With the boom in production comes a shortage of crew availability across genres, productions and platforms.
In July 2022 a survey of Screen Producers Australia members found that 100% of productions were having difficulty finding sufficient crew, with two-thirds saying it was one of their most significant problems. There have also been jumps in crew costs, with wage increases in some positions of 75%.
The survey identified particular shortages of production accountants, line producers, production managers, unit heads, location managers, first assistant directors, makeup, post production producers, editors, special effects, visual effects, animation.
70% of all domestic productions felt they were understaffed, which in turn has an impact on the stress and mental health of those in work.
But it seems that the problem is not unique to Australia.
Speaking recently at the Screen Forever conference, Agnieszka Moody, Head of International and Industry Policy at the British Film Institute, said: “The production boom is obviously a good thing, it’s a big problem to deal with. But the range, density and speed caught everyone a bit off guard.”
A review found that the boom is still on an upward trend through at least 2025, with manufacturing spending set to reach $7 billion or $7.6 billion. The BFI estimated that a further 20,000 people were needed, with training needs estimated at around £100m a year. It identified a number of areas for improvement, including pathways and recruitment in an industry that is often considered too closed to newcomers.
“To be brutally honest, the main way in is if you know someone. There really is no widely open service or information delivery that would attract people into our industry, who don’t even imagine they could find screen work,” Moody said.
“They’re pretty generic jobs. We need accountants as much as other industries need accountants, but people who have trained to be accountants may not know that there are jobs for them in the screen industry.
The appeal of film jobs was also a consideration. There was a time when film and TV were seen as a “dream” job, where workers would sacrifice a lot to stay employed.
“For the younger generation, there are now more attractive industries to engage in, and you don’t have to work 16-hour days, you can raise children, you can have a private life and still earn good money and have interesting jobs,” he continued.
“We also need to look at and care for wellbeing and mental health in our industry.”
Diversity and inclusion is another area the BFI report identified as needing improvement.
“It’s about that message to people who may think, perhaps for whatever reason, that this industry is not for them. (But) this industry is for everyone and we need to increase our efforts to reach underrepresented groups so they feel absolutely welcome.”
In Australia, production giant Endemol Shine Australia has taken action to address a shortage of crew on its massive Unscripted TV slate.
Nadia Diggins, post production consultant at ESA, outlined the accelerated broadcast post production training program she forged to try to address a shortage of offline editors and post producers, as well as her own in-house recruitment department.
“We really had no choice but to try to invest significantly in a training program specifically targeted at the two positions we were having the most trouble recruiting,” he explained.
“What we came up with was a program that lasts about 20 weeks. It is a two phase program. The first part is an eight-week intensive course of theory and practice. We use some of our most experienced and talented offline editors and post producers to carry out this training. It’s looking at the specifics, the theory, and working through the practical needs of generating content for that non-written genre we work in.
“After that initial eight week period, interns are progressing to work on some of our shows, usually in a fairly young offline position. But they have the support and ongoing tutelage of a mentor.”
Over the last 18 months ESA has trained around 40 people, with the crew transitioning into live production work and a retention rate of 80%.
“However, as we plan ahead for 2024, we are also seeing another increase of about 20% in the post production positions we need to fill… growth and demand are outpacing supply even with internal training we are doing. “
Epic Films producer Kirsty Stark also decided to do something about the crew shortage the South Australian drama was experiencing The first day for ABC ME.
“We were calling multiple agents in different states, spending a lot of time finding who was available, assessing their skills, downloading CVs, waiting for calls…. So I started talking to the industry and found that it was the same, on everything from small to large productions,” she explained.
“So, after about 100 conversations, I put together a project for an online portal. The idea is that it will be a one-stop shop for film and television crews across the country.
CrewHQ launched earlier this month and is now fully operational in South Australia, with plans to expand nationwide. Offers a subscription service for crew, freelance or with an agency, to list their skills, instant availability, ability to travel, showreels, memberships, licenses and equipment with fully functional search and job postings.
“He’s live now, we already have 500 crews on board across the country and 30 production companies willing to take him on board, which is really exciting.”