Pay gaps, bullying, discrimination -another day in the Camera department.

A survey of 640 members of the Australian Cinematographers Society uncover deep workplace divisions around equality, opportunity, inclusion.

  • A serious diversity deficit in the leadership of film and television camera departments in Australia.
  • Directors of photography experience chronic employment, income and wage insecurity.
  • The gender pay gap cannot be explained by women’s lack of experience or education.
  • Men experience substantially longer careers as directors of photography than women – and thus more earning potential in this key creative leadership role over the course of their professional lives.
  • Efforts to promote workforce diversity in camera departments should focus on directors of photography as a key creative leadership role.
  • The majority of camera professionals from equity-seeking groups fear negative career impacts as a consequence of reporting bullying/ harassment and/or discrimination.

Australian film and television camera departments are rife with shocking inequality, discrimination and a lack of diversity with careers marked by bullying, harassment and discrimination leading to significant negative mental health consequences.

A new report, A Wider Lens, commissioned by the Australian Cinematographers Society and carried out by Deakin University, is the first comprehensive analysis of camera departments anywhere in the world.

There were 640 completed responses to the 2021 workplace survey, posing questions about camera professionals’ career paths, earnings and income, hiring processes, professional networks, training and professional development, and any experiences of workplace bullying, harassment and discrimination in their career as a member of a camera department

It reveals that of all Directors of Photography (DOPs) on feature film and TV drama shot in Australia (between 2011 and 2019), 9% were women and 91% were men.

This comes despite success of Australian women cinematographers including Ari Wegner ACS (Power of the Dog), Mandy Walker ACS ASC (Elvis), Zöe White ACS (The Handmaid’s Tale) and Bonnie Elliot ACS (Shining Girls).

Men earn significantly more than women for working on the same types of screen projects.

The study pays particular attention to how social characteristics such as gender, age, class, ethno-cultural identity, sexuality, disability, and caring responsibilities overlap and interact to shape career paths and work experiences.

It found camera professionals routinely experience multiple forms of discrimination, harassment and bullying when accessing work and doing their jobs. Sexual harassment is a routine feature of work for women in Australian cinematography.

One respondent said, “I have heard grips rating all the women on sets bodies, lighting guys make racist comments about having to light black men. Camera guys who have said they prefer to work with men, cause women cry. Blatant homophobia when there is queer content on screen…it only takes one offhand comment to remind those of us in the minorities that we are not welcome.”

Another recalled, “An executive producer on a large feature film invited me to come and stay at his house. I declined. A lead actor put his hand up my skirt and groped me in a taxi at a wrap party with no invitation… highly upsetting. Gaffer stroking my arm and telling me my skin is soft – I was a camera trainee. A male camera operator suggesting we sleep together at a wrap party on a large feature – he was married, I declined and he kept bringing it up.”

Only 1.7% of DOPs in the survey identify as Indigenous men, and none as Indigenous women.

100% of Indigenous respondents, 87% of respondents who identify as persons with a disability, 81% of LGBTIQ+ respondents and 84% of women respondents reported fear of negative career impacts as a consequence of reporting bullying/harassment and/or discrimination. 60% of survey respondents report that work-related stress negatively impacts their mental health.

“This report is critically important in shaping the future of how we work in the Australian screen industry. While it specifically references camera departments, many of its findings are likely reflective of the broader industry and, while its findings are shocking, it also provides a roadmap forward”, said Erika Addis, President of the Australian Cinematographers’ Society.

“Work in camera is high-performance, requiring a highly specialised skill set, and intense concentration for extended periods of time. Job stress is compounded by a work model…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.”

Ari Wegner ACS said: “For things to improve, we must first have a clear picture of the current situation – as confronting as that may be. This report offers some shocking statistics as well as tangible recommendations, which I hope will be heard and implemented. With our diverse population and history of creative talent, Australia is in a great position to be a world leader in transforming the film industry – if we choose to act.”

Mandy Walker ACS ASC said: “We often work 7 days a week, for months in a row, so for me it’s telling yourself you are on a marathon not a sprint. You can’t let the pace overwhelm you . Being a DOP is not a normal job. We are often in charge of huge teams and are responsible for people’s safety, making it on time and ensuring it looks great. Caring for the mental and physical well-being of ourselves and our crew is paramount.”

Bonnie Elliot ACS said: “The landscape has certainly improved during my years in the industry, and I do feel buoyed by the increasing diversity we see behind the camera, but as this data starkly illuminates, there is still a long way to go.”

Ellery Ryan ACS said: “The figures show this amazing disparity in opportunity and participation between women and men and with indigenous and disabled people. It’s surprising that it’s as massive as it is.”

But there are also signs of positive change in the pipeline to leadership. Between 2011-2019 the representation of women in core camera roles improved in most occupations, across feature film and television drama combined. The report offers 19 industry recommendations to address its findings.

An Executive Summary of A Wider Lens can be found here.

One Response

  1. There has been what I’d describe as a boorish blokey culture in a few workplaces in the industry that are stuck in the past, where as others are quite urbane and modern in terms of culture. There’s talk of boys clubs workplaces, though there are female dominated workplaces where discrimination happens to men and other groups. If it’s a big problem then it’s possible to look for a better workplace. But it’s just moving away from, not changing the culture.

    It’s quite risky to say to a superior, look I think that joke is inappropriate, especially when the joke doesn’t affect you directly. I guess being subtle and not laughing or giving a positive impression when these incidents happen is a way to address toxic and outdated workplace cultures.

    It’s not cool to disparage other groups anymore and don’t assume the person next to you finds the offensive jokes funny, even if they appear amicable. It’s beyond political correctness.

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