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A Timely Op-Ed
- Friday, Jun. 9, 2023
Many people are talking about how to create and support a thriving, equitable industry; How to promote a diverse, happy workplace, and how to get the best creative possible from partners and the strongest collaborations from vendors.
In our business, agencies and clients increasingly ask to work with woman-owned businesses, small businesses, and diverse talent. That’s a powerful step in the right direction. But here’s the truth – one of the best ways to support a healthy industry, especially small business vendors, many of which are female and minority owned, is to pay them fairly and in a timely fashion.
I love my job. I love mentoring and guiding director talent. I love when we do a kick-ass production and everyone at the agency and the client is thrilled. I love hiring incredibly creative crew who are so very good at their jobs. But the payment system is broken, and we need to fix it. Or else we won’t be able to maintain a viable industry.
Late payments and extended payment terms have become increasingly common. For production companies, mostly small businesses, this can mean being forced to secure - or trying to secure - extended credit lines to pay for people and materials needed for each production. That’s because we can’t - and shouldn’t - withhold payments to crew and vendors that make the commissioned work possible. Labor laws appropriately dictate how people should be paid and treated in the workplace - the same should apply to the small businesses that support them.
Some might be reading this and shrugging it off as how business happens. But imagine going into a neighborhood restaurant, eating an incredible meal, then promising to pay the bill in 90 or 180 days. Imagine too, if many, many people did that - but the restaurant, eager to be chosen over the other restaurants, bent under the pressure in order to get business all the while having to pay staff and vendors. It wouldn’t take long before only the big chain restaurants can survive. Soon, the landscape would look pretty ubiquitous wherever you go. The same is true in our industry. Unfair payment terms mean fewer bespoke businesses, fewer options, more homogeneity.
Production is about moving mountains, problem solving, creating from scratch and with whatever we can, however we can. We want to be partners - real partners - in both making cool things that grab attention and also partners in making our industry more sustainable and diverse in all ways. We want to be of value and to know we are valued. It’s time for our agency and client partners to recognize it with fair payment terms.
Lauren Schwartz is owner and executive producer of production house kaboom.