squeezed, every second company is doing work under cost just to keep the cash flow going and if you refuse, you simply get passed over.

hummmmm said:

@Technology and Social Media killed the Video Star said

You are spot on and 100% correct. With 8 grands worth off gear these days you can shoot (5D or the likes, Keno and L series lenses) online/off line (Mac laptop, Avid or FCP), grade (Resolution....comes free when you buy Black Magics new $3000 camera), produce high end CG effects (CS6, After Effects, Shake ect ect) do great titles, post the sound and spit out a master with a quality that can go straight to cinema if you so choose.

Do do that ten years ago with a 535, A set of Super Speeds, Stock, dev, Telecine, Flame online ect ect you wouldn't have much change from 1.5 mil.

I understand that is the way to go but it is not any more.

It has changed, you can either realise it or not, but it ain't going back....never.

If you happen to be able to master all this skills you will go far in the new model, if you can't then maybe learn to make good coffee i guess.

Victor Hugo said:

Ben? Nice to meet you. Victor Hugo.

Bruce said:

Its all these things, of course. But the blatant lack of integrity at a human level, that still stick in one's craw.

This YouTube video (now a few years old) says it all.
Client Vendor Relationship

I know what I am... but what are you? said:

A post house cold calling an agency? That's outrageous!
Next thing these post houses will be doing full production and even offering up their own staff as directors. Cutting corners will only drive you closer to the edge.

Tony Abbott said: said:

FUEL..well clearly the carbon tax did it.....

Tough times for all. I hope Fuel work their way out of it. Great company, great people.

Now is when they need some support, but it won't be from those who have been asking for favours for years...they've already moved on to screw over the next place. Unfortunately it's the business we work in. Bruce's link sums it up.

We have an over supply of tech savvy film makers and they are happy to work for a fraction of those before them to supply a different demand. That's life in adland. Adapt or perish.

Hummm's comments are spot on.....and I reckon your average Barista probably earns more than your average Director....and has more job satisfaction.

This industry needs to mature said:

A few suggestions;
- Look at AGDA. Codes of conduct, members cannot free pitch. Everyone can adopt this mindset, it is a choice we don't need an industry body to tell us.
- Be prepared to say no and turn it away. It reaches a point where we all have to say that cannot buy that.
- Don't do the work to win the work. An architect doesn't submit design concepts to win the contract to design the house.
- If you need to do something for your reel or to prove yourself do it for your own studio not a client that should be paying. Value what you do.

A few thoughts;
- Models change, adapt or die. A lot of talk about $10k systems. Flame (and other proprietary) were never buying $250k of hardware it was mostly software license. It was a system built on a clever graphics card ($30-50k of hardware) and $200k of software license. Good on them for selling the big bluff for as long as they did. It artificially valued the services this industry provided and has now over-corrected itself.
- Accept there will be a democratisation of the industry
- Go into it to make a profit, if not it is a hobby and no one pays the bills with a hobby.

hummmmmm said:

@This industry needs to mature said:

Not sure how long you have been in the industry but I think you will find The Onyx was around the $300K plus (just for the box) though I don't remember the price of an hour in the Flame suite coming down when it became a boat anchor.

Alterior motives said:

I'm really sick of the same old post house getting on the blog and using it as a chance to self promote and bag each other. Here's a business plan I've never seen fail. Get on with it. Be good at it. And focus on the work. Not each other.

Never kick a sleeping dog says said:

Alterior motive we innocent, but if the shoe fits...

Across the board said:

"blunt edge said:
There are large post houses out there working to tired old work models. These places are loosing traction to other smaller post houses working smarter for todays market. The problem is it's these places that are quick to undercut and buy jobs just to keep churning over. But as they drown they bring the rate card down with them. Affecting everyone left behind."

Exactly the same thing is happening in the photo industry - large studios are struggling to pay overheads and so are utilising predatory tactics. We've lost jobs to a well known studio who did the work at 40%+ less than we quoted, clearly a no win situation for everyone (except the client).

@bruce said:

Fuck yes. Like that for agencies as much as post houses.

If customers did the same to clients products they'd be screwed. Can't count the amounts of times they've asked for a rolls royce but only wanted to pay for the cost of insuring one.

Congrats said:

Congratulations 'Ben Dover' for putting it officially on the radar and getting us all talking.

While there is no definitive answer to the problem, at least it is now a topic of conversation.

KM said:

Technology and Social Media killed the Video Star said:

That costs have come down in production is undeniable.
But the most expensive sports car in the world will look like a Ukraine taxi on the racetrack if there's an idiot behind the wheel whose only qualification is the finances to buy the sports car in the first place.

@ Long live FUELVFX said:

Wake up and smell the coffee.

The brand Fuelvfx as we all knew it, went up in flames (no pun) 2 weeks ago when they announced they were going into voluntary administration.

Who in their right mind could ever swing a project their way again with such an ugly grey cloud hanging over their head?

If I have to spell it out for you. They are in financial ruin.

Last Man Standing said:

The core business model of production and post-production houses is simple.
Charge out a reasonable margin over direct and indirect costs, and everyone walks away happy.
The current lack of professionalism among agencies is the root cause why suppliers are taking numbers to go under.
The margins which used to cover their costs now have to stretched to:
1- Recut and reshoot critical sections because inexperienced junior creatives have been promoted to senior positions on the back of awarded one-off posters and print ads.
2-Every one on the agency from planners to CDs to ECDs to CCOs must have their say before the client is shown the edit.
3-Every one on the clients side from manager to AVP to EVP has to have their say after they've seen.
4- Suits are unable to manage the egos of their agency creatives and clients and often avoid the elephant in the room: Who's gonna pay for all the changes.
5-The resulting case study video if its a successful campaign in order to fuel the egos of glory starved creatives, agencies and clients.
6-And lord help the production house who has to go thru multiple changes for a case study video with the promise that they can hide the cost in the next commercial.

And all this is chaos for commissioned work.

What really chaps my arse is that doofus creatives still have the gall to ask for a freebie production for speculative clients with weak ideas-and throw a hissy fit if we suggest ideas to improve it, reject it or not have their coffee served just right while they surf on their iPhones instead of supervising the money shots as requested by the client's shooting board.

i rather go out of business than survive under these conditions

Long Live TV said:

To Technology and Social Media killed the Video Star said: who said - Look to the rise and rise of YouTube and online viewing platforms vs Network free to air or pay TV Ratings and the huge media spends and you'll chart the demise of the TVC and it's budget. If marketers aren't getting the same viewing/brand engagement from TV ratings anymore, and get it from online content more strongly - then what's the point of the big dollar TVC budget??

For the record, latest figures state that 96% of viewing is done on TELEVISION and online accounts for 3%, 1% mobile phones.

It is hardly killing TELEVISION!

Nose Knows said:

Its basically agencies (and their clients) who need to get real. The budgets have shrunk but the ideas / cast list / deliverables / shoot days required never seem to. If agencies started writing to the bloody budgets or if the embryonic suits or agency 'producers' ever grew a pair and stood up to them and told them whats actually possible and whats not then there might be a little less pain to spread around.

Every time the phone rings its an agency producer with another boring tale of woe. please help us just this once etc etc. yes no ones bending production companies or post houses arms to say yes to these deals but its pretty hard when ALL the jobs are tales of woe requiring some kind of ass reaming to achieve!.


yousetubes said:

Reality is a million hits on youtube can just as easily translate to zero increased sales but easily translate to a creatives bragging rights. This has become one fucked up industry.
I don't doubt clients will eventually wake up to the bullshit desperately fad addicted agencies pedal as important social media strategy but in the meantime I'm off to shoot on my GoPro another TVC for my "I don't have much money but..." agency producer.
Might as well edit it on my phone and upload straight to youtube!

How to stay in business said:

Start by saying NO to agencies when they ask for freebies. Value your skills. Charge when they ask for extras. Act like a lawyer or accountant. You're in business, not charity work.

There's a list of production companies that went bust by 'folding' to the Plush deal years ago on the promise of lots of work that never came. In effect they tried to run a business by giving away their mark up in return for work. The maths didn't add up.

Independent, AHT, Silverscreen, Sydney Film Co, Cherub, POD, Republic/Cream......and no doubt many more.

The companies that didn't rollover to the "deal": Revolver, Exit, GoodOil, Plaza, 8com, Film Graphics, Radical Media.....

Take note post house and others.

True Nuff said:

@Last Man Standing, every single one of those, 1-6, is valid and I've seen them all in action...sadly.

The agency producer with another boring tale of woe is generally the messenger at the end of a long chain of ineptitude. If someone's begging for a 20K car for 5K, then either an idea's been presented that shouldn't have been, for the cost (shoot the CD), or an idea's been presented with no clear early alignment on budget (shoot the suits) or someone's trying to push something through for their own agenda (shoot the creative team, but make sure the bullet kills the CD on the ricochet).

I've known a couple of agency producers senior enough and secure enough to nip this in the bud by yelling collectively at all these people before the production house gets shafted, but not many.

What to do???? said:

We have seen Fuel go, we have seen Tide Edit down in Melbourne go and with Method/Delux about to do some major job shedding over the next 6 months, it's a very sad situation that is only going to get worse before it gets better.

I have no solution to the current predicament that everyone in Post is facing, I think basically a few more will go by the wayside, some will downsize and carry on and we could potentially see many talented artists lost from the industry for good.

Agencies and Production companies need to just show a little respect and appreciate that it costs money to operate these places, no matter what the size, big or small.

Interesting times ahead , although very worrying for many people who have families to feed.

True Nuff is near nuff said:

Good observations, True.
But most agency producers - senior ones in particular - are not as big a part of the team as they used to be. It WAS all about the team - creative & production together. Securely.
If things deteriorate to the point where a producer - who is there to organise and advise, based on experience and information - is yelling at creatives and CDs, a 'shot' producer they'll be.
After all, there's always someone on reception that would 'quite like to be a producer''s pretty easy, innit?

Last Man Standing said:

There are two kinds of agency producers:
1: The sort who knows from experience just what it takes to get the shot the script needs in terms of lights, days of prep, shoot and post. They never go into a meeting without a calendar, calculator and a filofax or an iPhone with alternative contacts on speed dial.
Creatives/ suits and clients fear them but respect them and they are nobody's fools. They are often over 45 years old and have the wrinkles, saggy boobs and scars to show for their efforts.
2: The other kind are the creative cheerleaders who believe an agency producer's job is to chummy up and keep everyone happy with coffee, tea and/or coke. Younger, dumber and with perky tips on the best frequent flier mile programs and a perfect knowledge of where the best restaurants are. They pad their expenses like their bras.

Give me a cranky old pro with a mouth like a sailor anytime.

The best producer I ever worked with once co-ordinated a 45 day round the world shoot with just her filofax and an Amex card without ever flying out of town.
She managed multiple edits on multiple formats and still managed to earning a very healthy profit for the agency.

Of course it helped that the creatives were grown ups and nobody asked for a freebie tvc on the back of it.

Old Post guy said:

There are no agency producers in this town or Melbourne that tell the creative department that they don't have the necessary funds to make a tvc. None. That type of producer left the scene many years ago. We have tv producers who are nothing more than intermediaries between creatives department and suppliers (photographers / prod co's and post houses). They all want to get the job over the line...they are looking for a solution for the cash they have...and that ends up being the company who says yes. And yes = cheap(er)
It is fanciful to think that producers / creatives who have absolutely no idea of the running of a small to medium size company are ever going to understand that they should be paying market value for a job done. They couldn't care less...or actually paying within a timeframe of less than 3 months after the job has been completed.
This is the real problem facing everyone who works in production. Our revenue / cashflow is dictated by the young producer at the agency who has zero authority with the finance department.
It would be a good idea that prod co's and post co's actually talked with each other and address where all this is going (the CPC is ridiculously SPAA always was)....because asking agencies to help is way off the mark.

Anne Miles said:

Having been an industry consultant for years helping advertising industry businesses I can comment here with some confidence about what works and what doesn't work. As @True Nuff says - some of the senior ones have been shouting - although in my case I believe it is simply about doing it differently without anyone having to discount. I don't believe they are necessary as there is a solution for every budget and we're all in business and need to cover our costs. No need suffering for some multi-national when a lot of times the public and the client can't tell the difference between the expensive option (with no margin) and a different solution that uses less resources (with a humble margin). See the difference? If you do you'll end up doing more jobs and making comfortable profits.

I think this is a potential boom time for the innovators here. There are a few fantastic businesses out there growing right now when others are suffering because they have innovated and are doing things differently. For me, being in this industry a long time now I've seen these dramatic times before and there are those that fall off the perch and those that bloom during times like this. I've always aimed to be ahead of the market for that very reason, and right now innovating is essential.

There are two critical areas of post that need to change IMHO - grading and over-reliance on flame. Both are equally relied on by agencies and production houses stuck in a groove and asking for those services from post houses who have a lot invested in those suites who are equally keen to keep them running. We need to get past this and be open to new solutions - they are out there, I promise you, and the results are just as good if done right.

I also think that having less people being more clever is key too - and having agencies sitting in suites for days on end is no longer working. Agencies need to brief better and expect their suppliers to deliver to that brief rather than sitting there pondering for days on end. This is all possible with a good producer and creatives that can think ahead and experiment outside the expensive suites.

If anyone wants to see more on this - I have blogged about it further here:

True Nuff said:

Yeah, I'll take the cranky old pro with a mouth like a sailor too, saggy boobs and all (even the blokes end up with those, plus the scars of course.)

If it's any consolation (and it probably isn't), a lot of agency producers feel genuinely bad about having to make that unnaturally breezy call that will somewhere contain the fatal words "...yeah, there's a bit of a problem with the budget, though..."

It's unfair to them, because they're cleaning up someone else's mess by that stage. In a lot of cases, it also hurts the genuine friendships they've built over years with post houses. (There's only so much a mate should do for a mate, after all.) In one case I've actually seen a producer hand in her resignation as a protest (no bluff, either - she walked out), but in a lot of cases that's not an option.

A couple of comments above have pointed out that post houses just have to take a harder line sometimes. The flip side is that agencies also have to be better custodians of their working partners' interests (as someone said, photographers get shafted, too).

Done and Dusted said:

@ Old Post Guy and @ Last Man Standing


I am a producer, over 45, who has struggled hugely with the attitudes in agencies and the sad fact that skill and experience account for very little these days. Inexperienced uits that can't/won't wrangle the client and Creatives who want an $500k job done for less than $100k. In some cases you can get the young dude with After Effects skills to do the job. But you will get what you pay for.

I had the nerve to stand up to a CD recently and tell him he didn't have enough money to do his script, and I was reluctant to embarrass myself and the agency by approaching a high end director with the budget we had. I suggested he might write something slightly more budget appropriate. His response was so nasty and vile I am still shocked months later. Needless to say I am working on that career change.

I wish eveyone struggling in the industry all the best. I'm off for a less exciting life but I will sleep better at night knowing I don't have to rip people off to get my job done.

GetReal said:


You are so right.

You tube is just a fad.

And creatives push so hard with the client when presenting creative to do online videos because all they wanna do is make a you tube video over a national tvc.

Because a you tube video looks so much better on your reel than a national tvc campaign, right?

And the agency producer just needs to stand up to everyone and say we won't do it for that price and all will be well in this world.

It's not like the client has production companies - young cowboys - calling them and offering doing it for less, is it?

I'd like to live in your bubble. Sounds like fun.

Last Man Standing said:

@Done and dusted
The CD you mentioned won't last long in this town.
Unless if he's from a big dumb network.
They usually get bounced to Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam etc.
Where their bully boy tactics may create fear and chaos.
But no results

Near 'nuff said:

@ Done and Dusted. Can I come too? My sailor mouth and saggy old boobs have just about had enough.

let's slag the agency producer said:

@ old post guy I find your lack of knowledge and comment offensive and a tad bitter.
As a very senior agency producer with experience on both sides of the fence throughout my career and over 20 years in agency land I can say there are several extremely good producers both in sydney and melbourne but will not list names as there is no point. The production companies know who they are, as do the post houses. These select few agency producers convey to creative they can not do that for the money and that they need to look at certain scenario options or alternate ways to make it happen. And sometimes a rewrite is necessary. If handled correctly and with knowledge and experience no temper tantrums occur and every one ends up happy. They are the make it happen agency producers who don't screw their suppliers, are honest internally and who process invoices promptly and chase through with finance. Yes, they do exist.

These rare breed of producers protect their suppliers as they know they are their gold. They are honest with there suppliers and do not spin the bullshit and rarely ask for favours. If they don't have the budget the have the skills to pull it together them self with out asking for freebies because they know their craft. Sometimes they go into debt with post house and pay it back quickly.
I don't know what old post house you come from and if you have worked with all agency producers in the country but you are not correct and your comments invalid.

I have produced/managed jobs where my post budgets have exceeded $100 - 250K, sometimes considerably more, back in the nighties and up until recent years and the amount of times the lead post producers and I have had chats as we have known and worked together for years the budget they have been given to work with, to both our surprise is sometimes half of what has been in the production company estimate. Thus the production company has screwed the post house and to add insult has added their mark up the original post quote. Here lies the problem.
Direct work seems to work far better and honestly. Yes, there are inexperienced agency producers or producers who just want to impress young creative but an agency producer who is serious about the work their name is on uses these situations to educate young creatives. I have always and always will choose the option of working with the high end post houses as the time spent in the suites may be slightly more $$ wise but the time spent there considerably less. Thus a saving.
The same as I would prefer have a great DP and excellent colourist as time and money is saved. Great pictures, less colour correction. If you are smart you can find a way to do it properly and within budget but if there is no chance in hell of achieving that, we, the real producers convey it and figure out a way to achieve a desired creative result within the budget for the project.

Agency paying post direct makes sense to me and has for years. The post houses get the money they need for what is required. Sure the director can attend but at the end of the day inexperienced directors only slow things down adding to the post houses bill. Once and offline is approved everyone knows what needs to happen. The only time a director is needed is if it is a post heavy job and their expertise is required and would be happy to pay supervision for the job.
The amount of jobs that have a separate directors cut done and paid for by the editors and post house is a joke. Put the job that went to air on your reel.
The industry needs to grow up, stop whinging and let the balance settle.
Agencies need the best producers they get. The waste they stop pays for their salaries several times over.
A experienced team can do wonders and educate the young at the same time. The problem with this industry, few within agency land have had training in the past decade, the sharing of knowledge given to them. Everyone is too busy chasing the next title, that means zip if you don't know what you are doing and the standard of your work is poor.
Benchmarks need to be reset.

TOIA said:

The world is changing, budgets are getting hammered globally, deadlines shortened, post tools are cheaper,
easier and faster...

Businesses usually fail because the owner of that business has not evolved to suit the new logistics and economies of the future. They are dreaming if they blame ad agencies or clients.
There is still money to be made out there and lots of it... you just have to evolve to suit the new playing field.
The fact is, there are no rules anymore... Agencies are shooting and directing and posting jobs. Production companies dealing directly with clients and doing it all as well. Post houses are dealing directly with agencies and clients and directing jobs as well.
We are all in a period of business survival... and seriously, there is nothing wrong with that.

With technology being so cheap and fast these days, Programs like Nuke $4000, Smoke, $2.500, AE $1500, Resolve color grading system is $900, Speed grade comes free with Premier, Avid, $2200, FCP, $500, Cinema 4D $ 3500... 3dmax $3500, Maya $5000 and the computers that run these programs are less than $5000... Lets not to forget cameras...
But after all these cheap programs get installed, it will always come down to how awesome that operator/artist is.... and that's what we all pay for... and trust me, the post world is turning into freelance very quickly. Why?... because a lot of people that work in post house don't get paid that much unless they are top of the game. I'm hiring some amazingly talented guys for as little as 1 to 2k per day... and they are loving it, and so am I. They are making their weekly wage in one day.... and this becomes another problem for post houses.

A smart arse (production company) producer said to me many years ago: "Cream rises to the top"
At the time I took this comment as a complete insult in the context of the discussion we were having.

But today... It has a whole new meaning for me.
This global change we are all going through will get rid of the pretenders that are under charging or under performing. And that's a good thing, because we all know the industry of advertising and film and tv is way too heavy at the moment and it needs to be cleansed.

The new rules are being re-written as we speak.
And to be honest, I'm loving the revolution....

Neither young, nor old... yet said:

One of the most constructive threads/discussion about our industry I've witnessed on in recent times.

hummmmmmm said:

@GetReal. really are a bit of a cock aren't you.

Bigger problem said:

ok so let's mutiny !!! I mean it has to be time doesn't it !!!

The fact is you can't go to the counter at Coles and bargin down the sales assistant, you can't bargin down VW on your car service ... you can't get that God damn builder or plumber for less - he's ALWAYS more than he quoted .... so when did all us lot ... agencies... production houses .... post houses included ... turn into the red light district??

Well maybe if we all weren't trying to pay off a home loan on a creative industry income ... we'd all be better off, wouldn't we?

I'm constantly surprised the recipients of the cheaper jobs, don't see how much the quality (production value) is lacking. Let's talk about the elephant in the room . They engage the cowboys and then wonder why their TVC looks like crap, the market doesn't respond and then the next time the client goes to advertise they don't spend as much money ... because the last ad didn't deliver them the results they hoped for.... duh!!!

Go build your home a a crap budget .... see what you end up with .... and you're letting your clients do it - have the talk - you can have CHEAP GOOD QUICK pick any two.

Anyway ... let's have another wine... make it a Chardonnay ... it reminds me of the nineties ... and times was better then.

@let's slag the agency producer said:

Not sure any of us would have wanted to see you 'back in the nighties'. We all know the senior producers in this country, and whether a man or a woman, that image alone would send the strongest of us into therapy.

While you're busy accusing production companies of inflating post costs, here are a few issues to consider.

〮the attack on the production industry by agencies and agency groups who have created their own in-house production teams to do bread and butter work and to quote for the larger projects in order to set as low a budget standard for outside production as the project might bear with in-house hands, but one that is considerably lower than is necessary for competent and certainly quality work

〮the mark-up kick backs that were for some time in play when doing business via the agencies' in-house production units, none of whom had the overhead of developing/keeping director talent on their non-existent rosters (thank you Sir Martin Sorrell and your Pipe company)

〮the monies spent on media agencies who are paid as a percentage of a media buy and as a result of their collusion with strategist/planners/suits bombard the broadcast channels with every half-decent tvc, programming it far more than the audience can bear to watch, killing it's creative value by numbing the viewing public, and leaving nothing left of the campaign budget that might have produced an additional concept to run with, or at a minimum, alternate versions of the one

〮the gross failure by even the most experienced agency producers to recognise the fact that a significant change in brief should be accompanied by a change in the quote, or something that used to be called an 'overage'

〮for stills production, the concept of a half-day's work, and what a technician or artist is supposed to do with the other half that remains unpaid, and presumably quite difficult to sell to another agency, not to mention the definition of a weather day

〮the time spent by every production company on every job, big and small, doing a PPM, a PPPM, most often a PPPPM, and yes we've actually experienced a PPPPPM in order to insure that every person in the endless agency/client chain, virtually none of whom have the power to approve the cost of a paper clip, are fully informed about the process and have every chance to add their small contribution to fucking it up

〮the very idea of a fully fledged 2-6 minute ad film that in every way resembles a :60 tvc, except the obvious difference in length, with every aspect of producing for an agency and client still in play (see PPMs), but being budgeted to produce at a tenth of the usual tvc costs simply by virtue of the phrases 'it's only for the web' or 'you could shoot with the 5D', but where somewhat curiously and counterintuitively the media costs are negligible if not nonexistent

〮the notion that the high end of a post budget is considered to be $250K for complex projects done locally by Animal Logic or Fin and one or two others generally involving weeks if not months of work by teams of 20-50 2D, 3D, animators, colourists, storyboard and concept artists, trackers, modellers, and yes those compositors forced to sit in the Flame suites you either love or dismiss making every insignificant change suggested ad nauseum by the army of agency members and then the marketing teams and then the clients themselves who will pass through over the course of the final week or two of a project, and this for $10K a day or less

〮the laundry list of agency credits on any significant tvc or other project for that matter that is PRd here on the blog and that generally dwarfs the names of those who actually did the creative execution of what we're seeing should tell us everything we need to know about where the money from any client is 'wasted' in the process of creating compelling advertising that captures the public's imagination.

〮the fact that you refer to yourself as an agency producer and reference your bio as having significant experience on both agency and production sides narrows the field considerably, and more importantly, along with your comment about the $250K post budget being your high water mark "back in the nighties" (god, we hope you meant 90s) tells anyone who knows that if you've reverted to producing at the agency, you weren't really a qualified production producer to begin with, and the kinds of work you were dealing with when they were hiring you pretty much discount your opinions on every other topic you chose to engage

There's more, but after several hours this morning dealing with potential offshore clients, and the time it took to write a rebuttal of sorts to the 'agency producer' who went to the defence of his/her much maligned brethren, it's time to get into the office to see what the local marketplace has cooked up in the way of nightmares for us on this glorious Friday. We're betting that one of the first calls has something to do with needing a favour.

Adapt or Perish said:

Australia's industry is living in the Stone Age. The US adapted to this change light years ago. American studios tend to use mostly freelancers so they can expand and contract when needed. Even the big studios have a super small talented core staff. I've worked in Australian post houses that are so top heavy with too many old guys loitering around pretending to work. Also Australian post houses are focusing on tasks that can and already are being outsourced to cheaper countries. Rotoscoping, Set replacement, Cleanup. Why invest in a bunch of flame suites when you can do a youtube video in after effects or nuke. The list go's on. Come on Australia adapt to change or you will be left behind.

@TOIA said:

Good luck with that top end 'cream' in China, or Vietnam, or Singapore, or . . .

We'll be back here slogging it out in the UK and the States and yes Oz, with concepts that haven't been lifted from the work done here ten years ago, or with agency creatives who've retreated to your terrain because they had to.

Your idea of undermining the post industry by hiring freelancers is a little cynical considering it was those post houses where the innovation that you've listed has generally originated.

And, no, just being on a roster in the First World doesn't really count, unless you're actually getting work there.

HungyHippo said:

@ let's slag the agency producer: I think all Post Houses agree that they need to deal directly with Agencies, that would free up the massive mark-up production companies place on their quotes. Yes most directors need to be dismissed after offline, if not before, grade and post can be handled by the Agency and Post house.

@Toia said: ' the post world is turning into freelance very quickly.' that has been evident for a number of years, mainly driven by the inability of post houses to understand the changing environment and going broke. Some post houses will inevitably become pure dry hire, others will have a core team of five or six people who will draw in freelances when needed.

In the end, as Central Asia and China will swallow up all the film vfx work over the next few years, TVC post at both an animation\grade\composite will become global, there are already a number of collectives\teams who work on tvcs all in different parts of the wold. This is only the first stage of change the next will be more dramatic on the local industry.

One other thought is that clients do all the agency work in house, pitching out to creative teams and employing freelance people when needed, I'd like to see that!!!!!!! soon too!!!

Marx and Lennon said:

WPP group made a 350£ profit in the first half of this year and 1 billion £ in 2011.

Make no mistake about what's been going on. Martin Sorrell and the other accountants who are leading agency groups, agencies themselves, and more and more finding their way into ECD chairs have no interest in creative excellence. In fact there's a fair amount of evidence, most of it from Sorrell's mouth itself to suggest that he and others of his ilk have no interest in creativity of any kind, opting for a model that gives their clients volume and multiple channels for the retail drivel at the expense of advertising that captures the imagination of consumers.

There's is a short term strategy that takes today and this quarter into consideration while ignoring any concept of building a brand for the future.

It's a bottom line mentality from top to tail and it may be fostered in by the digital revolution, but this is just the opportunity that's being taken advantage of by empire builders who have no taste for artists or artistry, and couldn't care less if image makers, storytellers, and the highly skilled technicians who support their efforts make a living.

For this mob it's about one thing and one thing only, having a larger slice of the pie for themselves, and the very action that makes their dreams possible is our complicity.

This revolution is a top down affair, and a unique kind of class warfare that fits quite nicely within the world's financial sector, but has no business near the art of advertising and entertainment. Undermining any of our efforts to choose another path for our industry is our singular inability to unite against a common enemy and to retake what was a thriving business of creativity from the hands of the bean counters.

Marx and Lennon said:

Of course that's a 350 million £ profit from January through June for WPP.

both sides now said:

To whoever replied to "@let's slag the agency producer", and gifted us with the following gem:

".....tells anyone who knows that if you've reverted to producing at the agency, you weren't really a qualified production producer to begin with, and the kinds of work you were dealing with when they were hiring you pretty much discount your opinions on every other topic you chose to engage"

I am not @let's slag the agency producer, but the person that wrote the above in response is clearly a dickhead of the highest order.
Producers have to survive: so, we have to adapt too.
If a producer can undertake both agency and production house producing and do it well due to past experience (not at the same time!!!!), good for them.
We know there are those that can't do both well, but that still try to do so.
Some of us are really good at both sides of the production coin.
And the comment you made is ill informed, specious and offensive - and I'm going to stop writing before I say F'** you.

@both sides now said:

"Some of us are really good at both sides of the production coin."

Name one, or just out yourself as an example, otherwise, those of us on the production/post side will maintain our overwhelmingly collective opinion about agency producers and their capabilities. You're in denial.

Now no one will admit to it to you, because it's definitely not in their self-interest to do so, but it is nonetheless a fact that the relationship between agency and production companies, post as well is based upon a longstanding animosity and suspicion for people in positions of power who regularly undervalue the worth of others with the genuine skills to make what they and their creatives can only imagine, all the while asking them to dance on the head of a pin.

This adversarial state of things has only been exacerbated by the economic buggering production and post has had to suffer at the hands of more and more greedy agencies who while making outsized profits for their holding companies continue to cut a thinner and thinner slice of the pie for the people who actually turn their ideas into reality.

Not that they haven't tried, but if any of them could actually do what we do for themselves, rest assured they'd be doing it. The evidence, however, as witnessed by Plush, Bento, 133 and their like is there for all to see.

The elephant in the room is the fact that every member of a film crew laughs at every member of an agency on a set behind their backs, and for the most part, there are precious few on the production or post side who think that the primary function of an agency producer isn't to check their emails and make reservations.

You can have your 'fuck you' here in print, because every day that you communicate with a production or post company, they're silently sending you dozens of their own, and if you'd actually worked in any serious position in the production or post side of the business, and an EP marketing to your old mates in the agencies doesn't count as actually producing, then you'd know this to be true.

Get off your laptop said:

Everyone commenting on here is a producer.

Every time I'm on a shoot, in an edit, a sound mix, a PPPPPPPM, a grade, a presentation, you guys are too busy tapping away on your laptops to even bother looking at what you're fucking producing.

Unless the team is very senior, that, my friends, is what burns money in post.

Most young teams don't even know how to draw or write let-alone produce a TV commercial, and with the (agency and prod-co) producer constantly organising their next job instead of doing their current one, a lot of shit gets missed, throw in a young director and suddenly 'let's fix it in post' becomes standard practice rather than a joke thrown around on set.

Laugh out loud said:

Dear agency producer with so much experience.

Question: What are your payment terms?

Answer: "end of the month + 45 days" which can translate into 75days+

This yet another one of the problems...

Some witty play on words using POST said:

First of all, I think there are already companies in the Post industry who have adapted to the changes. I think Method (not Deluxe as a whole), The Editors, The Butchery/Refinery, Fin, Alt.vfx, Heckler, and a few others have had the foresight to set themselves up in a way to make best use of the change in technologies, make the most of the budgets on offer whilst still producing top quality work. All have a very talented core staff, then bring in freelancers to fill the gaps when necessary. These post companies will survive as they are small, efficient & adaptable without the huge wage & rent overheads of a Fuel, Digital Pictures, The Lab, FSM, Post Modern, etc;

Even then, the industry doesn't need:
- Creatives who can't make a decision.
- CDs that want to change everything their creatives do
- Multiple versions because nobody can make a decision
- Suits & CDs that try to second guess the client
- Agency producers who will let their creatives try to get away with a lot when the budget is limited
- Moving pictures being treated like stills in terms of cleanup when the budget doesn't allow for it
- Post Producers who are incapable of saying "No" to clients
- Agencies that don't understand that a set super means one that is approved and doesn't need to be modified
- Expecting Post Houses to quote jobs off a script with no storyboards, with the brief "It will just be a conform and super placement", then provide hours worth of cleanup & "fix it in post" scenarios without expecting to have to pay additionals.
- Asking for extra things that "aren't in the budget". If they're not in the budget then don't ask.
- Not finalising legals BEFORE post commences

both sides now said:

@1.04 PM

Thanks for answering the obvious question. You're really young.

And 'everyone's laughing at you' is definitely not the worst thing producers have had said about them: especially as those doing the 'laughing' are usually second rate at their chosen trade themselves.

Professionals, no matter what their job, or where they are, know we're all in this together.

And I WAS going to withdraw my fuck you, but now I'd like to square it.

@Get off your laptop said:

Well clearly not everyone here is a producer. Time on your hands, genius?

"Every time I'm on a shoot, in an edit, a sound mix, a PPPPPPPM, a grade, a presentation . . . "

How often is that? Betting you have plenty of time on your hands as a director, and if you're so tuned in, why not produce for yourself? Can't read a budget? Don't know how to organise a shoot? Do you write your own treatments? Do your own photo reference research? Know how to operate a camera? Use an edit program? Draw your own storyboards? Find your way to the set? Can't really do much of anything without someone holding your hand?

Oh, you can work with talent and pitch to agency creatives using your dynamic presence and undiminished ego.

Well, it's a commercial, not Shakespeare. What you do is not supernatural, so stop thinking that it deserves such reverence. If you want to know what 'burns money' in production or post, it's usually attached to some director's attempts to reinvent the medium every time he/she gets the opportunity to do a spot.

Fixing it in post is the joke thrown around on the set when everyone except the director realises that their fearless leader is headless and waiting for the folks who manipulate the pixels to come to the rescue.

@both sides now said:

Since "you're really young" is the best you can do as a rebuttal, and you still haven't been able to name one individual, including yourself presumably who is a part of the "some of us are really good at both sides of the production coin", we'll all just continue assuming that you're as full of shit as your remarks suggest.

As far as the "professionals, no matter what their job, or where they are, know we're all in this together" line, this kind of kumbaya is the sort of rationalisation that's thrown around by agency producers every day of the week in order to try and coax production and post into 'sharing the burden'.

It's bullshit and anyone who's been in the industry long enough can smell the stench a mile off.

'Fuck you squared', now that may just be the most creative comment you've made so far.

Congratulations, and good luck trying to get it produced for your budget. You'll be lucky to get it in for under 'divided by two', but then there are always those favours.

Post House said:

I couldn't agree more with the above sentiment. The post industry is in a complete mess.

Below is an extract taken from an email I literally received this afternoon, when told by an agency producer we didn't win the job because we weren't "flexible" enough on our quote. I kid you not this email extract is word-for-word:

"There is no shortage of post companies that offer premium quality, competitive prices and flexibility. We are spoiled for choice…"

Ben Dover mentions above that it's a race to the bottom. With this kind of attitude getting sprayed around, I think the race is already over and we are sitting on the finish line.

HungyHippo said:

@Some witty play on words using POST: Well said, unfortunately the culprits will be reading it not understanding it's them your talking about.

One other important point - this thread does not need to become a slinging match like a post house trying to get paid for their work!!

The Truth said:

Sorry to hear about Fuel. Great company and talented people.

Unfortunately, there's rarely enough money for production when it comes in from an agency. They have to shoot all three scripts in one day, or the script is just plainly incomparable to the budget.

As a result, it's done on the cheap by someone, to a lesser standard. Or compromise upon compromise is made until it's whittled down to nothing worth doing, but by then it's too late and underway.

Just so everyone is clear, it's around 150 to 180 K AUD for a 1 day shoot done properly where people aren't under payed or compromised. That's with nothing all too extravagant either.

Look around, and you'll see most spots look like shit and aren't well directed or posted, at all. Most directors have no idea how to actually craft an idea, storytelling or performance and you get what you paid for.

When there's no money, the best companies and people know when to say no, and walk away from a job. As an agency, you should thank them for being honest, but also take note. It means the other guy is having to cut corners and your ad is going to be less because of that.

The prod cos and post houses aren't looking to rip people off. They aren't twisted and morally questionable people. Have a drink with them and you'll see it's the side of the business where the most interesting and pleasant folk reside. They just want to be paid a standard industry standard rate and be able to offer this to their crews and artists also. Is that too much to ask? We've slipped into some odd space where it almost is, and that is wrong.

At the end of the day, it always has been and always will be the big TV and film work that resonates with people. Think of your favourite spots or campaigns and that's what they are. Sure, the UK or European work of Glazer, Budgen, Ledwidge, Zaccharias, or in the US of Kuntz, Sanders, Murro. But in Oz, look at Boags or Carlton Draught and other classics. They pay off, better than anything.

You can talk up all the interactive, digital, toggle this and the guy moves on screen, shoot on the 5D at 50 frames, social media friends, buy the software bullshit all you like - but it's false and empty. And don't quote me stats or effectiveness because that's all bought and sold too.

The bottom line is, to make great film work, the people need money to do it, plain and simple. Give them the means whereby this is possible and everyone will reap the benefits.

Sure, someone will always do it on the cheap for you and you may even get a kick out of making that happen, but it just is not sustainable, or in the best interests of all the people who attempt to make a living working job to job in this industry.

WOW said:

This blog has been an amazing learning curve. As an agency producer I stupidly thought we had all become part of the same team over the years out of trust, understanding and respect for each other.
I now learn that you consider us a joke and laugh at us.
Good to know it is still the them and us so next time I get your quotes and can see you have hidden money across x, y or z will ask for it to be removed and placed where required rather than looking at the bottom figure and going fine.
Plus when I notice you have forgotten something I won't point it out.

perhaps said:

it's worth considering there's money to be made doing other things.

Ice berg ahead! said:

Qualifications and skills need to count for something. The ice berg of 'new world of production' we are apparently all heading for will sink us. It will sink us all.

You don't go to some guy with a pocket knife for open heart surgery because you don't want to pay for the doctors skills or the expensive machine that will keep you alive during the procedure, even if you do walk away with some kind of shit contraption in your chest.. You walk away with SHIT.

Agencies, post houses and production companies all aspire to being the best at what they do, and doing the best they can do for their client, often at their our own expense and detriment. It's time to recognise it takes what it takes and cost what it costs. To suggest every Tom , Dick or Harry can do better or cheeper with an opinion, an i phone and a Mac is stupid. So, if this is the new world of production we are all heading for?... I guess I'll see you, Fuel and everyone else at the bottom.

Some witty play on words using POST said:

One last thing....

I don't know why so many Production companies are crying poor when most directors & producers still seem to be driving the latest model BMW, Audi, Porsche, Merc, etc;

I also know of a job where the production company marked up the post budget by 300%, after screwing the post company down claiming there was no money. I just hope that was an isolated case.

@WOW said:

Try doing the work without the expertise of the people you believe are cheating you and see how far you get.

Maybe next time we receive your brief and after agreeing to an award verbally and promising you'll have something to deliver to your client by a certain date, we'll just play along until contracts are ready to be signed, then take a pass at the eleventh hour with a note saying that the expectations couldn't be met for the budget after all, leaving you to explain to the suit and your ECD that their creative choice can't do the work and you have no one prepared to deliver a commercial for a media buy that's already been made and scheduled.

We'll see how long you last at the agency after that.

This game cuts both ways, and from your condescending attitude, it seems as if it's high time you learned that lesson the hard way.

Trust, understanding, and respect? The way you treat production and post companies? You must be joking.

Gimme a break said:

@iceberg ahead

This isn't open heart about inflated sense of self importance.

Negativity Wins Nothing said:

@Wow (and @@Wow, for that matter), I think you are reacting to a number of comments posted higher up this thread.

For what it's worth, I think far more relationships between agency producers and production / post houses are based on mutual respect, than otherwise (yes, relationships that are tested and strained by daily difficulties and the host of problems others here have delved into - but still intact.)

The picture that someone painted of these relationships being "adversarial" and of everyone disdaining or laughing at each other is a gross exaggeration. In this business, like any other, you'll get the respect (or lack thereof) that you deserve.

Let's keep some perspective here. Now, more than ever.

@WOW from WOW said:

Totally agree with Negativity Wins Nothing comments. We all need to work together and support each other during these difficult times.

To @ WOW if you accept an award/appointment on a job with out a PO you are an idiot. Any decent agency producer would have the PO to you as an attachment on an email confirming your appointment with the agreed on schedule also attached. Rule 1.
They would also be asking you for your 1st 50% invoice so they can get it through the system so payment can be made well before the first shooting date and if heavy in prep a week or more before the shoot so you have working funds. Rule 2.

So to your little scenario - fail. No production company or post house should proceed without a purchase order and or written confirmation. Preferably both.

With your attitude and unprofessional procedures no wonder your company is struggling.

Stevo said:

This is a discussion that is long overdue. I live in SE Asia and in Bangkok for example, there are only 2 huge post houses and they are doing mostly foreign work. Over the last few years a whole bunch of smaller, but very good post houses have sprung up and most of them are using great artists that have come thorough the big post houses. The work is great, it just takes a little longer and is about half the price of the big guys. It's perfect as we can still use the big post houses for the big jobs but we have options for the smaller jobs.
Australia is still living a little in the dark ages..Melb and Syd cannot afford any more than maybe 2 big post houses.
Also, this is a global problem and not restricted to post. Clients don't have the budgets any more so we are all trying to figure out how to deliver great advertising for sometimes less than half of what we used to (or less). Everyone is at fault here...agencies for writing ideas that are too expensive, prod houses for not figuring out how to do things cheaper..and post houses, who I regard as the really unfortunate ones as they have to invest to stay current.
I also don;t think this is only restricted to advertising and's just that the advertising industry and production industry have been far too slow to catch on...

@WOW said:

You have rules? Who would have thought, given the general behaviour.

How many calls does it usually take to get that first 50%? Too many times right up until the day before shooting, or later.

How long do we have to wait to get the second 50%?

How many times have we been the creative recommend on a Monday to hear that the job went elsewhere on a Tuesday, after three to four weeks of quoting, treatment, creative calls, revised treatment, storyboards, revised quoting for procurement to reduce the numbers below profit just to get something through the door after so much advance work, or maybe the entire project has been shelved because it was never approved by the client before it went out to bid in the first place?

Rules? Please.

If the CPC only had the strength of character to become an honest representative of commercial producers, its leadership would have long ago recommended a union that bound its members to a compliance with basic production standards and forced agencies to deal in good faith and pay their bills in a timely fashion, but alas, we act as individuals, with weak leadership, and probably deserve the despicable treatment we all get.

The New Rule Book is Coming said:

This is by far the most amazing blog I have read in years. It's just brilliant.

It is crystal clear we have all reached our 'boiling point'.

As for what's next, who knows, but I get a feeling the 'rule book' we keep referring to is getting rewritten as we speak.

Job Alert said:

Most post houses were initially set up by creatives that lacked a strong business acumen.

As the industry has evolved, we need more savvy business minded producers in place to step up and show forward thinking leadership to get us out of this mess.

@ @Get off your laptop said:

@Get off your laptop said:
Well clearly not everyone here is a producer. Time on your hands, genius?

"Every time I'm on a shoot, in an edit, a sound mix, a PPPPPPPM, a grade, a presentation . . . "

How often is that? Betting you have plenty of time on your hands as a director, and if you're so tuned in, why not produce for yourself? Can't read a budget? Don't know how to organise a shoot? Do you write your own treatments? Do your own photo reference research? Know how to operate a camera? Use an edit program? Draw your own storyboards? Find your way to the set? Can't really do much of anything without someone holding your hand?

Oh, you can work with talent and pitch to agency creatives using your dynamic presence and undiminished ego.

Well, it's a commercial, not Shakespeare. What you do is not supernatural, so stop thinking that it deserves such reverence. If you want to know what 'burns money' in production or post, it's usually attached to some director's attempts to reinvent the medium every time he/she gets the opportunity to do a spot.

Fixing it in post is the joke thrown around on the set when everyone except the director realises that their fearless leader is headless and waiting for the folks who manipulate the pixels to come to the rescue.


I just thought I'd repost your rant so you could read it and realise how much of a fuckstick you are.

Get off your laptop, and concentrate on the job at hand, not the next one. Then you might save a few $ and actually contribute something more than 'I know a good restaurant in Redfern, why don't we go there for drinks? (giggly giggle).'

DD said:

Set up a school like digital domain and use students that pay you 105k tuition and work for free. 30% of the DD workforce will be made up of students. WTF!

@ WOW from Wow part 2 said:

Here is where the industry problem starts and ends.

The industry has to stop doing that to save itself, and should have never started. It all started when Flames first arrived in the country. The specialist got them and then every tom dick and harry shop got them and started to under quote the specialists because they had monkeys operating them. The post industry has killed itself and according to this thread it is the agency producers fault?
You walk away prior to that.

There is a saying. Work for free or full price. But never cheap.

If you have talent the work will come.

And as a result Fuel is struggling to stay alive as a result of business's that say we can do it cheaper.

@@@Get off your laptop said:


Just back from the pub are we?

Another working director, no doubt.

How's that treatment coming?

Ah well, we'll have the 'kid in the office' rewrite it on Monday morning, cleaning up the typos and toning down the references to Kurosawa.

After all, it's a Huggies commercial.

How was that restaurant in Redfern, by the way? We were stuck at the office trying to figure out how to do everything you said you wanted for that $80K we told you the agency had to spend and couldn't make it.

You'll be in around 11AM as usual? We'll have your skim latte waiting.

Done and Dusted said:

Wow. This is actually really sad. Blame and bitterness all round. I have sat on may sides of the production table, as have a few "over 45" Producers out there, and none of them are easy in this day, and no one of them is to blame. No matter how much we stamp our foot and try to keep standards, the money men don't care.

This has just strengthened my resolve to get out and go live a less stressed life and not have to beg people I consider friends for "favours" I know I can't repay. I hope they can find a way to pay their mortgage and put their kids through school.

@DD 2:09AM said:

Digital Domain closed their school in Florida on Friday, dismissing the entire semester's class, except those enrolled via the University of Florida programs.

The company has filed for Chapter 11 in the US and declared bankruptcy.

It's seeking to find the financing to continue it's operations in California, but will close the Florida facility.

WTF is right. Maybe if you got some sleep, you could keep up on current events during the day, instead of posting five month old articles that are seriously out of date with the current situation.

Anne Miles said:

I find it amazing to hear everyone out to attack and blame everyone else like this. It's quite sad really. Am I the only one here willing to own up to who I am??

I have no qualms to say that most of this ranting above is based on ignorance. There are certainly ways to meet any budget and there is no need to suffer as a result of that. We can work with our clients to solve their budget problems and equally do a great job and make a sensible profit.

I think there are some valid concerns through the industry and payment terms is a significant one in the least. With the strength and possible solutions from an experienced producer everyone can win - including managing the payment situation.

It is time, though, to do things differently. This is no different to the many other freak outs the industry has had over the years when new technology and new ways of working come in. Those that have been stuck in their ways are the ones that suffer and spend their time complaining and insisting on unions when they just need to do things differently and work WITH the system, not against it - innovate.

@Anne Miles said:

Plush, need we say more?

Share the Wealth said:

It might be an idea for clients and agencies next time, instead of asking for a freebie or a reduced rate, putting some of your salary forward so everyone gets paid fairly?

Maybe every try giving up all your salary so you do a freebie on the job so that production and post dont have to, see what it feels like working on a job for free knowing others a sitting pretty...

Dear O'Dear said:

Get over it.

There will always be the prima donna director, the bimbo producer, the clueless CD, the inexperienced creative team, the blown estimate, the screwed processes, the wasted effort, the not quite ethical competitor, the indecisive clients.

Guess what?

It's the same in any other realm of business, or human endeavour. Except the titles change, that's all. So, get over it. That doesn't define the industry, and more importantly, it doesn't solve the actual problems of staying in business.

"With the strength and possible solutions from an experienced producer everyone can win" - if only it were that simple. The issue is much more complex that that, and for those production houses who still intend to be listed in a phone directory in 2013 and beyond, the answers are deeper than mere producer competence and better processes.

Stevo above raises a good point - when boundaries shrink, production houses can travel across borders and make their $$$ elsewhere. Post and VFX companies in HK, China, and elsewhere are getting good regional money. The competition is just going to get worse, or if you see the glass as half full - the opportunities are going to get better for those capable enough.

@Anne Miles said:

Anne, sorry, I think you are missing the point.
We can all make things for the budget. The problem is people don't want what the budget can supply and want to get double or triple the budget for what they pay.
Bruce's link sums it up perfectly.

surprised said:

On reading most of these comments one can only be saddened by the fact that a lot of these comments are coming through people who work in the business and are incredibly frustrated, disenchanted and have used this forum to express this.

On the other side there are many who are incredibly naive and unimformed - many of who constantly use terms of "be innovative", "find new ways" and "adapt". They also seem to have the perception that all this is a matter of age and that youth is some magical panacea to make things right.

Post production in Australia can change but it will take the people who use it to understand that it is a business and by being a business and that the people who have invested in it, through the capitalist system we all work under and embrace through advertising, need to make a healthy profit. This all is supposed to come as a reward for the risk taken.

Part of running a Post Production business means having staff on hand so they can as often required can carry out a last minute change that's been requested.

Because these people have to be paid a wage, the owners have to charge more for them when they're working on a project to cover this. These people once having gathered the experience required are usually at an age where they have taken on morgages and the like so they have to be paid (within the system) a wage that enables them to do this. This also need to be paid enough money to have a reasonable life. It's called reward and again it's part of the capitalist system.

They even need to get paid stuff like super annuation or sick leave and holiday pay. Yes you can avoid that by not having full time staff - but when that problem pops up that needs to be resolved promptly who do you use?

One of the joys of having the above people housed in semi luxurious or refined environments - another added cost, - along with having a cappucino machine and somebody to make coffees for people and toasted sandwhiches for those too lazy to feed themselves before arriving - is that all of this presents an environment of security for the clients who enter the building. It also costs money. More than any of you imagine.

Ths post business can become a lot cheaper and will do in the future when things like the NBN come fully operational and will allow more use of environments where there is less investment in machinary or even software of any kind as that will be in another building. In fact you probably won't have to go to the post place (it may not even exist) and present all the work remotely.

But until that happens there are simple hard costs involved in running any business for it to survive, let alone be profitable and to hopefully even grow.

Perhaps people if they desire to get things done cheaper, have to be prepared to go to some persons house (probably their parents) and is probably working on a discounted wage and look at the work on the said persons machine in their bedroom or spare room whilst this said person develops the financial level of commitment that their parents have made and realise they have to start charging "real" money for their efforts and that the people who are visiting are uncomforatble with the soiled laundry and mess that dots the room. But then again, this person will be cheap.

The other thing that concerns me midst all this is that a lot of the negative comments seem to come from people who work in agencies - agencies who are currently embrace youth because they're innovative and are prepared to work long hours - but they're also cheap and expendable. Look around you guys - and see how many of these "old" guys upon whom you sneer, work in your agency. Probably very few? Then realise that you will be one of these "old" guys sooner than you expect. And then I ask what will you be doing?

@Anne Miles said:

I'm sorry to say Anne but your blogs make you sound very naive as to how the world really ticks out there.

As you no longer work in the industry, it is very easy for you to "name" yourself with any blog comment you post. As for the rest of us, we have reputations to protect which unfortunately require us to maintain some form of anonymity.

@anne miles said:

I checked out your link in your first posting and have lifted this directly from your blog:

Speaking to Darren Woolley, Marketing and Management Consultant from Trinity P3 recently, he agrees .......

Now this man certainly has done bucket loads for our industry and trust between clients and suppliers.

@WOW (Asylum Films) said:

You mentioned that you "stupidly thought we had all become part of the same team over the years out of trust, understanding and respect for each other." Are you serious?

As an agency producer, I am very interested to hear your thoughts on the following behaviour from Leo Burnett's in London?

It's this kind of attitude and behaviour that chaps our ass and leaves us all (prod co and post) feeling the way we do.

Hopefully this gives you a little more insight into the issues we face and you can now see it from our side of the fence.

@WOW Asylum films said:

Ok I understand what you are saying. You attacked me. Not me, you, and quite viciously.
If I was the producer I would have tried to convince the creative to have you at least bid once a budget was found for a National Campaign, but then you would have been pissed if not awarded it not knowing I had pushed to get you in there for a chance.
And if I had lost, I certainly would have picked up the phone and explained the situation. That is just courtesy and respect, something there is too little of left in this industry, globally.
I understand it is business but respect and honesty is important for building relationships.
I probably would have thrown in why not just add the new music and VO on existing pictures, and then taken the abuse.
Quite often it is out of the agency producers hands when creative want to work with x,y or z or already have a relationship with a particular company and there is money. They want the best, which is understandable, we all do but I would recommend letters like that will not help your business with other prospective clients with whom you have not worked before. Would make them very nervous. Sort of like a Production House contacting a client during or after a shoot with a grievance. Best to walk away and hold your head high and put it down to experience.

It is a tough business and you never comprehended my original posting or read it correctly.
When I brief I always work backwards from the overall budget and advise those who are bidding a ballpark of what I have for them to work towards so they know how far or little they can go with their treatment so they can advise what they can do for the money.
It comes down to treatments and which one the creative team prefer.
I check key areas, not line items and if something looks light on I will ask if they are comfortable and if I think they do not have what is needed in a certain area [based on knowing the creative expectations] I will point it out, wrangle a few things, add it in and them make sure I get the estimate through.
I will only do that with the recommended quote and I do not fix quotes to make someone look better than an other. I work for the creative department and they chose the director. I recommend who would be suitable and good for the job and always supply a cross section to chose from. I have sold through the highest quote time and time again to client. Sometimes the preferred is not the highest, then I always ask the prod producer are they comfortable with their figures.
I want my creative to be happy with the end result and I want my supplier to be treated with respect and proud of what they make us. One gets the best job that way.

But I am sure I will be bagged out for my response. I mean you all think agency producers are a joke. That there is not a decent one in the country. There are some great producers in sydney and a few in melbourne. Some on staff, some freelance but the problem is not us. The problem is that digital has damaged us all and we need to focus and do the best we can as the digital phase will pass once client realise youtube clips or just that, clips.

Nothing will ever beat a great tv spot. I am off this blog now.

The elephant in the edit suite... said:

Nobody has mentioned cost controllers, sorry, 'production consultants' in this discussion which worries me for two reasons.

One, post houses and production companies can't see what's really going on.

And two, it's revealed a deep mistrust and animosity towards agencies. The kind of animosity Agencies would never show clients, at least in a public forum like this.

We are all getting screwed at the moment, yet some cost controllers are getting taken out to lunch every day and pissing away half the post budget in a single sitting.

We all want the best job we can get for the money. It's when that pool of cash suddenly dips 40-60% after you've had script approval and shortlisted your directors that we all get screwed, and we all should be aware, at least in part, of where that money goes.

hummmmmmmm said:

Has any one else noticed (or is it just me) that many of top end post house producers have become really fucking rude and blasé recently??? I used to feel that as a client bringing work to them was appreciated, now I don't feel like that at all. Just throwing it out there?

Mr Truffle said:

Why doesn't ben Dover name names? why protect those who are running everyone to the ground?

The issues mentioned run in our digital industry too, although budgets were already small and the barrier to entry even lower.

tano said:

In another perspective, it has been so predictable that everything will turn out this way. As an engineer I have foreseen a very steep competition a few years ago because of the lowering cost of investment for newer post production and production products. The software industry and the IT machines were the first one who dropped their bombastic lowering of costs. These are some businesses which were at the back of it:

1. Blackmagic Design for example have been acquiring software companies and selling it at a lower cost. And manufacturing their hardware product at 1/4 the cost of their competitions.

2. Red camera has ignited the setup of a lower cost for camera's giving an edge for newer talent to acquire digital cinema materials and do it at a lower cost.

3. Autodesk and the others follow...

So sad to say our previous business allies in the hardware and software industry have created a ghost of their own which is haunting our businesses. And we who are doing our post production/ production are struggling and just keeping our investments going to buy their products.

The changing time is so steep to climb for us. All I can do now is hope that everyone will just realize that we are loosing some sense of professionalism and that we can find time in the future to get away from this cliff we are into. Strategy now is to stay in shape and keep our revenue even with our spending.

This is just my personal opinion..

@ hummmmmmmm said:

Has any one else noticed (or is it just me) that many agency producers have become really fucking rude and arrogant recently??? I used to feel that as a supplier our hard work, commitment and dedication was appreciated, now I don't feel like that at all. Just throwing it out there?

Don't be shy CPC said:

I would LOVE to hear the viewpoint of the 'Commercial Producers Council' expressed on this blog.

Please don't sit there in silence like SPAA always do.

Amazing said:

This is by far the best blog ever!!

Ben Dover said:

Wow, what a fascinating week we all had last week!!

I have been sitting back watching the blog unfold with great interest. It has been fantastic to see everyone voice their opinion, be it good or bad. At least we are all starting to talk as a collective that finally recognises the many issues we all encounter, as an industry, on a daily basis. For too long we have all stuck our heads in the sand pretending everything is going to be better tomorrow.

To say everyone has had enough is an overwhelming understatement just judging from the passionate and sometimes heated responses above and the sheer volume of emails I have personally received ( commending such a conversation/ debate.

It deeply saddens me to see an entire industry slowly 'fading to black' due to an increased lack of appreciation and understanding of the craft; although that is just the tip of the iceberg.

I strongly encourage everyone to share this blog link with anyone you know that may be interested in the topic, so we can keep the conversation alive and all work together to protect what we do for the future.

Also, I would like to thank Michael Lynch for giving me the space to write the above article that has helped to spark such a refreshing long overdue conversation.

Ben Dover
Post Producer

view from outside said:

Watching from 'outside the industry' I am horrified at the way Fuel has treated its great team of talent. The self centered inconsideration of Fuel management towards the men and women who have given them long, loyal, years of service with extra hours (without overtime pay) is shocking. The nonsense of "Standing Down" employees so they put off paying them for hours worked, holiday pay, superannuation etc. is unjust and cruel. How can it be legal? Is it not a form of robbery? Weeks have passed now and bread still has to be put on the table, school fees paid, mortgage paid, utilities and every living expense other than the air they breath. Fuel, does your conscience not bother you, even a little? I say grab what fraction of decency you may have left in your conscience, pay your team what they are due and set them free to seek other employment.

Stuck in the middle with you said:

Really interesting read! I work in Post and I'd like to share a recent experience... we pitched on a job where the Production Company advised us the Post budget given to them by the Agency was 100 bananas (it was decent sized job but we'll use proportions rather than actual figures) and it came with the all too usual 'you should do it for the money it'll be great for your reel'. This budget was nowhere near comparable with the amount of work required to achieve the Agency/Client vision so we couldn't agree to those figures. At the same time a second Production Company approached us for the same job with same scripts/boards and we were told the Agency Post budget was 200 bananas. Still beneath the amount of work we'd estimated, but after some negotiation on scope we agreed to take the job.

We later found out from the Agency (by accident) they thought they had paid us 275 bananas for the Post. Prod Co #1 would have made massive mark-up on our work if we'd agreed to those figures. Prod Co #2 made a very nice mark-up on our work. The actual Agency figure was close to our estimate of the Post work.

Everyone needs to make margins, but it seems there are some Production Companies (hopefully a minority) who are being greedy and blaming it on Client/Agency cost-cutting. I'm not suggesting there isn't cost-cutting, and I do imagine there are reduced budgets at the Production Company side they are trying to recoup - but if these type of amounts are being taken from Post then am I the only one who thinks this is greedy?

This is one issue out of the many being raised in this blog, and all sides should take some blame and take a good look at themselves. But one thing which could be addressed is more budget transparency - Agencies can you pay for Post direct? That way the money goes where it was intended. Without Production Company mark-up you will either save money on Post or get more for you money - sounds good eh?

Oh, and the job never went on our reel...

Re Stuck In the middle of you said:

Rarely does an agency dictate the post budget unless a total animation job and then we do it directly with you guys.
We have an overall production budget for the job that is advised to the companies pitching for the project. They then work out how they are going to treat the job and brief all their departments for the associated costs. Then they come back to us with the breakdown of costs for crew, art department, equipment and post etc. I am guessing they work out what they want to give you after the cover all the other costs and fees.

Yes, agencies paying post direct would be great. It would then go where it is to go and we wouldn't be in this situation.

HungryHippo said:

@Stuck in the middle with you: Happens all the time.

Directors should be dumped after the shoot or offline, agencies should go direct to post houses and marketing departments should take everything in house via the use of experienced freelances.

Production company postprod. markup can be put towards better results not only in post but in the shoot!!


Missing In Action said:

Where is our CPC?

Where are the leadership voices from those men at Revolver and @radical who have been given the task of representing the industry with the Comm Council and the CPC? The only reps since the merge with CC on a board stacked with agency execs by the way, and no post representation at all. Hmmmm, is it any wonder?

At least one of them is in Asia right now, at Spikes. What does that tell us about their focus on the local industry?

VFX Artist said:

@view from outside
You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Keep your uninformed inflammatory crap to yourself.

Why blame the people? said:

Lets stop slagging each other off personally, it's not someone's fault!!! Businesses are failing because the industry sector as a whole is unattractive and in decline. There is nothing we can do about that and it is not the agency producer's fault nor production company markup or anyone else, rather a collective set of conditions that create poor business outcomes. Our problems are the business environment not the operators within.
1. Supplier power has decreased.
2. Our substitutes in advertising have increased as media options escalate rapidly.
3. Competition has increased through globalisation and strong aussie dollar
4. Our buyers have decreased due to economic conditions and alternate media
5. Affordable technology has reduced barriers to enter the industry creating more rivalry.

@VFX Artist said:

Why are @A View From Outside's comments "Uninformed Inflammatory Crap"?

I too am not part of this side of the industry, so cannot make an informed comment myself, though would have thought in a debate of this size, about an issue that is clearly relevant and in need of attention, knowledge and education would be key.

So, perhaps you (or someone else) could explain @A View From Outside's question, for those of us who don't share your experience and informed understanding: "How can it be legal?" Is this not something worth addressing?

@hungry hippo said:

Thank you Hungry Hippo and well put 'Why blame the people'.
Id hope that the australian community, from agency, production and post, all have the same common goal to create quality material with sufficient budgets to do so (on every end). To state the obvious, the internationally successful model of agency direct to post or sans production company mark up gives post closer to the amount of $ it takes to produce the desired amount and quality of work. whats the hold up australia, one step in a positive direction where we can all work together for our common interest.

Id like to just add as a predictive rebuttle that Director vision is not forgone during post in the model, but is sought after out of respect and agencies will (after all they and their clients are the ones funding and driving the work!). In turn...less overhead and more monies saved.

yup said:

As a director I must say it would come as some relief to get out of the post production process, after all we're donating that time for free since our renumeration is still based on shoot days and not prep or post. Having to sit there for hours on end watching the size of legal supers shrink or grow is really not the best way to spend creative time.
If the agency feel it's a post heavy job that needs a directors vision then negotiate a fee for that time as an additional. It's also very rare for the post budget to be big enough these days for the production company to make a significant mark up. ..oh and let's no mention the changes, changes, changes.
On another note, you really do get what you pay for and if I feel the job can't be made well enough to make everyone happy for the budget we turn it away...someone with a 5D will always fill the gap and most clients have no idea what a good ad is anyway.

@yup said:

Your remuneration is probably based upon your shoot days.

What your renumeration might be, we have no idea.

@yup said said:

Not sure what kind stuff you direct old chap but I find the post process a very necessary part of my directional process and I'm not talking about the size of disclaimers

From spending many many many long days in the Flame suite I have now a huge wealth of knowledge about how simply I can enhance a shot greatly by maybe adding this or taking away that, the use of stock shots and what one can add from a still images that can take your lowish budget picture into a new zone.

If I were not there as a director there is no way on this living earth not one creative for any agency I have worked for could suggest such things, as they rarely take any or little notice of the process until the shot is finished where they look up from their iPad/laptop and say 'yeah looks great, wow that makes a huge difference'.

It is adding those extra touches in the post process that gives the finished product so much more production value. Well that i I do any way.

On another level having the agency handle the post leaves them totally open to be fully shafted.

I know for example how long I will need in Flame as I am going to shoot it and I know what is involved and how long these things take.

How the hell is an agency producer with five years agency experience and maybe three in TV know how many days they need in Flame four, five, six, seven?

Each one of this days is six grand so if the post house tells them that is what they need and they don't they have just been done out of twelve grand

I have seen Flame ops work very very very very slowly on things I know take a fraction of the time.

This can and will happen if we are taken out of the process.

Very well said said:

Thank you, 6.14PM. I would never use a director again if he did not want to be part of the post process. (Yes, sorry, that includes looking at the size and typeface of legal disclaimers at the end and having a point of view on that.) You would walk away from your shots without supervising how they finally turn out? Seriously?

I've even had some directors drop by sound studios when VOs are being recorded, and that's definitely not in their package. it's called Involvement, Pride, Professionalism, you know, that sort of thing.

I don't quite agree that an agency producer can't work out the proper cost & duration for post, but your bigger point is valid - post is not something an agency should fly solo on.

Re @ Yup said:

So this amazing stock shot you dropped in without the agency knowing, did you have usage rights for this? And if your are so busy watching the monitor how the hell do you know who is watching and who is not? Your back of head facing them!!
Your comments make me shake my head and know why I believe some directors total dicks and discredit to their craft.
As for the 3-5 year in agency producer, don't you think estimates would have been gone through with their senior.

Post agency handled jobs = senior agency producers.
Difficult jobs = senior agency producers.

view from outside said:

Sorry VFX artist, I did not mean to shove needles under your nails. Even if my remarks hit too close to home, your rude remarks were uncalled for. I merely stated known facts about the indecent act of 'Standing Down' the technical team and leaving them without what is due to them. My call to Fuel is to endeavor to undo that unacceptable treatment, even if they have handed over the keys to legal overseers etc. in behind the scenes dealing. In this 21st century I would hope that companies would have more consideration for those who have worked diligently for them, and pay them what is due. I understood the days of fiefdoms and serfs was past history.

Re@yup said:

Please read your post in the morning when you get up.

Sorry who is the total dick?

Hungry Hippo said:

@yup = fix the shot in post.

In America and other countries directors don't see post through and their commercials are amazing.

@very well said said:

I did not in any way mean to be derogatory to the young up and coming agency producers out there, I was nearly stating how on earth are they supposed to know when they are being ripped off, as you would only know that from having an infinite knowledge of the system, and process, and that only comes from working with it for many many many years.

@ yup. I imagine you are a thirty year old art director who just scraped through award school yes?

Flamicide said:

@yup, you are exactly the kind of director sitting in my flame suite that makes me want to kill myself.
"I have seen Flame ops work very very very very slowly on things I know take a fraction of the time."
Here is the wacom pen. Go f**k yourself.

pseudonym said:

The anger and frustration expressed in these posts prove that the boom is over, we are all feeling the crunch and it's time to evolve.

Establishing a guild would support the creative community and educate the public about what is involved in this business. It would also brand the Australian industry as leaders and innovators; that our business costs money but it's money well spent.

Self belief and desire to share our passion for our craft to broader audience would be a good start.

pseudonym said:

And thank you, Ben Dover. This is a really important and interesting discussion.

Change is needed said:

I say a Guild is well overdue.

Ben, you have my full support.

YES said:

Bring on a guild.

I love your passion Ben!!

We're not alone said:

It's not just about Fuel, our local vfx industry, or even our commercials business here in Australia, although from the amount of anger and the sheer volume of comments, there are plenty of issues to address in the micro economy of antipodea.

There is an economic transition afoot, and it's being led partially by technological change, largely by a shifting market the has grown accustomed to a way of working, been overpopulated by a workforce with varying degrees of talent, all of whom have ambitions but not all of whom have an eye for quality or any interest in anything other than the rapid rise to success than comes with money and title, and it's seeing all of these factors exploited by ruthless businessmen who've overtaken the advertising and entertainment industries in oder to drain them of every last drop of capital with absolutely no love of the work or the creativity that is at the heart of what those of us who love our jobs actually do.

See this thoughtful article specifically on the topic of the international vfx industry.

The truth is that there is essentially no difference between the empire building monopoly capitalism of Martin Sorrell, who seeks at every level to reduce the cost of labour and other operations down to a bare minimum while maximising profits for his stakeholders with no sense of how this will effect the long term survival of the business at large, and Qantas CEO Alan Joyce or Mitt Romney with Bain Capital or any of the Wall Street firms involved in the financial meltdown we lovingly call the GFC.

Once the bean counters, the hedge fund managers, the leverage buyout specialists have been allowed to take over the creative workshop, game the system to extract its life blood for their profits and in the process undermine the heart and soul of what any particular industry is actually about, building something challenging, creating something unique and worthwhile, then the cynicism creeps in and everyone is lost in the end. Short term goals, this quarter's profit, as opposed to image creation and long term brand building.

Perhaps it's an over-exaggeration to use advertising as the symbol of moral value in the world, but we've always at our best sold dreams, and now we're just selling stuff, through more channels, at a greater pace, but the lustre is coming off the pitch, it's about volume instead of tone and pitch, and it's fast becoming what we used to all try and get off the bottom of our shoe, 'retail'.

Pseudonym's @ 2:15 has got it right in saying that a shared belief by the core of the creative community, a guild of practitioners on all levels, is a start in the direction of redressing this evolution that seems as if it's out of our control, but only because we act as isolated self-interests, and as a result can be easily manipulated into a game of divide and conquer.

@ Ben Dover said:


@ Ben Dover said:

Go for GUILD... it would have been funnier if the Olympics were still on.

@ were not alone said:

Very well put. If a guild is the goal, who is going to put their (woops) hand up to set it up?

We're not alone said:


We already have leadership at the CPC in Ian Fowler and Michael Ritchie, two senior and respected producers from two of the most successful businesses in the industry. Why wouldn't they take the initiative to bring the entire production community together to ask the question of whether a guild can help solve these problems?

Perhaps having the CPC situated as it is inside the CC where the very agencies who are all forming their own in-house production units, or the cost analysts like Trinity P3 who are a large part of the problem reside is not such a great idea afterall?

Perhaps production and post and edit houses and casting and talent agencies and music and sound design firms all need to band together to say that none of us will work under the terms and processes as they exist today, that we demand a level playing field or we'll fight to insure that the agencies have no alternatives with which to undermine our basic operational needs.

Whether we like it or not, the cut throat competition we've been a part of creating puts the agencies and clients in the position they're currently in to exploit our weaknesses and our divisions.

@we're not alone said:

Then maybe a meeting needs to scheduled in the near future where all relevant parties can get together and discuss our options.

If we could actually get this to happen across the board, we would no doubt stand a chance of retaining our futures in the industry we choose and love.

Interesting said:

I just stumbled across this US article.

"Video postproduction is the second notable information industry that is exhibiting steep declines."

Sadly, I don't know what the solution is.

The Production Community said:

Michael? Ian? Are you out there?

@ Ben Dover said:

The thing I can never get my head around is how we all hand over final vision to be used for an eternity, without ever seeing another cent for the IP we create?!?!

If you're an actor/ actress, voice over artist, composer etc etc you automatically receive a lovely little roll over fee in the mail, every year, without fail. Why are we any different?

100% agree with everyone above… WE NEED A GUILD!!

I think a Guild that has a clear set of guidelines (that everyone adheres to) would greatly benefit the industry.

@ 11:10am said:

Completely back you on that one!! Amazed it hasn't been raised earlier.

I'm off to get some popcorn said:

I'm off to get some popcorn... this is getting very interesting.

Oh, and for what it's worth. YES, we do need a guild to be established.

Anne Miles said:

@Anne Miles Said - you're mistaken actually, I have not left the industry and have been here for 30 years (agency, film co, VFX, and post), just in a different capacity, consulting. I'm now General Manager of The DMC Initiative with a team who are doing great work and being innovative about how we do it. I walk what I talk, if you like...

Much of my background has been in innovating and getting over industry down-turns like the one we're having. It's old news, nothing new and the complaining about days gone by isn't moving the industry forward or coming up with solutions.

The Trinity P3 thing - IMHO if you're getting it wrong with TrinityP3 then your production budgets are not sound and you don't have a good case why the creative is worth investing in, or simply can't communicate that with a client that doesn't trust you. I've been audited by TrinityP3 as much as anyone and it has only ever reinforced my client's trust for me.

So, that's more about me since you raised it - happy to be transparent here or add to this if you like. @Anne Miles Said, ....and you are????

Very Old, Very Crusty, Very Experienced said:

I half own a post audio/video facility. My background is agency production, which I mixed with production house production and, for a while, working for a TV station back in the early 80s. At nearly 60 I am probably one of the crustier old farts still working full time in the mainstream industry, and given I've been in it since I was 17 (that's 1973) I have a fairly unusual perspective.

The commenter who observed that producers have to follow the work is completely right, and anyone foolish enough to think that a move 'back' to agency production is a downward step in the food chain is very silly, elitist and naive. Granted, there are some truly terrible producers out there, but there always have been.

Those of us who moved from one discipline to another, did so to earn a living during recessions that occured in 1982, 1992 and 2000. During my production career (1973-1994) I was retrenched four times, and had to find work wherever it was. Times are tough now sure, but they've never been easy in this industry.

The fact that our business is still highly successful, even in these trying times, is because of a few old fashioned principles we resolutely stick to, as well as an enthusiasm to embrace the reality that times are changing.

We have a great relationship with all our clients. We never do freebies unless they are already an established client, in which case we welcome them. We are always prepared to negotiate our prices (especially for established clients) but we never cross a threshhold. We have won more respect by letting work go to inferior suppliers (only to see the client returned chastened and wiser) than by bending over.

We are fairly small, and have lower overheads than the monoliths. For established clients, we'd rather nail together a discount rate up front for a given amount of work during the year. Then, usually, there's very little debate. A part of the deal (again, for established clients) is to help them with pitches. It makes us business partners on several levels, and means that when they pick up, so do we.

The one thing that hasn't changed over the years is the need for tight professional relationships. Our business owes more to this than anything else I can think of.

The result is that we seem to be doing at least the same amount of work as we were four or five years ago. And whilst I wish I had a crystal ball, and I know that the state of our business could change in a flash, at the moment we're happy campers.

@Anne Miles said:

Trinity P3 judging production budgets? From what perspective?

"Much of my background has been in innovating". Really? Would you call Plush an 'innovation'?

Your history of producing for that in-house shill of an organisation, the advent of which started this slide of downward pressure on the production industry, and an institution that had it been stopped in its tracks at its inception just might have created the catalyst for the guild that we so desperately need, well, your credibility on any of these topics is more than suspect.

The 'consulting'? To whom and for what?

Sorry, no one is buying.

@11.10 said:

I can't see anyone in our industry not agreeing not to the implementation of roll over fees, as well I can't see any director disagreeing with a scheme that pays them $2000 or so for submitting a treatment for a job which they are not award.

Or for a minimum fee for an hour in Flame or a minimum fee for a 10 hour off line session, or a standard fee for waiting for legals to be finalised when you are already shooting, the list goes on and on.

The only thing is that everyone must agree and in a way that also includes key crew members such as DP's, grips, gaffers that would agree to not work for no guild members, as if this were not the case the whole thing would collapse.

@ Mr Dover said:

Guild or Code of Practice? Whatever the case something needs to happen.

Stating the obvious said:

@ We're not alone... who is actually a member of the CPC?
I think you will find that there is a lot of prod co's and post co's who are not.

@11:52 said:

Very good, so there's a list started already.

Who can add to it?

We may be able to use this anonymous social network to actually construct the basis for a code, and let a guild form under our existing CPC leaders' guidance.

At the core need to be the top production, post, sound, editing, casting shops.

Revolver, Goodoil, Plaza, Finch, @radical, The Sweet Shop for starters

Animal Logic, Fin, Method, Heckler

Nylon, Song Zu, Sonar

The Editors, The Butchery, Guillotine

Mullinars, Tony Higginbotham, McGregors, Fountainhead

What do you say?

The Bank said:

I've channeled millions upon millions through post houses over the last 15 years... and one thing I pride myself in is that we have never marked up post production ever... I think double dipping in this industry is wrong. ( yes beat me up, I'm ready for it )
We even offer to the agency to pay the post house direct so they can see there is know markup or funny business going on.. but some post houses freak out, because they probably wont be paid for up to 3 months... and the agency producer usually tells us to look after it for that reason. So we sadly become the agencies bank..

I don't think a guild will work, because you need everyone or at least a majority to agree.... and by the look of this thread.. that's not going to happen.

SPAA participating in this conversation.. have you ever been to a SPAA meeting.?... Moving on.

IMHO - Only the best will survive this change... Super hi end post production will still flourish, because they can do what many cannot... making them a commodity. I'll be sending all my work to those people.

Middle weight post production companies will doodle along and pay the bills but will only survive if the producers are on there toes....
The low end post production companies will go either in house or die off or offer deals you can't refuse...

Freelance 3d / compositor / grading teams will sprout up more and more as I see this happening already with some great results to be had... These guys will only survive if they are proactive with there marketing, turnaround times and professionalism... one man shops can work, if they are rock stars.

Here's an idea for some... Very rarely attend post these days in person... I'm away so much OS or working on other projects that I find myself not being able to attending post sessions... ( So I hire the right people so i don't need to ) But what I get the post house to do is to show me WIPS online each day... meaning that post company can be working in the back of a shed overlooking there favorite surf beach if they wanted to... or have there employees all working from home... saving them 200k a year in RENT for their shiny offices... All they need is a big internet pipe into each others office.... Food for thought.

I see the future as simplification of business, re-tooling with faster / cheaper programs (they are out there) and those talented multi program artists will be rewarded handsomely... The pretenders will dissolve into other fields..

It's life.

(oh... as well, you will need great business skills, good 3d will never save you.) - We don't want to see another FUEL..

@ The Bank said:

Should we tell the Head of Marketing for 'Brand X' to bring their togs and zinc cream with them when they pop in for a client review session at our beach shack?

@12:20 said:

I would say that list of names is very light, as we need to get ALL the key players involved, not just two or three from each sector.

But agree completely that we need to set up some sort of a guild.

Terms of Business said:

What will fix payment problems is agency terms of business with their client for broadcast production.
There is a way around this I it has worked for me in the past.

1st 50% invoiced by the agency on estimate approval and payable 7 days. This means production receives their 1st 50% before the shoot date. If Prod house paying post, 50% of post paid upon receipt. If agency paying direct 1st 50% Post paid at some time. Everyone paid 50% upfront.
Agencies, if late in these payments is because clients haven't paid them or someone forget to release and bill. Suits need to chase and agency producers chase suits.

Agency then bills Client final 50% same day payable 30 days.

Production Company 2nd 50% Invoiced on off line approval - payable 30 days.
Agency's need to take hold of billings with clients.

Everyone happy and no one with left with short cash flows. It works, I know. Been there.

Lets do it said:

So, c'mon lets all get our act together and form a guild then.

@2:00PM said:

It was only a start to suggest that if the high end of the street sign up, the rest will follow.

Leadership? CPC?


From all of us at Heckler we would like to commend Mr. Dover on starting this much needed conversation – from the mass of in depth and heartfelt replies it's received it's a topic that certainly needs immediate attention.

So we thought we'd start by extending an invitation to all post–producers to Heckler's 2nd Birthday Party next Thursday 27th September at 80 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills to start some conversations…

We might not come up with every answer on the night! – but we look forward to chatting to you all and shouting the industry we love a well deserved beer!



suggestion. said:

What are thoughts in regards to setting up a web site, where productions companies, post houses, sound studios, casting agents, directors ect could visit and add their names if they are interested in going down this path, as well as a section where they can put forward suggestions that would form a list of guidelines we all feel we need to implement.

If after a month the web site is a success and there is enough weight to move on with the idea of a guild then brilliant.

John McEnroe said:

to @Anne Miles.

You took the bait, hook, line and sinker, you will get burned if your not careful, stay off the blog, its a dangerous place.

To be now using this topic as an opportunity to push your current employer looks and sounds a bit off for me

Stay focused on your game, as you guys are doing good things.

@Heckler said:

Great, Will.

Certain that everyone will be happy to come and drink your beer, but would you also be willing to host a more sober evening at your new digs, perhaps at some later date where the serious business of establishing a guild for all production suppliers could be discussed in some earnest?

Doubting that the issues at play for all our survivals will get the due consideration they deserve at an evening meant to celebrate your second anniversary and for everyone to retreat from the pressure for the evening and just have a good time.

Maybe really good coffee would be the best beverage for the evening suggested?

Thanks for taking a leadership role. As the successful newcomers on the pst scene, it's refreshing to see Heckler stand up and raise their hands for some overdue change.

@2.43 said:

Most of those prod co's are at the CPC.... no -one else is following them there.

@4:49 said:

The fact that the CPC is currently under the umbrella of the CC, where all the agencies, the media buyers, and the cost consultancies reside as well may be the problem.

A new organisation that encompasses only those companies and individuals who produce content, in all it's many forms, production, post/vfx/animation, editorial, music & sound, talent, casting, equipment services, set construction, stills production, retouchers, etc., just may the answer to the problems that are being discussed.

Being in bed with the people who are essentially your clients, for whom you pitch and compete for work, or who scrutinise your work for costs and control your budgets, all in the same trade organisation may be an inherent conflict of interest.

Truthfully, there's no maybe about it.

2012 said:

The world has changed people.
You can buy a new VW Golf for $21K.
You can fly to NZ for under $200.
You can buy a big TV for under $200.
You can buy a C300 for under $20K.
The C100 will be under $10K.
The rest of the world is finding ways top make things cheaper.
Smart agencies have. Smart production/post companies will to.

@ 6:24pm said:

Yeah good point, but what we do is priceless.

@ 2012 said:

"Things" as you refer to them in the production and post industries are already cheap, given the hard cost of equipment, space and operational cost. The only way for them to really get "cheaper" is for the people to be paid less! Are you happy to be paid less this year than you were last year? I'm thinking the answer is no. So why should anyone else. This all comes down to a lack of respect for people and their skills. A skill is worth money, and should be paid for, not given away or undervalued.

'Top 10' Executive Producers required ASAP said:

I'm not a rocket scientist, but it seems very clear to me that as an outsider the entire post industry is obviously crying out for a guild to be established and managed by people in the post industry? YES.

To make this happen I would suggest getting the 'Top 10' Executive Producers in town to all sit in the same room with LOTS of strong coffee on hand (I'm not sure a birthday party environment is appropriate for such a serious chat, but commend the offer), so you can all put your minds together to determine a new way of working and ultimately establish a long overdue guild.

Below is a list of the 'Top 10' (in alphabetical order) post/ design studios in the country that I would like to see lead the charge:
Animal Logic
Cutting Edge
Fin Design
Method Studios
Resolution Design

Now it's over to you…

Congrats to Heckler for having the balls to put your hand up.

I felt it was worth posting this one again said:

Most post houses were initially set up by creatives that lacked a strong business acumen.

As the industry has evolved, we need more than ever savvy business minded producers in place to step up and show forward thinking leadership to get us out of this mess.

@ 2012 said:

I would love to hear your thoughts on how the price of a Mars Bar in today's current market compares against the price of a Snickers 20 years ago?!?!?

2012 said said:

Dear 7:16pm,
It's true that we do get paid less each year, but because things are getting cheaper our clients can afford to make more things each year. So, we actually end up making more money each year. Give it a try. VW has. Sony has. Airlines have.Some retailers have. Telcos have. Media companies have. Good agencies/production/post companies have too. Why should anyone be quarantined from the competition that the rest of the world faces every day?

@ 2012 said:

Dear 2012 @ 8:46,
It is all good and well to compare what is effectively retail in the global economy (i.e global manufacturing, strong exchange rates etc) with what is in essence a localised industry in a small and intimate market. Sure, if the ad industry had a potential global customer base we'd be comparing apples and apples, but we are not. Not everyone out there is in the market for a TVC like they are a TV from Sony or a new car from VW. And perhaps with the exception of VW, of your examples I don't see profits from the likes of Sony or Qantas as you seem to imply... in fact the exact opposite. So you have left me wondering....

@7.50 said:

This is not only about the post houses, this is about all of us.

Must Be Anonymous said:

I see why we need to be anonymous on here. Credible people making a comment just opens it up for personal and irrelevant bitching.

Speaking of unions - what's SPAA and AUSFILM doing on this?

Look at AGDA as a good example of an industry code. Some good has come of that in terms of setting royalties and some standard conditions, as has SPAA for filming codes of practice and so on.

The film industry had a chance to do the same when AGDA was formed and didn't. Unfortunately like the US and other places there are simply 'Non Union' projects that undermine the whole thing.

I have a feeling we are all better off thinking about ourselves and figuring out a new way to make it pay.

2012 said: said:

9:35pm. I agree, profits from companies like Qantas are down. But profits from its low cost carrier Jetstar continue to grow. And whether it survives or doesn't, Sony has seen the need to market lower cost TV's not more expensive ones. However, of more concern is your belief that the Australian post industry inhabits a 'small and intimate market'. It doesn't. It lives in a global market. Just like Australian production companies shoot overseas in cheaper locations. Just like agency print studios operate studios in lower cost markets to produce much of their Australian work. Just like digital agencies use lower cost markets such as India and China for development work. Our industry is a global industry - we're competing for business globally every day. You either accept it. Or you don't. But don't expect clients to pay to keep you in business just because you're Australian.

McQwerty said:

@7.50pm, that top 10 will half in two years, there's just not enough work around.

And can someone please explain what a guild will actually achieve?? Other than appeasing peoples egos??

Concerned Individual said:

Having an organisation like the CPC under the umbrella of the Communications Council is at first glance a great idea.....but thinking a little longer term it does put everyone on the production side of the fence in a weaker position.

With the state of the Australian / New Zealand production industry and the constant giving away of IP, looser payment terms, non contracts for work undertaken , under cutting ...the list goes on. It needs to have companies to be in a Guild of some description so that they can have this voice. A completely separate organisation with clear goals could start to be the stop of the rot.

@8:46 2012 etc. said:

Yes, ours is a global marketplace, and products form any number of lines are cheaper, but only as a result fo the exploitation of massive labour pools in countries that do not have our standard of living.

We are all competing globally. but if cost is the only factor, we will never compete with China, India, SE Asia, South America, even Eastern Europe, and unless you want to see our industry become the sweatshop of film production, a guild/union/association built upon an agreement by all partners to play by a set of rules and not undermine their competitors to a zero sum gain for us all is the only way forward.

Our talents, our creativity should be our selling card, not an ever reduced and unrealistic cost structure.

@McQwerty said:

We've read your posts on a number of occasions and they all have a common theme . . . throwing the spanner into whatever serious discussion might be in progress, and generally adding a defeatist and apologist tone in the process.

What would a guild achieve? Well for starters, it would force agencies to adhere to a code of practice that would make it possible for any number of guild members to remain in business and for all to compete on a level playing field, where best creative wins, as opposed to the lowest common denominator of economics on terms that suit our clients but put us all perilously on the brink of closing shop and/or lowering the standards for all. Agencies and their clients would either play by a set of rules that the guild deems to be fair practice or have precious few options of doing business in Australia, or New Zealand if the organisation were to take on a regional focus.

Perhaps you could explain how the initiatives that many people here are calling for are in any way an appeasement of personal egos? Or is that just one of your standard throw away lines to poke the stick and make this all seems like private vendettas as opposed to a mass movement on the part of a large group with common interests, common concerns, and hopefully common goals?

That divide and conquer strategy will only continue to succeed so long as well allow ourselves to believe that the race to the bottom competition is our only way to proceed, and that the fear is not that conditions as they are will destroy us all, but only affect the least fit among us.

let's start said:

A Guild would bring all Production, Design, Post into a common group where these matters could be discussed.
The CPC with its expensive joining fee is a fairly Sydney based collective of Prod Co's and after a year still has made little in roads into getting a wide membership - meaning QLD, VIC, SA or WA companies involved.
Creating something along the lines of "the Australian Producers Guild" would , you imagine, get all producers from all disciplines involved.

@ McQwerty said:

You're absolutely right... that is why a guild is needed to establish some guidelines to prevent such a thing from happening.

Alvera Pickney said:

I for one think a Guild is a brilliant idea, I remember Mike Seymour talking about these things over last year or two after artists in North America did not get paid for work done.

McQwerty said:

Sorry just not clear on the difference between a Guild and a Union??

@McQwerty said:

There is none. Why do you ask? Something derogatory to say about unions now?

@ McQwerty said:

You sound very nervous that you won't be able to screw over local post houses for much longer.

I think it fair to say that CHANGE is coming my friend and you should be the one that starts to adapt to a NEW way of working.

... or have fun in India or China.

where to now? said:

so.... how do we start this?

staying serious and moving on said:

Lots of pertinent comments, worthy advice and fully motivated opinions....I suggest that we now, knowing that there are like minded people out there with true ethics and valid concerns, move on..... AND, in continuing to run our businesses and keep our heads above the water without sacrificing quality, relationships and our souls, we adopt or MAINTAIN the very ethics that have been questioned to date.

We need to keep up the work, hold up our heads and be strong in our conviction to NOT drop our pants....If we collectively start doing that NOW..... we move forward positively. Creativity and Management arm in arm should help you survive, grow and succeed. Come on now let's do it! We just gotta be clever....

Sad but true said:

Sadly the CPA, The Commercial Division of SPAA or any other similar body will always be a toothless beast, and that is not for lack of spirit, effort or goodwill, but because there will always be a post house, a producer, a director or a production company willing to flaunt the guidelines, or do it cheaper. The commercial production industry is a fractured monster where the majority are out to improve their own lot, and don't concern themselves with issues until they themselves get burnt. Most happily sit back and let a small few try in vain to address the problems facing film production. And as much as I would love to see our industry stand united, I know in my heart that it will never happen.

shame said:

....and so the discussion finishes,with a petty little squabble between two people and no resolve.

@shame @Sad but true said:


Who gave you the right to declare the discussion finished, and where is this 'petty squabble between two people' that you're fantasising about?

This is the fashion in which a minority, sometimes of only one will try and hijack a progressive discussion, by making gross assumptions that have very little basis in anything but their own perception.

@Sad but true

Your cynicism, scepticism doesn't stand for the majority of this industry nor thankfully is your pessimism about positive change and a collective agreement shared by a large number of your peers.

No one is suggesting that the entire industry of content producers hold hands and sing kumbaya or that we abandon the fierce competition between all of us for work, but simply that a binding agreement be reached with the vast majority, especially with those at the high end of the street that will prevent the entire industry from continuing to be buggered senseless by our clients, the agencies and advertisers in this country. Will there be scabs who will breach such an agreement? Probably,a s this is always the case, but if there is a large enough plurality of participants from across all the disciplines that have been listed in previous comments, the agencies will be forced to adhere to the body of this code of practice that's been discussed, because if they don't, they'll be looking at a smaller and smaller pool of suppliers to deliver quality work, and if the name and shame game is applied to those on the content side who choose to play outside the rules, well a fair amount of peer pressure can be brought to bear on what is really a very tight-knot community of artists, technicians, producers, etc.

Avoid the it won't work easy way to dismiss what is needed, speak up in public if our leaders in the community will just provide a space and time to organise, and let's see what can happen.

Where are you leaders of the CPC?

@ Shame said:

Stay tuned...

This is NOT over by a long shot.

There is plenty of communication happening outside of this forum that you are not aware of.

@1.59 said:


(if I could have written that in a bigger point size I would.)

@staying serious and moving on said:

I'm with you...12.14pm

@4:57 said:

Your glib attitude is a bit tried looking and frayed around the edges.

No caps or larger font necessary.

Why said:

Why haven't we heard from the big boys of post? Andrew Robinson, Rick Schweikert, Zareh etc etc .

I would love to hear what they think.

Sad but true said:

Not cynicism, scepticism or pessimism, but realism.

I Gotta Wear Shades said:

Don't discount FuelVFX. Strong word that they will be back very soon. Interesting to hear their opinion on all of this when they are allowed to comment publicly.

@why said:

You havent head from them as they are most likely putting their energy in to running their own companies.

@ I gotta wear shades said:

Talk of the town is that Fuel are about to be swallowed by an "Animal"....stay tuned.

Speculating said:

@@I gotta wear shades

What does Zareh get from Fuel that he doesn't already have?

A facility? Got it. Key creatives? Maybe, but, he doesn't need to buy the company to get them. Hardware? Doubtful. Software/Licences? Not unless they come at a big discount, and then why? 80 more employees? They're his for the taking, and with Digital Pics and Iloura and Doctor D people running around with resumes, it's open season on vfx artists.

The only reason for Animal Logic to buy what's left of Fuel, and it would be a debt equity deal likely, without much cash, would be to block a larger offshore investor from doing the same.

Deluxe?, the local cookie monster has gobbled up nearly everyone else. Digital Domian's plan last year to open here for Proyas' feature are obviously dead and buried. Technicolor? hmmm. The Mill? unlikely with their own financing issues.

So? Are we missing something?

Not holding my breath said:

I would put money on it that the Post industry don't do a thing.

@Speculating siad. said:


@Yup at 6:14 is a tool of the highest magnitude said:

to @Yup's comments at 6:14pm:

"I have seen Flame ops work very very very very slowly on things I know take a fraction of the time.
This can and will happen if we are taken out of the process."

You are an absolute maggot. Why don't you do everybody in the industry a favour and f**k off and die? You are a waste of everyone's time.

You know when you get to the end of your budgeted Flame time and there is still stuff to do? That is because you didn't bother shooting things properly, not because the artist is deliberately working slowly. How about you try looking through the lens once in a while. If you see something there you don't want, it is still going to be there in post.


@Not holding my breath said:

It's understood that this is a punting culture, but do we really have to lay our bets on everything, even our own survivals, and do we need to hear the voices among us who are trying to make money off the chance that we don't succeed in turning this around?

Would you do the same for your family and friends? Then why your industry, the place you work, and your colleagues?

This kind of remark is just juvenile really, and very ordinary. Stop it. You're embarrassing yourself.

Better yet, hold your breath, and count to 23 million, in decimals.

cat among the pigeons said:

there are a lot of australians that work for technicolor globally - maybe enter another player who can take on deluxe in this country and bring work down under?

We're not alone said:

The vfx production problem (Fuel/Digital Pics/Iloura/Dr.D) is a global one, not just local.

Some rules to live by, and most if not all of them apply to the advertising content industry, tvcs really and to here in Australia as well.

some guy said:

Well maybe if they stop making people redundant that could be a start? theres alot of talented people but are never really given a chance to shine.

cost plus said:

what about doing it cost plus?????

@cost plus said:

Cost minus certainly doesn't work any more.

so.... said:

There are now some 200+ comments on the topic.

We all seem to agree that at least the discussion has to move forward from this blog.

Who out there can at least put their hand up to take the next step?

@4.11 said:

Hi so said. Well I did suggest to set up a web site were any interested parties could leave their contact details and their suggestions on how to sort the problem out if they were interested, but it didn't go any were. I though that was not a bad place to start.

@ ben dover said:

what a stroke of masterful genius.

see you soon.

Steve Dunn from FSM said:

Just so you know, Yes there are some of us Big Boys of Post out there reading this.
I am one of the two owners of FSM.
I found this blog on Monday, and have read it again just now to catch up with what has transpired.
Its a bloody good discussion. Obviously many different views about what is happening in our industry at the moment.
We at FSM are suffering like all of us, reduced budgets, reduced media spends split over many different facets and indeed in my part of the business the exchange rate makes it challenging to compete globally. For the record I mainly produce the feature film side of our business but as a whole TVC's are the majority of our business.
I'd like to offer my view of a few points above.
FSM is more the traditional Post facility, of course that's a bit of a given as we have been in business for 29 years now. Some people may think that boring, but that's how we have evolved and that's the service we offer. It doesn't mean we haven't or aren't changing or evolving in these times, it just means that is our base and that's where we have come from.
We like everyone want to evolve with the times and offer any of our clients what they need today. We think we do that and I personally think we do that very well.
But it does mean that we offer all the bells and whistles. We do have the espresso machine and kitchen, car parking, support staff and lots of extremely talented full-time creative people. But I do have them here every day, they aren't freelancers, I pay them each day whether or not they have your job to work on or not. I pay them holiday pay and sick leave. That's the service we choose to offer our clients and some clients want that. Some don't. So as a business model it does cost us more to run.
I would like to think that there is still a place for full service companies like FSM in any industry. There will always be a place for freelancers in any market, but there is no industry if we are all just freelancers working in our garage on a Mac.
I don't think that is an industry at all. I would hope that my staff would say that they enjoy all working in the same environment with collaboration as the key. And that does include when we get in freelance staff.

And before anyone fires daggers at me, no, I'm not trying to plug FSM here. You may already use us or not, and I'm not going to get any work by giving you my view here on this blog. Just trying to give the view that some of you have asked for.

Over the last couple of years the Post industry has changed a lot and indeed massive changes in the last month. Post Modern and MRRP have been absorbed into Deluxe with the recent additions that include Digi Pix and Illoura.
All those companies have or are about to disappear. A rationalizing one would say. And then the biggest tragedy being the loss of Fuel to the administrators. I hope they survive or come back in some form but it will also be some sort of rationalization. And remember DrD? what happened there?

I don't mind the idea of a Guild but I it won't be able to control some things.
You can't set minimum rates for a Flame suite, freelancers rate or sound mixing suite. It just won't work. We all argy bargy for a job and that's how you have to do business. We all have a theoretical line in the sand that we don't go past but even that gets moved at times. Lets be honest, we all do that. Whether we like it or not, we have to work with the proposed budget or not.
I'm happy to be involved with a guild if the consensus is there.

Getting funds upfront is a good thing and does happen, but more of an industry structure would be good though. But, don't really see why we all have to be dragged out to 90 or 120 days for final payments. That happens and is a bit off.

Ausfilm and SPAA were mentioned above, SPAA may be able to do something but in my opinion its not in Ausfilms charter to be involved in something like this. Their role is to attract work to Australia from overseas, that's it.

The picture has been painted about Flame ops working slow so they can charge more. Well that's about the most ridiculous thing I have heard. Firstly for this discussion it paints a picture of the big places with Flames having no integrity but people working on other smaller kit being the saviors. That's far too pointed for me. Secondly, that "going slow" theory has never happened here and never will.
No its not another plug, its our culture.

I hate hearing about first hand experiences detailing outrageous markups. That rubs me up the wrong way. I would hope that most of us want as much production value to get to the screen as possible and that these occurrences are rare. Am I naive'? I know it was the norm some time ago but hoping times have changed.

There have been a few comments about Fuel and the integrity of the owners and why aren't they paying staff etc. Being a business owner you have to (should) follow the letter of the law. They have done the right thing. They have looked at their situation looked to the future and had to make one of the hardest business decisions one has to. Its now in the hands of a third party to work it all out. That is what you have to do. Its a tragedy no matter which way you look at it.
Some will lose out in all of this, and I'm not just talking about money, and I would argue the owners will lose the most, which is their dream.

Digital Domain? the NSW government sponsoring them to be here?
Now that pissed me off. More of a problem for the likes of Fuel, Animal and Rising Sun but FSM as well. But what was the reasoning behind that, especially considering the great potential of Drd that has also faded to black?
Note to government, look who has disappeared, look at your existing businesses, and maybe consult with them to help them survive rather than bring in an international player to compete with them. Obvious to me.

So, FSM is here reading this. Happy to respond if anyone wants me to, but would rather do that to an actual person rather than an anonymous post, but happy to respond either way.

Steve Dunn, FSM

Of course I've always liked this just to end on a light note.

@ Mr Dover said:

Count me in

@ Steve Dunn from FSM said:

Well said Steve

Big Boy said:

See you soon Ben

smith said:

Wow, that felt good to get of my chest.

Now where were we?

I. Ronyk said:

Ive had the dubious pleasure of being agency-side in Syd for almost 25 years. In the last decade, the most common rant at any prod co lunch is how toxic he CB blog is and how shamelessly cowardly the usual Anton's are...yet of he hundreds of comments above (a record soon, surely?), almost all are...anonymous??? Pretty ironic.

Anne Miles said:

Nicely said @Steve Dunn, and glad to see a transparent name there. Thanks for sharing your POV and concerns about the industry.

Certainly there is a place for all models, including the high standard of work done on VFX for all the businesses you name including FSM. IMHO it is 'horses for courses' so to speak, and the right model for the right job. My points relate to those that simply go down one path and when a budget has challenges they simply squeeze the suppliers rather than do things differently, and many times the suppliers agree.

Surely the 'rationalising' the industry has seen now is enough?? Let's hope so anyway.

I agree that Fuel closing is a lost dream for the owners as you can rightly recognise but I don't know if any union or committee would have helped them. There are so many forces involved in something like this and it is not just about the rates or a rate card.

I'm happy to be involved in setting up something or helping out if it can make a difference to the industry as a whole.

@Anne Miles said:

'cause you've been such a helping hand to the industry in the past.

hawk said:

This is pretty typical of the sort of nonsense vfx has to deal with

Become a plumber! said:

It seems that the whole notion of a guild is a smoke screen for forming another useless entity which will try and regulate the industry. Why? The VFX industry is no different to the building or any other manufacturing industry. When jobs for manufacturing went offshore no guild or union could save them. So don't waster your time. The building industry survived because they cant ship all the jobs offshore (i'm sure they wish they could).

I see the solution as simple. A job comes in. You quote the right price for it. Everybody! Whatever that price is. The client will decide whether they want the marble entrance with cute receptionist or the backyard artist operating out of their home.

Make no mistake about it. Fuel went down because it had too many overheads, not enough work and charged to little for it. Like all of us I'm deeply saddened to see a place of such high esteem disappear.

I'm going to use an example of another industry as to how they operate that may give a clue as to maybe how we should re-structure ours. Plumbing!

Now if anyone has had a different experience let me know but when a plumber comes to repair something he gives an ESTIMATE of how much the job costs. If I ask him/her for a FIXED COST he/she usually replies "but when I start digging I may find and obstacle and will have to charge you"! I then agree to his/her terms and then wait and hover to see what he/she digs up. Usually it's always something unforeseen and usually it always costs more than when it started. Can I find a plumber who works to a fixed price? No! Why? They're all sensible and worn't undercut the market! They have formed a common code of practice and all abide by it, even the unlicensed ones!

What we are paying for is a service and we agree to the plumbers terms and conditions BEFORE they start the job!

It's the exact opposite to the post industry. Everybody wants a fixed price even though you discover when the job is delivered that the whole sewer system is completely shot!

What's happening here is a market correction and as in all corrections there will be losers! When times are good anyone can buy a couple of macs and hire some freelancers and make some cash. It's during a correction that you really see who the players are.

So where do go from here? I'm afraid nothing can be done. Everyone has to give their best price and everyone always will. I make sure that whenever I quote something that we're not dropping our pants. And if you think the big boys don't do it your wrong! We've lost jobs to all the major players who have savagely cut prices below cost. Usually to entice a name director (or any other shitty excuse). I can say we never do that and never will. Never give away a job for less than it costs plus mark up. When you do you've just destroyed the market place and your own standards. That client will always expect the same cheap price you gave them first up!

We're sticking to the formula of a good job, well budgeted, well executed, delivered promptly at a fair price. If we can't make that work as a business model then we'll have to become plumbers!


Become a plumber

@ I. Ronyk said:

Perhaps if you were to focus upon the messages themselves, more than 220 at present, and the substance of these comments rather than the identities of the commenters, information that is irrelevant to the validity of what's being said, you'd find the anonymity on the blog less of an issue.

The truth is that were it not for the anonymity this blog provides, neither the original letter, nor the comments on that letter and the subjects it raises, nor any of the very important conversations that have resulted in our community as a consequence of these comments would have existed.

This is the value of anonymity, and to my mind, even when that condition simultaneously allows commentary that is obscene or abusive or divisive, or even just plain ignorant to exist from time to time, we all need to remember what that freedom to comment without jeopardy provides for all of us, especially those, the vast majority to be sure, who have less power in our industry than those at the top who control our entrance into this workplace, as well as our potential exit should we offend by speaking dangerous truths to power.

Realistic comparison said:

@become a plumber
Yes indeed there are quite a few colleges with lots of keen kids all shuffling in to learn the ways of the S-trap and the anode rod. Talented kids everywhere are sketching drainage systems in the back of their economics text books.

Although I understand the attempt at the analogy and agree with the basic message, the nature of the post and vfx industry is that lots of young people want in. Which, from my understanding is quite different to that of the plumbing industry,

The bragging rights of
"I worked on Xmen 2"
is vastly different to
"I pumped out 6 mens poo"

So, if you consider the pressure that an overpopulation of the industry also has on the pricing situation, then there may be a better analogy.

If a Guild sets a price - someone can undercut it to 'break in' and build that showreel, so although the idea is great, it is already flawed. Some years ago the basic business plan from the Fuel guys was doing work on Mac desktops, After Effects and a decklink card to lower overheads and compete with the big boys with big toys. Then...the slow climb into larger overheads began and here we are. Clever guys, started with a great approach but it changed.

During the Fuel/Mac times, there would have been plenty of Quantel owners who would have cried foul and demanded an industry alliance, but as far as humans go, the price setting only means that you know how much to undercut.

If a business can think cleverly and do an equal job but do it cheaper, then aren't they allowed to do so under the capitalist system ?

If [company] have high overheads and bad policy, they burn.

Wait till our industry is an app.

Creative said:

This blog is priceless! Oh wait, that's why they're arguing.

To be honest... said:

Fuel pitched on a few jobs and their work was a little sub-par compared to other shops that were charging more money.

So we went with the ones who charged more.

hawk said:

@ I. Ronyk , You have nailed the feel of the thread.

I know plenty of operator artists who refuse to work for some companies in Sydney due to late payment, poor pay, bad management of jobs and who like nothing better than to blame artists for their poor decision making when things go wrong. Its a shame the industry has been brought to its knees but I do not see it changing any time soon, given the cheaper must be better attitude that is prevalent.

Bored said:

Can all you 'post' people please get back to work. While this blog has been fun and very entertaining at times, nothing will ever change.

I would be amazed if I ever see the day where all the local post houses unite as one.

It just won't happen.

@Bored said:

Precisely, people of all industries just need to deal with the current change, IT"S BUSINESS, don't try to hide from it or protect your self by creating a union to bully clients.


Yo said:

I think this video from IBC explains a lot about what is happening.

My 2 bobs worth said:

@become a plumber:
Makes a valid & sensable point about how plumbers qoute. Many are calling for a Guild who in essence do just that, setup a code of conduct that every1 agrees to ie. maybe pricing structure, payment timeline etc & possibly hold those that dont adhere to this code accountable. A top down approach!

Though most in the industry who've been around long enough, know what to qoute. As a bottom up approach (no plumber pun intended),If everyone dug there feet in and not budged to a point of working at a loss on qoutes you may find that clients will have no choice but to pay the set market rate. If clients dont pay the true cost and go OS then I believe they will do that inevidably anyway because no Aussie business could compete with the studio running cost of a 2nd world country.

Realistic comparison said: "I pumped out 6 mens poo"
If your makin a realistic comparison, some of the jobs Co's are undercutting to get are somewhat b-grade shit (pun intended:) anyway and not worth putting on your reel let alone bragging.

hawk said:
Thats gold & gosiple mate!! Haha!!

The irony of all this is - 90% of the people in the film-tv-etc industry are amazing collaborators, problems solvers and team players when it comes to 'The Craft', but when it comes to 'Business' some of these posts sound like shoutInt charlatans at a medieval fair!

Maybe as a possible solution we could sorta self regulate outselves intitially by using a members only ANONIMOUS forum of sorts with 1 Rep nominated by each Co. If an client is doin the rounds trying to haggle down PPH's using the ol 'i can get such n such to do the job for less' speach then this private and secure forum would be a way for us in the industry inform each other what prices that particular job is done for. That way someone whos intending to undercut would go silent on the forum & you would know their undercutting if they got the job at which time they go on the internal 'shame files'. Its a radical idea in radical tmes, but i hope you get the drift. Bottom up approach. They have the $$$ be we got the skill, without us clients are fuck. We're great team players, theres enough work to go around, maybe we need to share the work around, without singing kumbaya, which may be possible if the right price is qouted and stuck to in the first place.

Agencies should take post IN HOUSE. said:

I predict the days of large post houses are in steep decline. animal logic and fin design will be a round for a couple of years still but even they will succumb.

agencies should all purchase the smoke on applemac plus premiere/finalcut. and resolve, freelance in offline online and color grading, agencies will save a bundle.

all that will be left will be small computer graphics based post facilities.

change is happening so fast that change is changing.

Production/post should take agencies IN HOUSE said:

Yep and production/post may as well take clients in house based on that logic. At least they'll have a decent team to pull it off.

Anyone who thinks good work is done by a few boxes and a great freelancer hasn't understood one of the big changes. It has shifted from a guru in a room to teams. Teams have the power of many heads, specialist skills and the ability to parallel process. If you want dumb down the outcome to the abilities of one person go right ahead.

For being cheaper, the reason we have places struggling is their charge rates are being reduced to freelance rates so it won't actually be much cheaper.

Good luck doing complex vfx with your inhouse machines and freelancers who are interested in working in that type of environment.

End of conversation said:

How about everyone puts their heads down and work. And work hard at what they are good at and stop the bitching and complaining. We all know it is tuff in the big world of grown ups, so how about we all start accepting that and acting like a grown up instead a 5 year old throwing a tantrum.

let us all make the ad industry in this country something to be proud of and to be part of and associated to.
Great creative ideas with exceptional execution and post with all parties showing the other respect. we all need and rely on each other.
Crappy people will use and continue to use crappy places. Talented people always want to work with their peers.

End of this never ending story.

@End of Conversation said:

The end, is it? So pronounced by one of the 'grown ups'.

OK, let's talk about the grown up world of advertising and content production.

In the US, the largest consumer market in the world, and as a consequence the largest commercials market, for broadcast as well as all channels of digital, the entire industry is unionised in one form or another. Talent have one of the strongest unions in the world and have shut the industry down on a couple of occasions to prove their point, the last time during an attempt to rewrite the rules of compensation to their disfavour at the advent of internet distribution in 2000.

Next come the trade unions, the IA, the DGA, the WGA if you're writing more long form work for broadcast, and this is exactly where the next push will be with branded entertainment. Yes, production and post companies doing business with advertising, at least if they want to get their work to the public are also in a strong guild called the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, and they do everything from negotiating contracts with the trades unions, to setting standards of practice with vendors to producing the one quoting form that everyone uses, and nearly 90% of the production and post houses in the States (50 times the number of companies that exist in Australia and NZ) are members or associate members of the AICP. Those who are not, still adhere to their practices because the AICP have formed strong alliances with the other organisations of talent and trades and by virtue of those collective powers they have clout.

The people on this blog who continue to argue for the 'get over it', 'the world is tough so each to their own', 'go it alone' approach, trashing the very idea of collective effort and strength have no fucking idea how it works in the grown up world, because they're still playing here in this part of the far Pacific with the small children and allowing the adults on the corporate, client, and agency group side to treat them like the kids that they are.

Grow up and get it together, literally, or things will only get worse. No one is going to give you fair and equitable trading practices, you have to take it, as a group with the solidarity.

Write Your Future said:

To paraphase Nike.

Doesn't have to be just the "end of the conversation", it should also be the beginning of action.

For all the scepticism poured on the Guild idea, it's worth a shot. It does foster discussion, and helps to protect the industry's interests, IF (a) there are guidelines that are followed and enforced,and explained to clients (b) people are united and in it for the long haul. The guild is what YOU make of it, basically.

Just a thought said:

One small point that I think Post houses should bare in mind. 10 years ago to install a Grading suite (telecine chain/ grading software / hardware etc) cost about $3 million + and was charged out at somewhere between $1000 and $1500 per hour depending on the operator. Now you can install a suite for about $30K. Post houses are still TRYING to charge around $1000 to $1200 per hour. No wonder production companies ( Prodigy / Luscious for example) are installing their own systems. Post houses must lower their expectations and their prices if they want to stay in business. The problem is that their business model relies on these rates so they must change their model!!!!

Life After PI said:

This is well worth a watch and very relevant to the above blog:


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