Contracts and Pay Rates


I have received a number of telephone calls recently about pay rates and contracts for both directors and editors.

In regards to pay rates, they vary greatly depending on level of experience and type of work. That said, there is a significant difference between exploitative rates and low rates.

On the DEGNZ website we have some simple guidelines for pay rates for experienced practitioners here. Obviously, you have to weigh up these basic rates against what you are being offered, the type of work you will be performing, and your level of experience. If you can, ask around to get a steer on what pay levels might be.

When it comes to contracts, there are fair contracts and there are unfair contracts. It would seem (surprise, surprise) that some companies are leaving out clauses that help to clarify what the actual terms and conditions of the contracts are, and in some cases not fulfilling the terms and conditions stated.

Worse, I am aware of one contract that states that the person being contracted is not allowed to show the contract to anyone else without the express permission of the production company. Untrue.

Firstly, unless you are experienced with contracts do not sign one without seeking advice. You do not have to sign a contract the moment that it is given to you.

As a member of DEGNZ, you can access through the guild a half-hour consultation free of charge with lawyer Tim Riley of Dominion Law, and discounted rates for ongoing work. While you might think that the cost of legal advice is not worth it, you may well find that you more than cover it through gains made, monetary or not, through a negotiation process with the right legal advice.

Don’t be afraid of negotiation. It is merely part of the employment process. It may well be that there is no room for negotiation, but a good employer won’t be upset by you testing it out. If a company seems to be using scare tactics to put you off doing so, then it’s highly likely that they are seeking advantage to their benefit, at your cost.

Yes, the less experienced you are the harder it is to negotiate, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. And getting that legal advice may save you a lot of pain, because contracts are most useful when something goes wrong. When it does, you want to have one that serves you best.

Second, according to Tim, every contract can be reviewed by your authorized legal representative without you having to inform the production company that you are getting them to do so. It’s your right.

Third, don’t just throw your contract in a drawer and forget about it. If there are obligations that must be met by either side at particular intervals or by certain dates, ensure that you and or they keep to those obligations.

While DEGNZ cannot offer legal advice, we can offer you information and advice on pay rates, contracts or other matters. It’s one of the services you can access as a member. So make use of it.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

Last updated on 26 February 2018