what the job of australian cinematographers looks like

It’s been a fantastic year for Australian filmmakers in Hollywood.

Australian cinematographers accounted for two of the five nominees for Best Cinematography at the 2022 Oscars. Greig Fraser won the Oscar for his work as cinematographer on Dune. Ari Wegner has become the second woman to be nominated for Best Cinematography in the Academy’s 94-year history, for her work on Power of the Dog.

Today, the work of Australian cinematographer Mandy Walker is seen by audiences around the world on Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis film, grossing over US$210 million (AU$304 million) at the box office. global.

The cinematographer or cinematographer is responsible for the overall look of a film. This key creative leadership role requires advanced artistic and technical expertise. Our new report, A Wider Lens: Development and Diversity of Australia’s Camera Workforce, looks behind the glitz of the red carpet to analyze the workforce, working model and work culture of Australian departments film and television cameras.

We found a workplace lacking in diversity and a toxic work culture plagued by discrimination, stress and precarious employment.

Our findings suggest that Australian filmmakers are succeeding internationally despite – rather than thanks to – labor markets and working conditions in the Australian film and television production industry.

A serious lack of diversity

Commissioned by the Australian Cinematographers Society, the report draws on production data from Screen Australia and 640 full responses to a survey of Australian film and television camera professionals conducted in early 2021.

In line with a growing body of research in Australia and overseas on diversity in the film and television production industry, our study finds that gender inequality is a defining feature of work and labor markets in the camera department.

Australia’s film and television camera workforce is 80% male, 18% female and 2% transgender. It’s an aging workforce, with nearly 70% of camera professionals over the age of 35. She is also largely white, with 63% identifying as Anglo-Celtic. Only 2% of survey respondents identified as Indigenous and only 13% as non-European.

The workforce is 85% heterosexual and 8% identify as a person with a disability.

This snapshot of data should be understood in relation to the quantity and quality of work of film and television camera professionals – and indeed the film and television production industry more generally.

A stressful environment

Working as a camera professional is high performance, requiring a highly specialized technical skill set and intense concentration for long periods of time.

Job stress is compounded by the fact that film crews typically work in unusual and sometimes dangerous locations.

The very real dangers camera professionals face in the line of duty are demonstrated by the tragic deaths of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust in 2021 and camera assistant Sarah Jones on the filming of Midnight Rider in 2014.

Read more: We are filmmakers who work with guns. That’s what’s important in on-set safety

Stress at work is aggravated by an employment model that is the very definition of precariousness.

Job and income insecurity is driven by short-term freelance contracts that can last as little as a day. Access to employment passes through highly exclusive informal hiring networks.

Half of our survey respondents say they have experienced direct discrimination in the hiring process, with discrimination based on gender, age and race being the most frequently encountered.

When work is secure, work patterns are highly erratic, with irregular, often excessive and anti-social hours.

This work model has serious implications for the development and well-being of the workforce. According to respondents to our survey, 60% of all camera professionals – and 70% of women – said the work model actively impedes work-life balance.

Precariousness and health-related stressors are further exacerbated by what can only be described as a toxic industry work culture. Discrimination and harassment in the workplace are common.

Half of all non-European and indigenous respondents say they have experienced racism at work. Sexism at work was experienced by 75% of trans and gender diverse respondents and 89% of women. Sexual harassment is common for women.

People in positions of power and influence are often the perpetrators of discrimination, harassment and intimidation. Unsurprisingly, reporting is a major challenge facing the industry.

Freelancers work in a reputation economy. There is a widespread fear that reporting incidents of bullying, discrimination and harassment will jeopardize both future job prospects and career longevity in the camera department.

A workforce-wide problem

Now is the time for action. Many of the major political and industrial issues fall under Tony Burke’s dual portfolio as Minister of Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister of the Arts.

These problems are not unique to film sets. Many of the issues raised by the report relate more generally to key issues in Australian workplaces.

The upcoming Jobs + Skills Summit provides an opportunity to advance the fundamental issues raised here as emblematic of the kinds of workforce development and diversity issues cultivated by high-skilled, low-quality and precarious work.

A lack of diversity in cam services will not be solved by simply adding different people to the existing toxic system.

An industry-wide commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion must first focus not on the excluded, but on those who exclude.

Read more: Tony Burke’s dual arts and industrial relations ministry could be just what the arts sector needs

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