Production Base. Like it or loathe it?
After a year on the site, I put forward some very valid criticisms to Joe Mahoney, the owner of Production Base and also some constructive ideas. It's been 10 months since we spoke and despite a promised follow up, no attempt to contact me has been received. If Mr. Maloney ever finds the time or inclination then I will of course update this blog but for now, here's my experience:
I subscribed in 2007 and paid just short of £120 for a years membership. I built a portfolio being clever to include keywords and stand out for the initial impression when found. And then I waited. And waited. Until July to be precise when ITV got in touch and booked me for a single days shoot. Not bad I thought, it paid for itself but was it great? Not in my opinion.
So, fast forward to January 2013 and I received a promo for Production Base membership again. Knowing the world has become more online in the 6 years that passed I thought that the stats would be much better and a worthwhile punt. So, I built a profile (PB doesn't save it if you expire which is crazy) and waited. And waited. And waited. Until December to be precise when PB sent me a renewal notice.
In the past year I'd received a dozen job notifications based on my grade - that's right JUST ONE PER MONTH. Nothing was 100% suitable but I applied for some nonetheless. They were either London based or they weren't offering a payment comparable to accepted industry rates. Disgusting. You can get a better quality of lead from a free account at mandy.com (if you filter the no pay slave drivers!).
So, after the Christmas holidays I attempted to contact Production Base for comment.
I tried first using Facebook, but the post there went ignored despite administrators continuing to post (allegedly) "funny" pics that gained zero engagement from the page followers. Although they failed to respond to me, Production Base did block me from their Facebook page. What a disgrace!
I then emailed and was initially met by a gatekeeper who obviously didn't want to pass my details onto the owner and public face of PB, Joe Mahony for a chat. Perservereing, after 4 emails I was eventually offered an appointment for a telephone chat.
In advance of the meeting, I did research on Social Media and phoned friends in the industry. Not one person had a positive thing to say about Production Base. Everyone who replied said the same thing… they'd paid for a year and not had any work. Very similar to myself!
I also analysed the website and based on my background of building some pretty large successful websites over the past 15 years, I made notes on suggested improvements to the Production Base website for both crew, production and the company itself.
At 11am on the dot, Joe Mahony called. I thanked him for calling and explained I'd got several constructive suggestions based on my poor experience but he immediately went on the defensive saying he only had 15 minutes available to speak. Disappointing, I'd already contributed £240 to his families' inheritance yet he had a very limited amount of time for me to help him improve HIS business.
The points discussed and Joe's responses are detailed below:
- Lack of work enquiries generated. I'd only had a dozen emails through 2013 of jobs based on my criteria and not one was based in my region.
Joe claimed that there must be something lacking in my profile that prevented production staff from contacting me but as the system immediately removes unpaid profiles (see my next suggestion!) he was unable to offer any advice.
- No quality work. Most of the jobs for my selected grades were well below the recognised and/or union rates.
Joe flatly denied this, and as expired jobs are purged from their database I was unable to offer examples. Joe promised to look them up and comment. To date nothing has been received. I will of course update when Joe get's back to me with further comments on this.
- Pointless 'funnies' posted on Facebook, and the lack of response to my customer enquiries posted on their Facebook page.
Joe couldn't comprehend why (allegedly) "funny" photos frustrate me and couldn't seem to grasp that many friends clog up my news feed with similar drivel. I suggested they use it more as a forum to advise and help members. He said he would look into why comments on their Facebook page are disabled and indeed why my original query went unanswered. Again, I will post a follow up when I hear back from Joe.
UPDATE 4th September 2014: I'm now BLOCKED from the ProductionBase Facebook page! How very Big Brother...
- A facility to disable profiles instead of deleting them (and forcing crew to start again when rejoining). Despite explaining this as a selling point to Joe he didn't seem to grasp it as a feature. I tried to explain that some crew might take a break from it or work on a long job and then they have to come back and spend 3-4 hours recreating the profile but unfortunately Joe seemed to think deleting unpaid profile information (strangely, without deleting showreels immediately which is bizarre as they take more server resources!) was the best way.
- Refer and encourage new entrants for a reduced fee that is in turn converted to monthly subscriptions for experienced professional members.
I pointed out that new blood was the lifeline not just to the industry but also to his business. He agreed but said there were other ways they help new entrants and send out lists of the Top 20 new entrants to productions on request. Not really a proper searchable location based database though?
- I paid just under £120 per year. For that price wouldn't it be possible to get a member of staff to review my profile for 15-20 minutes?
Joe told me it would be impossible to review every single member page, but my view is that if they take the subscription, they MAKE it possible.
- Until I received the reminder in December to renew my subscription, I've not seen any General News type emails. Commission etc would be a good heads up.
Joe explained that if you log into your Production Base page you can see a window with the latest commissions in it. My view is that it would be easier for members on an opt in email, I rarely have reason to sign into the PB website.
- The Production Base 'soiree' (posh speak for networking I think). Why were there very few production staff? I could have gone to the Met in Didsbury if I wanted to meet and chat with other freelancers!
Joe acknowledged that there were very few production staff at the event but I didn't hear what ideas they had to make the next one a success.
- I suggested a map based search where productions could search the location of freelancers more accurately than regions.
Joe claimed this wasn't what freelancers wanted, they want their location to be relatively unknown so that they can access jobs across their region. I disagree. Think of the carbon footprint! How many times do you hear of a production happening on your doorstep and crews have been sourced from miles away?
- The Production Base Watercooler: Why can't I access help and give advice when I'm not a paying member?
Mr. Mahony claimed that the forums on Production Base are an added value that must be paid for with a subscription. I disagreed explaining that as a result there are far more valuable forums on the net where I can get more opinions because ANYONE can contribute. Joe also claimed that they would open up themselves to a huge administration nightmare cleaning and tidying the site. I pointed out the self administration of the like of Wikipedia and MoneySavingExpert to which I didn't hear a satisfactory answer.
- I suggested a chron job on the server (an automated daily task) that automatically emails all profiles with low views/contacts with an offer for staff to review the profile.
Joe actually said he'd make a note of this suggestion! I should be charging consultancy...
All in all, Joe blamed my profile although this couldn't be confirmed as his system had deleted it the second the clock struck midnight after my annual subs expired. Crazy huh? He did say that in the 12 months I'd paid Production Base my profile had received around 30 views. He considered this a fantastic stat. I DON'T. That's about 1 visitor every 12 days, or a cost of £4 per visitor. Imagine how many visitors a Google Adwords campaign would generate with a £120 budget. Many, many times this. I feel Production Base is simply poor value.
He also said that until major broadcasters move commissioning into the regions (where he rightly said productions would follow) there wouldn't be much work in the regions. Quite an admission that Production Base isn't the wisest investment outside of London?
If it was truly my profile, and bearing in mind I'd already reduced my tax bill by nearly £240 by subscribing to the site, I asked him for a free year where I could fine tune the profile following his staffs guidelines and recommendations. I was told that this was out of the question, he couldn't possibly give a year for free to everyone that was of the opinion Production Base didn't bring enough work their way. In my humble opinion, yet another admission of failings.
I was offered a free month... needless to say I declined. I don't think it's work my time and energy building a new profile for a service that has so far brought me 1 days work in a £240 spend over 2 years. Call me fussy!
As it stands, I wouldn't recommend anyone spend on Production Base; whether they are new entrants or established crew. From my experience it simply DOES NOT work. I get about an email a week generated just from THIS website from new entrants asking for advise… I will now make a point of telling them to save their hard earned cash.
At an average cost of £4 per viewing of my Production Base profile had ZERO job enquiries; this is a total waste of money, in my opinion.
We are in the middle of an Information Revolution and many of the jobs posted on Production Base can be found elsewhere, The Talent Manager has a free plan that's used by many major production companies, and sites like The Unit List on Facebook are growing in popularity every day. They are the way forward.
PLEASE, PLEASE... SAVE YOUR MONEY, SPEND YOUR £120 ELSEWHERE; (UNLESS OF COURSE YOU'RE A RIVAL CAMERAMAN IN MANCHESTER!)