“How’d you get that job?”: Anoop Bhardwaj, production accountant

Anoop Bhardwaj.

The “How’d you get that job?” series examines career pathways for crew. Anoop Bhardwaj, production accountant, never expected to work in the screen industry. He explains to Denise Eriksen how he got his start.

Eleven years ago, Anoop Bhardwaj was close to finishing his Bachelor of Accounting degree and interning with an accountancy company when he had something of an epiphany.  

“I was like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t be this guy that who sits behind the computer and crunches numbers. I’ve got to do something else’.”

Bhardwaj then got an interview with a payroll company. By chance, the person interviewing him recommended that, instead of the job he was applying for, he talk to his brother who happened to be a production accountant.  

The interviewer’s pitch was production accounting was “accounting, but not hardcore accounting”, and that his brother had a spot on a six-month project, so Bhardwaj could see if he liked it or not. 

Bhardwaj decided he would have a go – even though he had never considered a career in the film industry.

“No one ever imagined in my family that I’d be working in this industry because this is very foreign.”

His first paying accountancy role was an assistant production accountant – the most junior of roles – on the iconic Foxtel TV series, Wentworth on set in Newport.

“It was a very different atmosphere. During my internship it was very corporate. Everyone was there in a suit and tie; there’s a hierarchy that you had to follow. 

“[The set] was such a casual environment. You got to meet everybody; cast, crew, creative, directors. I was like, ‘Oh my god, I can actually see myself working long term in this industry because people are very approachable’.”

Bhardwaj even had a stint as an extra playing a prison guard and he had to tame his desire to laugh.

“I was really biting my teeth. I was like, ‘Okay, I can’t believe it. I’m doing this.’  It’s a serious moment; you have to be just be in the character. But I’m a funny guy. I love to laugh. But I was like, ‘Okay, I’m here. I gotta do it. Just do a serious face. Don’t look in the camera and just walk straight.’”

Anoop Bhardwaj (left) as an extra on ‘Wentworth’.

Bhardwaj came to Melbourne from his home in India when he was 19 to study accountancy, and he took a while to tell his family about his career move. After all, accountants usually have steady jobs, long-term employment and he had entered a freelance business of short-term contracts and irregular work.

He waited until he had worked as a payroll accountant on Marvel’s Thor: Love and Thunder and received an on-screen credit for his work. He sent them a screenshot to let them know about his new world.

“They were like, ‘Oh my God, are you serious? Like, you’re telling us now?’  The thing is they wouldn’t know anything about Australian productions to begin with, but everybody knows about Marvel movies. So when they found out that I was doing payroll accounting on that, they were like, ‘Oh my god’. That was the proud moment for me.”

While a lack of continuous employment needs to be factored in to a screen career, Bhardwaj loves the job and hasn’t struggled to get work.

His daily routine varies according to production, but he’s part of the decision-making process on how the money gets spent, compiling cost reports and dealing with completion guarantors and tax issues for local and international productions.

It’s a job full of pressure at times and with long hours.He says, most of all, you need strong people skills and to be calm, juggling demands coming at you from a multitude of departments at any one time. But he has also found a supportive industry.

“One of the good things about this industry is you can actually talk to people who have done similar kind of work and you can discuss the problems or issues that you’re going through, or take advice on how to tackle things. 

“I feel I’m lucky. I’m blessed that I got opportunity to work in this industry.I never imagined or pictured that I would be working on film or TV productions, not even my wildest dreams.”

Denise Eriksen is co-founder (with Esther Coleman Hawkins) of Media Mentors Australia. 

The company has partnered with VicScreen to establish Set Educated, a new skills development initiative to prepare up to 400 Victorians to enter the screen industry in the coming months. It offers an introduction to the screen industry and showcases the crewing jobs available and how to get them.  The first Set Educated session will be held at ACMI Melbourne on May 20 and a second in Geelong on May 21.

Registrations are $25. More info here.

Update – Set Educated Events in Sydney: Saturday February 24, 2024 at ACE in Western Sydney and Saturday March 2, at NIDA in Central Sydney. An online event is planned for Saturday March 9.