I am doing a public advice post (please share widely, this is set to public) for ALL my archaeology, history, science, and other academic colleagues who are asked to do TV work. I am going to give you standard day rates for filming/consulting, what to ask for, how to do contracts, what is reasonable, and how to negotiate. If 100% of us take a stand against the industry-standard practice of not paying for our hard earned knowledge and expertise, we'll force them to change. Here goes...
FILMING PAYMENT: Industry standards for filming range from $800-$1500 per day, plus all food, travel, and associated costs. $1000-$1200 per day is about right. It's intense work. PS them telling you "but it's only a half day" means your entire day is shot, you have to include travel, setup, prep, and extra time...it's 100% of the time a full day.
NEGOTIATING: Some back and forth may be required. Set a lowest limit for yourself and don't let them go below that. Be polite but firm. If they don't have $ to pay you, it's not worth it. All of them are getting paid.
CONSULTING PAYMENT: This will vary. Remember most of you have earned PhDs! You're more knowledgeable than lawyers and they all charge lots. I've seen most folks charge between $100-$200 per hr, more for shorter intense full day efforts (i.e. "Can you please review this script and make sure it is factually accurate?" OK 20 page script, but fact checking, and intense day, so $1500-$2000). You can set rates for phone calls, research etc.
BUT I DON'T FEEL OK TAKING $: Check your temperature and get over the guilt. 100% of the film and production crew are getting paid. You deserve it. You won't get rich but you will be able to pay down a credit card bill, go to a nice dinner, buy books for research...your choice. And if you still feel guilty, do what I do and use the $ to support your excavation work or research or students (I've used $ from TV to buy my grad students computers, or help with emergency situations).
RULES TO FOLLOW: Before signing anything, check in with your University legal office and of course coordinate with your Chair/Dean. Yes they can be pains but also these folks are working for
YOU. Nearly every uni allows consulting, e.g. this type of thing, but there are conflict of interest forms, and sometimes $ effort release forms, or other paperwork. DO THE PAPERWORK this will bite you in the butt if you don't. Keep paper trails, keep track of phone calls and meetings and always follow up with thank yous to the lawyers. Honestly most of them are great. They'll be on your side.
HOW TO START: Develop a standard rate sheet with your specific guidelines for external consulting. I don't have one (I am lucky and have an agent to do this for me), but you can easily develop one with your uni legal office (trust me, they can be very helpful) OR ply a lawyer buddy with a nice dinner and wine and ask them to help you set it up. One page, straightforward, "These are my rates for X Y and Z, here is what I am willing to do." Ask around, a lot of academics have them and I bet people would be willing to share templates. Give rates for filming, research, X phone calls, what you will require (payment within 30 days, reimbursement within 2 weeks etc).
SO YOU GET AN EMAIL/CALL ASKING YOU FOR X...: Well it has to start somewhere. The first phone call is free, unless they want to "pick your brain." But even then you hold 100% of the cards. First you need to decide if the company/person is decent. Look them up online and see what they've done. There should be a good website and info on their previous shows. Most companies are "indies" (independent). Ask them on the call what the show is about, what they can share with you (a one page overview doc is minimum what they should be able to share), what they want from you, how much time they think it will take, what their company ethics are, do they employ women and POC (i.e. do they value diversity). YOU be the one asking the questions. Come up with a list, print them out, take notes. The person asking the ?'s in in charge and here you are in charge. If they want to "pick your brain" its the same ?'s. "How did you find me? What are you interested in? Is the show greenlit (commissioned) or being developed to pitch? Who would this be for? Are you talking to other experts?" Get a TON of info from them. They'll spill the beans, they always do. After all that, say, "Wow, this sounds so exciting! I'd love to be involved. Lets talk about a contract and my rate sheet." If they ghost, f&*k 'em. You can't pay rent or for groceries in "exposure".
BUT THEY TOLD ME THIS IS JOURNALISM: OK here is where there is a divide. I've done a bunch of unpaid segments, but for news, and things like 60 Minutes. 60 mins was very, very special and worth every moment I put into it. A documentary is not journalism in the traditional "paid versus unpaid" sense. Yes of course it is "journalism", but you still need to get paid *if it is not a news entity*. A talking head interview say for BBC or Fox News or local news commenting on a recent discovery= journalism and unpaid, and frankly, good practice for you. A TV crew from and Indie coming to your lab and filming you for an entire day= PAID. There are clear lines. Don't let them lie to you. They will lie. Not all, but some.
CONTRACT: Here is where you need to rely heavily on your Uni legal office. ALL PAID WORK
REQUIRES CONTRACTS. You will be used otherwise and at risk of serious exposure without a contract. "Trust us" they will say. They can kiss your a$$ 8 ways to Sunday if they say that and RUN AWAY. In the contract are terms for the total work you are willing to do, exactly what you will be paid for, travel costs, what you can and cannot say publicly, how to protect your research (some TV people will tell you that you cannot publish till their TV show goes live---in some cases this may work, others it may not. Protect yourself here!), your IP (yes your words are your IP!), standards for behavior for both parties (contract null and void and full payment due if Director turns out to be abusive for example...you need an escape clause)....the good news is that this is ALL standard boilerplate contracting stuff, and there are countless examples of all this online, and where Uni legal offices are SO helpful. Most of what they do is contract law, and their job is to protect you.
HELP IT ALL WORKED I'M GOING TO BE ON TV: Here is where the Internet is your BFF. There are SO many wonderful presenter resources online. I won't list the, but look on Youtube or Google and see what advice is there. Also watch shows with your favorite history/science presenters, see what they do, learn from the pros. Remember you are YOU and your enthusiasm and authenticity are what the viewers want. You'll get better over time, most Directors are actually super decent and they'll work with you and make you relaxed (they have lots of tricks for this).
I wish you all the luck in the world. We need more of you on TV, and you all need to be paid fairly.
By - Dr. Sarah Parcak