Film and television content made in Australia is an important site of social and cultural storytelling that both reflects the world we live in, and shapes it. We come to understand ourselves, and each other, through the stories we see on our screens large and small. The Australian film and television production industry is also a major driver of Australia’s creative economy. The question of who makes the content that Australians see on their screens is thus a matter of socio-cultural and economic significance.
The production of film and television content is a deeply collaborative process, requiring the complex coordination of inputs from a wide range of creative professionals. At the centre of this creative output is the camera department.
Highly skilled, professional cinematographers are key to the historical development and future growth of healthy and vibrant Australian screen-based industries. At its most basic, you cannot make screen content without a camera crew. The depth and breadth of the talent pool of film and television camera professionals is key to Australia’s ability to produce domestic content that is competitive in global markets, and to draw international production to the Australian screen service sector. Yet, relatively little attention has been paid in Australia to workforce development and diversity in the camera profession.
Work in camera is high-performance, requiring a highly specialised skill set, and intense concentration for extended periods of time. Stress levels at work are high. Job stress is compounded by a work model that is the definition of precarity: where workers are in direct competition with each other for work; where networks and reputations are key; where excessive hours and unpredictable schedules are the norm; and where workers, as freelancers, are largely excluded from social benefits and employment protections. Investment capital for film and television production is highly mobile, producing chronic local labour market instability. The work model is based on short-term employment contracts that result in considerable employment and income fluctuations for workers from one week/month/year to the next.
In 2020, the Australian Cinematographers Society commissioned a team of researchers led by Deakin University to conduct a comprehensive study on workforce development and diversity for camera professionals working in the Australian film and television industry. A Wider Lens is an analysis of the major factors which enable and/or constrain career pathways into cinematography, and the labour market and occupational experiences of camera professionals working in the Australian film and television production sector.