Abdul’s Sister

Abdul’s Sister was to start work today. As of this morning, she has pulled out. Why? because of ATG’s contract. Here’s what it allegedly included;

  1. Ten days unpaid holiday.
  2. One year contract.
  3. $20,000 fine if anyone complained about her work. Such as failure of a prop to be up to standard.
  4. $125,000 fine if she discussed the show with anyone (when she pointed out she had to do that to do her job properly she was told she would have to do her job without doing it).
  5. Terrible wages.

She’s not the first. Abdul’s Cousin’s contract said that if she left without permission she would have to pay a $100,000 fine. Abdul’s Brother signed an agreement that he would not take another job until ATG had offered him an agreement (this is not the same as an agreement that allows them first refusal – they were saying he could not take another job even if they had not counter-offered).

So Abdul’s Sister has turned down the job offer.

She was the only person other than Abdul’s Brother to consider working for ATG. Based on what just happened, I’ll be surprised if Abdul’s Brother signs. And if he does, I may have to fire him for his own sake.

Name’s above changed to protect identities.

Sian’s Contract

Yesterday, Sian told me that her contract with ATG states that if she quits without their consent she must pay them $100,000.

She apparently asked them to remove it and they refused. They assured her that this clause was only to be used if she vanished without explanation and no advance warning. But it did not say that.

Why would they add this clause to her specific contract? Because Sian is very chummy with the Jordanian Royal Film Commission and they are encouraging her to direct and I suspect ATG wants to own her because of it.

But that’s okay. Because Sian isn’t likely to disappear without trace or an explanation.

Unless she drops down dead in the middle of a desert of course.

In which case she’ll have to become a zombie and drag her rancid corpse back to Amman so she can pay ATG the $100K she owes them.

But hold on a minute … if she does that, she hasn’t disappeared without a trace so she doesn’t owe them the money.

What was the point of the clause again???

Sign Or You Won’t Get Paid

An ATG employee’s contract ran out last month. When she asked for her new contract to be changed because she’d noticed some rather unreasonable clauses in it, she was told to sign or she would not get her previous month’s wages.

Something else that was alleged today – I’ve been told if an ATG employee is so much as one minute below their required nine hours per day work, they lose three day’s pay. ATG uses fingerprint entry devices and security barriers so they know exactly how long an employee has been inside the building. If an employee goes outside for a cigarette break, the clock stops till they re-enter.

This is another clause in the ATG employee contract and it’s the kind of unreasonable, punitive, callous clause the aforementioned person may have wanted removed.

Some people at ATG call ATG a prison. I think of it more as the southern states of America before slavery was abolished, which makes Talal a………

To Doha Or Not To Doha – Part 2

I went down to breakfast today and bumped into Dominic Smithers, Ray, Terry and Andy. They told me that Simon and Chris had been in the lobby last night and Simon said that Talal had called him and told him we are definitely relocating to Doha. And that we are doing so ASAP.

I had a long chat with Andy who wondered, like me, if ATP might insist we sign the contract before leaving. So I texted Chris and asked him to send me his BBC contracts (which he had previously offered to do) and his revised ATP contract (if he has it). Chris texted me saying he’d sort that out. He then called saying I should suggest to everyone that they make a list of their ‘demands’ tomorrow. Things like higher per diems. Five day weeks during prep. Proper transport around Qatar. Paid holidays and flights. Basically, all the stuff any normal production company would have already given us.

So tomorrow we will be listing our collective requirements, possibly revising the contract accordingly, and – well, that’s it.

Of course, Qatar costs a LOT more than Jordan. If the Studio really wants it shot there, they need to spend a LOT more money. But there’s the slightly sticky problem of that contract ATP signed where they promised to deliver for about $40 million regardless of where they shoot. So we may be back here in a month when they realise there is no way they can shoot it there for the budget they have.

Unless of course, they realise that giving more money to ATG is just throwing money down the toilet.

The Contract

Signing Contract Squeezed Out Of Us?

You know when ATG is up to something because they pay you on time. This week, my wages arrived on Wednesday and my per diems arrived on Thursday which, while a day late, occurred without their having to be reminded (my accounting software tells me they are an average of 12 days late when my Deal Memo says I must be paid within 7 working days).

So what were they up to? Well, last thing on Thursday we were presented with our contracts.

This provided some very funny (though rather sobering) moments as we read them. Clauses included conditions like;

  1. In the event that we quit we must repay *all* our wages.
  2. In the event that filming had to stop due to Force Majeur, we must carry on working without pay and once filming recommenced we were to return to the job regardless of whether we were on another job or not.

The first clause – about having to pay wages should you quit without their permission – was put in Chris Richmond’s contract months ago. Chris spotted it and had it removed, and then signed it. The next day, an ATG lacky brought the contract back saying they had made an error – the date was wrong or something – and asked, could he resign it? Chris re-signed without thinking about it. Only after did he realise they had swapped it back to the old contract and tricked him into signing it!!!

Despite this story and its many insane clauses, the contract became the source of cautious amusement amongst the Art Department. It was full of typos, bad punctuation, grammatical errors and numerous other mistakes that meant the contract could never be held up in a court of law.

The curious thing is ATG has several lawyers permanently working for it. So the question is why were we presented with a contract that looked like it had been written by a 13-year-old who had cobbled it together from numerous other contracts from other countries?

In addition, it was clear from the contract that ATG did not actually know what our jobs were! For example, my contract as Art Director included conditions that I was responsible for sourcing and taken charge of set dressing and special effects, both of which actually fall under different departments.

Finally, my contract stated that I was responsible for managing the budget despite the fact I have never seen a budget and have no idea how much money my department has to spend. Plus I have absolutely no access to the money anyway.

In short, it was the silliest contract that I, and everyone else in the Art Department, had ever seen. And I knew that in this one document, I had finally seen evidence that his company really could not be trusted.