Dead Medium Productions are proud to announce that we’ve been granted funding for two new programmes in the latest round of the BAI’s ‘Sound & Vision Scheme’. These are ‘The A.R.T of Television’ for Dublin South FM, and ‘The Free School’ for Newstalk. This follows BAI’s funding of three programmes in December 2016, bringing the total number of Sound & Vision supported programmes developed by Dead Medium to twelve since 2013.
The Art of Television is a satirical screwball comedy starring Roger Gregg, set in the early days of Irish television broadcasting. A time when government and church fought young broadcasters struggling to innovate on the nation’s fledgling TV channel. American writer Claude Chabert lands a job early Irish soap opera ’Home Farm’. Claude finds himself trapped between the political pressures and on the rigid censorship of late 1960’s Ireland. Attempting to kill the show, he resorts to improbable storylines rooted in Irish mythology, creating an unexpected hit. Now Claude must balance the demands of crafty civil servants, a meddling church and an unruly cast.
The Free School is a documentary exploring a revolutionary new school, and it’s impact on Irish education. A revolutionary new school opened recently in Ireland. Wicklow Sudbury school challenges every assumption we hold about education. This is a school with no teachers, no timetables, no exams and no classes. A school where children as young as seven and as old as eighteen work together. A place where young people are free to do whatever they want, whenever they want. The Sudbury model represents a challenge to and an opportunity for our school system. This radical form of schooling has been running in the United States for almost fifty years, but can it work here? This documentary follows the first few months of the fledgling school. Listeners will meet students, staff and parents, and explore what they found lacking in conventional education. In the process we’ll see just what Irish education can learn from The Free School.
April 7th is rapidly approaching. This is the deadline for the next BAI Sound & Vision Application round. As we’ve been lucky enough to receive funding a number of times over the past five years I’ve decided to share some of our recent applications. The hope is that they’ll serve as examples of a) the level of thought and detail that needs to go into these funding apps, and b) the kinds of fee ranges and costings that need to be considered.
In terms of getting funded, the process as simple as it is unpredictable. You need to find a station to agree to broadcast your show, should your application be successful. You need a thorough budget, finished script(s) (for drama) / a detailed breakdown of the show (for doc, entertainment etc). Most importantly, you need to carefully read the BAI’s Guide For Applicants – especially the sections on scheme objectives and themes. A big part of the funding decision depends on how well you’ve justified your applications according to these criteria.
The most important advice I can give is to price your programme competitively. The BAI don’t officially set rates for producers, directors etc; and they set only the broadest of ranges for the funding they’ll provide. However, the average and median rates for programmes successfully funded in each round, across genre, are very similar. This means that most programmes are applying in the same ballpark.
So what should you charge? As of Round 24 (two rounds ago), the median doc received €4056, while the highest funded was €12,600. Median drama received €6,600 and the highest award was €10,800. Your show should be pitched somewhere between these rates – irrespective of number of episodes. If you’d like to check out the figures for yourself, the outcomes of previous rounds are available here. Additionally, if you go examine the apps below, you’ll see that I’ve frequently offered time and work in kind (in other words, at no charge), in order to increase the viability of applications.
Unfortunately, to be successful you will likely need to understate the amount of days needed to complete your programme. In other words, your actual pay per day will be far lower than the day rate in your application might suggest. An extreme example was our recent drama series for Newstalk – ‘The Wall in the Mind’. The first time we applied with this programme (and failed to obtain funding) part of the feedback from the BAI assessment panel was that, “The number of days required for the length of programme to be produced appear excessive.” We were seeking 18 days, including preproduction, production and post, to create 6 * 22 minute episodes. Although we did not reduce the days in our second (successful) application, we did greatly reduce the overall funding sought. The final number of days the programme actually took to complete? 120 production days / 175 person days. You can find a detailed project time sheet for that production below.
As you can see from the chart at the top of this article – despite our success obtaining funding across community, commercial and even state broadcasters, my actual income from the scheme has declined, as has each programmes funding. This reflects a decrease round to round in the median, average and highest amounts awarded across projects by the Sound & Vision Scheme. You should be aware of this when seeking funding, as the scheme is not only extremely competitive, but also in effect operates as a blind auction – driving wages down over time. In my role as communications officer for AIRPI, I’ve spent that last several months researching these changes in funding (alongside Shane Conneely, a PHD candidate at UCD’s School of Cognitive Science). We’ll be releasing a report on the Sound and Vision Scheme and it’s effect on the radio industry later in the year. For now, all I can suggest is that you weigh up carefully whether you can afford the time to go through the lengthy application and production process.
Why make these applications available?
Why am I making this information available? To quote Utah Philips, “I knew that it was all wrong. That it all had to change. And that that change had to start with me.” Over the past few years I’ve worked myself to the bone – evenings weekends, sometimes months without a day off. I’ve had to take on more and more roles in each new production, as overall funding fell: All to bring my writing to the air. Even as our programmes have become more ambitious, richly produced, and higher quality, funding has halved. It’s OK that it’s hard, I like that it’s hard, it pushes me to excellence. But it shouldn’t be this hard. The scheme as is, disincentivises good work. If you insist on making well written, deep, ambitious work despite the financial limitations, ‘you’re gonna have a bad time’. And that’s crazy. Hopefully this is a small push in the right direction. I encourage other producers to to the same – if no one speaks up, things can’t change.
Several years ago I wrote a two articles detailing with the documentation required for funding apps and discussing the scheme in more detail, that you might find useful – The Sound and Vision Scheme (Part 1, Part 2).
See below for links to previously successful (and unsuccessful) applications. I’ve removed some CV’s and other personal information relating to staffing, as well as scripts, but applications are otherwise complete. Please note – actual awarded amounts and final budgets often differ from those in applications. Additionally some projects had staffing changes after the award of funding – for example sound engineer on The Wedding Tree was Brendan Rehill, not Roger Gregg (due to availability).
I’ll be speaking for a couple of hours tomorrow at the National Union of Journalists ‘Freelance Forum‘ for photographers and writers. I’ll be talking about my experiences applying for funding and producing work under the BAI’s Sound & Vision scheme. I’ll also be addressing serious issues with the scheme and funding reductions to the radio sector over the past decade. This talk should be of real worth to anyone currently intending to apply for funding under the Sound & Vision scheme, as well as radio students and trainees who may work on projects funded under the scheme in future.
Tickets are 20 euro, but also cover a guide to working in courts service and a panel on pitching to editors. Full programme [PDF].
Having just finished post production & broadcast on my latest comedy series ‘Any Other Dublin‘ for Dublin City FM, I thought I’d take a breath and return to discussing the ins and outs of producing a Sound and Vision II scheme funded radio show. This is a follow up to my previous article on the scheme. Once again let me state all opinions are my own, and I’m certainly no expert on the process. However, in line with my views on education through praxis, I reckon a beginners perspective has some uses. This piece is quite technical and specific to radio funding in Ireland, so excuse the dryness.
As I mentioned last time, the Sound and Vision scheme provides funding (up to 95% of production costs) to both independent TV and radio productions in Ireland. You need to get a radio station or TV station to agree to broadcast your finished show before you can apply. This is much easier in the case of radio, where new content is always welcome.
Applications take about three months to come back (approved or rejected). Currently the Sound and Vision application deadlines are 31st January (with decisions by the end of April), 6th June (decisions at the beginning of September) and 19th September (decisions in December) – although the specific dates change year on year. If you’re interested in making programmes as an ongoing thing, this means you’re working six months in advance. At any one time you’re ideally writing / developing programme A, preparing an application for programme B, awaiting a decision on programme C, and producing or finalising a previously funded programme D. This is less confusing than it sounds! You’re only ever actively making one programme at a time, and the production side of things (for radio drama) will be a week at most (although preproduction and post production can take months on either end). Once you’ve applied for funding a couple of times, the S&V application form becomes much more understandable, and you gain a better idea of the kind of programmes the Sound and Vision scheme is likely to support. Right now, my latest show (Any Other Dublin) has just finished broadcasting on Dublin City FM. I’m waiting to find out over the next few days whether either or both of two applications that went in at the start of June (a documentary series for Near FM, and comedy series for DCFM) have been lucky enough to receive funding. I’m also currently finishing off my next application (a one off comedy drama for DCFM), which is due in to the station by the end of this week, and into BAI by the 19th.
My last article left off listing the documentation you need to provide to the BAI, once you’ve been granted funding. So lets start by going through those requirements and what they involve in practice. Funding received under the S&V Scheme is delivered in two ‘tranches’, the first after the show has been approved and ‘deliverables’ (explained below) provided. The second after the show has been recorded, broadcast, audited, and a whole bunch more documentation (explained even further below), provided. The BAI are an absolutely pleasure to deal with over the phone (really!), and should be able to answer any questions you might have. But this info may be handy too, especially if its your first time navigating the process. BAI let you upload all required documentation directly to their site (where incidentally, you’ll need to register in advance of any applications – it’s free, go do it now). Many of these required documents have ‘template’ versions available on the BAI online system. You’ll find them in a document called ‘Required Docs for Sound and Vision’, which is linked from the top of your ‘Applicant Homepage’. This includes both explanations and sample documents. There are a lot of documents required throughout the process, so I’d strongly recommend buying a scanner and a printer if you can afford it (this is not covered by your grant funding). There are some non-obvious costs involved in getting the documentation together. You’ll need to self finance all of these (at least initially), so be aware of them before you apply – I’ve bolded them below. If you’ve any questions at all about this process, I’d be more than happy to answer an email or comment on this article as well as I’m able.
Tranche 1 ‘Deliverables’
1. Secretary’s Certificate (Contractor)
– This only applies if you’re a company (rather than a partnership or sole trader). As far as I know it relates to oversight of the company with regards to financial matters and all that malarky. If you’re a sole trader you’re exempt from this requirement.
2. Memo & Arts/Rules (Contractor)
– See above.
3. Broadcaster Confirmation Letter
– This is a letter you’ll need to get from your broadcaster, stating broadcast dates, how many episodes are to be broadcast, who retains copyrights to the finished show etc.
4. Broadcaster Contract
– Similar to above, except this letter is a contract between you as the show producer and the broadcaster. Your broadcaster should have templates for this.
5. Rights Documentation
– This relates to the use of copyrighted materials. If you’ve purchased music, or are using library footage, you need to provide evidence that you’ve acquired the correct licences; or alternately that the clips etc you’re using are free for use under a creative commons or other copyleft licence.
6. Production & Co-Financier Contracts
– This is only relevant if you’re a big production with private financing, or other production agreements.
7. Key Personnel Agreement
– This relates to contracts with actors, sound engineers etc – and any co-funding agreements. I don’t want to post examples, in case they’d land me or anyone else in legal warm water, but essentially the contracts I’ve used so far have been plain english, witnessed and dated permissions to use voice, image etc in broadcast and on the web. You can find lots of examples online. Key personal are defined as folks without whom the programme cannot be made, usually producers, sound engineers, and perhaps composers etc.
– The treatment should be the same as the treatment you created for your initial application, just put in a word document on its own.
– Again, budget should essentially be the same as you provided on your initial application. This is also the point where you can negotiate any changes with BAI. For example in Any Other Dublin, our proposed sound engineer wasn’t available. This didn’t affect the budget total, but it meant that rather than paying one person for music composition and sound engineering, we had two separate folks on the books. The budget you provide at this point, rather than the one you provided in the application, is the one that will go in the contract with BAI, and the one you’ll be assessed by for the audit, so double check everything.
10. No Set-Off Letter (Production a/c).
– This is a letter from the bank saying that the production account is of a special type, which can’t be drawn against for debts and the like. Basically this means opening up a new business account for the production. This is separate to the business account you’ll need for yourself as an independent producer (which can take a while to set up if you don’t have a ‘relationship’ with the bank). There’s a template in the Required Contract Docs, but you’ll need to speak to your bank about it in person. At least from Bank of Ireland getting a no set-off letter entailed an (€ 80 euro approx.) solicitors fee (other banks may not charge a fee for this service). This is because a no set off account is one that can’t be touched by the bank for fees or other debts, so they run the BAI template letter by their solicitor, and get a fee that way.
11. Programme & Grant Details
– Just a simple form (again, see templates) listing lots of details about the programme, and also the agreed grant amount to be paid by BAI (which they will have provided you). You’ll need to have your production account (see above) set up already, and you’ll need to know not just your account number, but also branch number, sort code, and international banking number (IBAN). For Bank Of Ireland, you can find this info here. For other Irish banks try this, or call your branch.
12. EFT Form (Production Account)
– This is an electronic transfer form (see templates). Basically a form to let the BAI pay your bank – so you need all the banks international code details.
13. Certificate of Incorporation (Contractor)
– This isn’t need for a sole trader, and you should have it already if you’re a partnership, cooperative or limited company.
14. Finance Plan
– This is just a plain document stating the percentage and amount of your budget being paid by BAI (max of 95% of total budget, will differ depending on what they awarded you), and by yourself (min 5%) and any other funders.
15. Insurance Policy
– You’re making a radio show! You’ll need insurance, lest anyone scrape their knee and seek to cast you into the poor house. Insurance needs to indemnify the BAI (rather than just you), it needs to cover public liability up to 7.5 million euro (yeesh), and employers liability up to 13 million euro (double yeesh), and it has to cover the entire duration of production / post production. Don’t stress, media insurance companies deal with this specific setup all the time. We went with the broker AON Affinity, and the policy ended up costing €142.00 euro.
16. Tax Clearance Cert. (Contractor)
– You can apply for a Tax Clearance Certificate online from the revenue commission. As far as I remember, there’s no charge for this certificate, and it was issued within the week: Provided you’ve paid your tax, or as in my case, if you’ve recently set up a business and are not yet in debt to the revenue.
17. Bank Details
– Just your bank details – i.e.: the details of the new account you’ve set up for the production, as per 10 above.
After you provide the BAI with all the above info, they’ll write up a contract and email you a copy. Read through this careful, double checking amounts, delivery dates etc – as any mistakes here are legally binding. Once you’ve approved it, you’ll need to head to the BAI offices (located near Herbert Place, on the canals, off Baggot St). As luck would have it I came down with bird flu when the contract was due, and had to stumble in a fuzzy haze into the BAI offices!
Several days later the first tranche of funding will be placed into your new production account. Technically you can now go ahead and produce the show. Although in our case, we began production (at our own risk), once funding had been confirmed and we’d purchased insurance. Insurance, no set off letter fee, script printing, actors lunches etc thus came out of pocket from myself initially. This added up. Feeding the cast cost approx € 60.00 euro per production day for lunches and actor transport, over six days of production. There were also biscuits, tea, pens and paper and miscellaneous things to purchase. So, minus the cost of printing scripts (which we were able to have done at no cost to the production using the facilities of Dublin City FM), I payed out of pocket about € 600 approx during the production. This was then money I could claim back (as we’d budgeted for it), once the first tranche came in. Previous productions where I wasn’t dealing with BAI directly I didn’t have the money on hand, we didn’t have the luxury of food for every day of recording. A little grub makes the engine run a lot more smoothly.
It should be obvious by now that the mounting costs associated with the production (especially actor salaries and studio fees – the two biggest line items) are probably going to take up the bulk of the first tranche of payment. This means you’ll have to wait till Tranche 2 (after broadcast etc), to pay yourself and your co-producers. Remember the BAI only fund up to 95% of a production, and certain costs are ineligible (see below) but actors etc still have to be paid according to the 100% budget. This means that the difference (5% min, even if you’re fully funded, more if your funding was not the full amount) between the cost of the production (actors, insurance, studios etc) comes out of your production fee. In other words, everyone gets paid what it says in the contract, except the producer. Before you can pay anyone – actors, sound engineer etc, you’ll need to get an invoice from them. This is just a simple signed and witnessed plain english form, dated and indicating the amount they’re getting paid (there are lots of examples online). Then you can cut them a cheque, drawing on the production account – technically you could pay in cash, but as you’re drawing from a no-set off account, it’ll be much more complicated, and a little dodgier for the audit.
Tranche 2 ‘Deliverables’
So, you’ve recorded, edited and had your show broadcast. Radio is pretty flexible, so there may not be a duration between these things. I dread to think of how long it would take on television. In any case, everything’s done and dusted. Now it’s time to provide the BAI with their second set of documentation, before you can receive the balance of funding. I won’t list everything here, as some of these are the same as for Tranche 1. But the substantive ones are as follows.
1. The Audit
– This is the biggie. You need to have your production audited by an accountant. You’ll need to have kept (and ideally scanned), every receipt for everything purchased. My co-producer dealt with the audit, so I don’t have an auditors name to recommend unfortunately. Current awaiting the bill for this, which AFAIK should be somewhere between € 200 – 400 euro. NB – The audit is the only part of the production that you cannot pay for with funding. In reality of course, that’s where the money’s ultimately coming from – but you will be paying it yourself, not via the BAI / Production account. So in other words, it comes directly out of your producers fee, although you have to pay it before receiving your cut. Once your auditor has signed off on the production accounts – i.e.: compared your receipts and invoices with the budget, they’ll need to drop a paper copy into the BAI, and you’ll need to upload a digital copy they’ve sent you to the BAI system.
2. Insurance Statement
– A receipt stating that the insurer was paid, which they should have mailed to you.
– A word document containing all credits – keep a list of these as you go, it gets hard to keep track later!
4. Synopsis of the show
– Should be the same as the one you provided in your initial application.
5. Press materials
– Press release, poster, website etc you’ve created for the show. In PDF format.
6. The show itself
– On audio CD’s dropped in physically to BAI HQ.
7. Letter of Warranty
– This is just a signed letter from you, stating that the show was completed according to the contract, and broadcast in accordance with all agreements on such and such a date.
8. Notes on line variations
– A spreadsheet of any variations from the budget – explaining any differences over 5% in what was spent vs what had been agreed.
9. Confirmation of Broadcast
– Letter from the station stating that they have broadcast the show, when it was on etc. Headed paper, signed. The BAI actually ask for this twice under different names (I forget the exact wording). So just upload it twice.
That’s it! You’re done. Doubtless I’ve left something out, but that’s the bulk of it. In conclusion – have cash on hand for pre-production (a loan if necessary, once you’ve been granted funding). Take into account these costs on your initial funding application. Studio costs (agreed with the station), actor fees (agreed with the actors), extra fees (if any), food and transport, audit, insurance, bank account setup, all need to be estimated and taken into account. None of these are exorbitant, but a professional production can’t shirk any of them, and some costs are easy to fail to anticipate. For example we had to pay a small fee for one of the locations we used on the latest production. We were lucky enough to be able to borrow equipment owned by the sound engineer who dropped out, but that would have been an additional unanticipated cost otherwise. If you’re hoping to record on public property (say in a park), in addition to getting approval from the local counsel beforehand, you’ll need to get them specifically indemnified on your insurance policy. You won’t get away with sneaking into a park – you can burn a bin, rob a widow, or go cottaging in a Dublin park and possibly get away with it, but if you turn up with a film crew or a boom mic you’ll have park rangers beside you in minutes, seriously.