The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Casual labour

“Four,” he said.

I held his gaze. “K?” although it was more of a statement than a question. In this industry it couldn’t be anything else.

He nodded slightly. To be honest it was far more than I could have dreamed of, but I had on my best poker face. “Per week,” he added.

£8K for 2 weeks of driving a few actors to the set and back from their hotel and sitting around drinking coffee and solving Sudoku puzzles in between times? All my Christmases had come at once.

It didn’t really make sense though; I thought he was going to negotiate hard. “How much do you expect to get?” he’d asked at the outset. I’ve never been a driver for a production crew in my life so have no idea what the going rate is. What I do know, however, is when it comes to financial negotiations the person who mentions a price first usually loses.

I’d had about £1,500 in my head as a likely figure for the fortnight, so was so surprised at his first offer I forgot to haggle and just said, “Ok then.” Presumably my air of supreme confidence had overcome any deficiencies in my smile department, and he’d decided to make me a good offer at the outset. I felt pleased with myself for not punching the air or presenting anything other than a calm, confident, adult demeanour.

I phoned Maggie from the car. She sounded disbelieving when I told her how much they were offering, even though it could be 12+ hour days and unsociable hours. “Maybe I got the number of zeros wrong,” I said with a certain amount of mock self-effacement. But as I turned the mobile off I was suddenly awash with doubt.

What if he had meant four hundred per week? What if when I’d said “K?” he’d thought I’d said “OK!”?

Ohnohnohnohnohnohnohno… Bollocks!

It was like a punch in the stomach. In that instant it felt like someone had actually just stolen £7,200 out of my bank account and I was never going to see it again. If he had meant four hundred, then what he’d actually offered me was barely minimum wage for the hours I’d be working, in which case I’d just been shafted.

When he'd said “four”, it was the start of negotiations. I should have said “ten” then we’d have settled around “seven” or “eight”, which would have been pretty much the figure I had in my head in the first place. Instead my shock at him offering £4K per week at the outset had blown all the fuses in the rational section of my brain.

Given that I’m still suffering from bouts of low energy, I would have had to spend the fortnight on dangerous quantities of coffee and dodgy sleeping patterns, which would take their toll physically. Well worth it for £8K, but certainly not for one tenth that amount. Knowing it to be a long shot, I thought that if it was all a misunderstanting then I’d try and negotiate the rate back up to a decent figure when he rang this afternoon to go over the contract details.

He’d laughed heartily when I’d mentioned the £4K per week figure, reminding me of the old saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is” and assumed I was making a joke. But when I said £400 was too low he abruptly brought the call, and any further negotiations, to an end.

Personally I think he was just embarrassed at his poor communication skills.


eg(scotland) said...

Sounds like his communication skills were very bad. And maybe he doesn't know much about numbers.


Zazzy said...

I was all ready to hit you up for money! That's a shame. I'm not terribly surprised it's not 4k but I am really pretty surprised it was 400.

Eryl Shields said...

Oh cripes I was so rooting for you there, so you could get yourself a big white shirt with flared cuffs to go with your new look. Maybe even a cutlass, whatever that is.

Charlie said...

I've always wondered why "K" is used for thousands when the Roman numeral is "M".

Nevertheless, I believe your K was interpreted as 'kay, the nowadays version of Okay--which is a two-syllable word. And therein lies the flaw: Both movie people and their reps only understand one-syllable words.

Sorry, Captain Crusty.

Carole said...

I too, am disappointed although probably not as much as you. It is always nice when someone wins the lottery, even if just for a week or two. And for my take, I think he knew perfectly well what the K meant and figured after you had done the work, he would pretend misunderstanding and you would be out of luck. Good job clarifying.

sarah said...

what a shithead. (him, of course)

quinn said...

I like when they do money offers in the movies..the guy takes out a pen and paper and writes the amount on it and passes it to the other guy. If he wants more he writes more then they continue this way until one agrees...I think that would have worked better for you this time...maybe you can do that next time. lol.

Kanani said...

400? Really? That's very low, considering that even a 'small' budget movie is around 25-20 million (US).

Ah, he was just being cheap. Tell him to go rent mopeds for that price.

Kanani said...

By the way, I wanted you to know that there's a novel coming out in August about a young man with Down's who wins the lottery. Go visit Patricia Wood's blog. My group is one of the first ARC (Advanced Reader Copies) reading it. So far we love it, and maybe she'll include you in on the advanced releases.

Fat Lazy Guy said...

Ah man. From "4k" to "400, k?" Oh well, I'm sure it was fun while it lasted. I mean even though it didn't work out, at least thinking you had just been offered 8 grand for 2 weeks work is pretty cool.

PI said...

Just shows how hopelessly out of touch I am with the value of money these days. I would have thought they had fixed prices - daily rates so perhaps he was trying it on.
There doubtless would have been endless hanging around - up at the crack of dawn - late finish and a lot of wear and tear on the whole family. You've had a lucky escape!

Shebah said...

Kim, I think for 4K he would have had a queue from Lands End to John o'Groats!

Mary Witzl said...

Just think what the people you would have had to squire around probably make -- no, on second thought, don't. The wrong sort of people in this world are richly rewarded with material goods. Football players and their wives; corrupt politicians (do I repeat myself?) and financial pirates. Oh, I've gone and depressed myself again ...

Kim Ayres said...

EG - It's what happens when you try and impress people with your knowledge of industry jargon, but the other one is working with a different jargon

Zazzy - It could be a while before I can set myself up as a money-lender

Eryl - I know, I had my heart set on the big white shirt.

Charlie - blame the French and their Kilos

Carole - ah well, it makes a good blog entry.

Sarah - I couldn't possibly comment. I didn't know the guy well enough to know what he's like the rest of the time.

Quinn I shall have my biro sharpened at the ready

Kanani - that's why the whole thing was confusing - 400 was very low, 4,000 was very high. There are lessons to be learned here. And thanks for the heads up about Patricia Wood. I'll check it out when I've got a moment.

FLG - Yup, for a few moments I could consider going private to get my tooth fixed.

Pat - I think you're right. We'd have put up with the crap and disruption to the family for the right amount of money, but for too little it's just not worth it.

Shebah - most probably, but hindsight is a wonderful thing

Mary - when pop stars, actors and politicians get payed mega-bucks, and nurses, mothers and carers get paid a pittance, or not at all, it doesn't give you much faith in those who set the rules does it...

Julie said...

What a disappointment. I can't imagine that 400 per week would pay enough for most people. And, if you have to deal with tired and cranky people while working 12-hour days... It just seems like there should be more compensation.

Kim Ayres said...

My thoughts too, Julie

ADW said...

He sounds like he deserves a good keelhauling.

What a dick!

Christina said...

I could have done that - I am an expert at getting important things like that mixed up. Sucks though, i am sure yu were well wort the Ks.

Brave Astronaut said...

Maybe you could still negotiate for a few pieces of gold and (yo-ho-ho) a bottle of rum.

A Margarita said...

It's so bothersome that the adage, "What seems too good to be true usually is," is proved true again and again. I'm a firm believer things happen for a reason. Working with the likes of those people may have proved to be a blessing in disguise, and so perhaps, you're better off :)

Jeff said...


As I was reading this post I was thinking if they are throwing around that kind of quid I may need to move back. But then I got to the end and also felt like someone had just robbed you.

Amy said...

I just figured out who you remind me of with the pirate look. Captain feathersword in the Wiggles!

Whew--what a relief!


PS Hey - sorry about the money, what a drag.

justin barker said...

Show biz folks can be so uppity. They often think that having access to famous people is pay enough to us nobodies. A former student of mine who is a producer of a television program offered me a small role last year. But, of course, he wanted me to do it for free. luckily, for my dignity, it turned out that I wasn't blond enough.

Also, the whole asking someone how much they want to be paid is really unfair. It puts the payee at a disadvantage right off the spot. Where's the respect, I ask you?

justin barker said...

right off the spot?
I meant right off the bat.

Kim Ayres said...

ADW - Aarr... Ye could be right

Christina - I'd've been worth the money - who else would be able to discuss philosophy with the actors while driving them to and from the set? Eh? Eh?

BA - perhaps if I hadn't had parrot guano on my shoulder at the time I'd have been taken more seriously

Margarita - I'm a firm believer in that it's all random, but the worse the humiliation, the better the blog story.

Jeff - welcome back - I didn't realise you'd started blogging again. I'll add you back on the blog roll.

Amy - I'd need a shave to look like him, though I wouldn't mind his bank balance

Justin - it's a negotiating tactic - as I mentioned in the post, usually with these things, whoever mentions a figure first is at a disadvantage, so there's usually a game that bounces back and forth to try and get the other to give way first.

Pendullum said...

Darn, I was hoping it was true and we would be blessed with endless blogging hours of the Ramblings of the Bearded one on set...

Jupiter's Girl said...

I did a stint as an 'extra' recently; the third time I've done it. You can just feel the desperation of the hundreds of us, hopefuls, just wishing to be fished out of the pond and handed a gob of money for being Ourselves, calling it 'work'. Sigh. I won't do that anymore. Two of the days were shorties at 12 hours. The money is not enough for that kind of stagnation.

Kim Ayres said...

Pendullum - I know, I know. Lots of lost potential. I'm sure plenty of other potential humiliations will keep my blog filled as time moves on

Jupiter's Girl - wishing to be fished out of the pond and handed a gob of money for being Ourselves - that's profound, and probably sums up how most of us feel all our lives

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