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).