In many EU countries, self-employed and contracted artists fall through the social security net.

GD/AD – 02/2019

The well-known Belgian director Guillaume Senez summed up the problems in his country during an interview with the Le Soir newspaper. According to Senez, the risk of impoverishment is so high that young people would have to seriously think about even entertaining the thought of becoming a director. Senez made it clear that in most cases a director does not enjoy a large income.

Even as an award-winning director, he highlighted how quickly a person can be faced with impoverishment given an ambiguous legal situation and a regulatory framework of support services that is not targeted to specific groups. In his opinion, many politicians believe that, of the one to three million euros that a European (non-Hollywood) film costs, a significant part of the funding ends up in the hands of the director; however, this is not the case. In fact, many directors are out of work. Their legal situation is failing them.

Although Belgian’s social security system covers self-employed persons, the status of directors is unclear, and the reality is quite different. The prevailing principle of accumulating unemployment benefits on the one hand and royalties for past endeavours on the other must be done away with, because if royalties exceed €4,190.16 per year, these are credited against benefits.

The reality of the job as a film director is determined by a mix of work. Employment relationships are also usually project-based and, unlike other jobs, are often measured in weeks rather than years. The reality is that they have mixed types of incomes, such as the royalties for rights and intellectual property, at least for successful artists. According to Senez, the majority of Belgian film directors earn between €20,000 and €30,000 gross per year. It would be almost impossible for a family to live off this alone without additional social support.

He also called for the process of obtaining ‘Level III’ status as an officially recognised ‘artist’ to be simplified by doing away with the current strict preconditions and proof requirements. After all, according to Senez, culture accounts for around 4.8 percent of gross domestic product in Belgium.