The Raising Films Australia survey launch. 

Almost three quarters of parents and carers who responded to a recent Raising Films Australia survey reported their caring responsibilities have had a negative impact on their career in the screen industry. Of those, 86 per cent were women, many of whom were freelancers.

As a result of this, many are hiding the fact they have kids or care for a loved one. Others are simply leaving the industry altogether.

Raising Films Australia released the summary report of its Screen Industry Survey, designed to explore the experiences of parents/carers in the sector, at the Adelaide Film Festival yesterday. It is the result of collaboration between WIFT NSW and the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), with funding from Create NSW and is based on similar survey run out of the UK by Raising Films in 2016.

More than 600 people responded, and of those who reported caring responsibilities, 93 per cent were caring for children (a majority of which were below primary school age), 10 per cent parents, 4 per cent a partner and 1 per cent other.

Eighty-one per cent of carers were female as opposed to 19 per cent of males. Interestingly, the report found that male carers did not seem to be negatively impacted by caring responsibilities – in fact, their income is typically higher than male non-carers, which the reports suggested is indicative of a “fatherhood bonus”.

Almost 60 per cent of respondents were freelancers or self-employed, and their main concerns regarding balancing working in the screen industry with caring responsibilities were the long hours, financial uncertainty and unpredictable work commitments.

“Freelancers, the majority of the industry’s production workforce, already operate outside conventional maternity leave entitlements and guaranteed return-to-work provisions. This, in addition to fear that employers will discriminate against carers, contributes to a screen industry culture that lacks transparency and that limits the opportunity for open discussion about workplace flexibility or broader industrial innovation,” the report said.

Almost three quarters of those surveyed also reported that they found it difficult to vary the hours and amount of paid care they access. Other key challenges faced were evening networking/screening events, lack of confidence or prejudice from funders and employers, and a lack of access to childcare services.

At the report launch, WIFT NSW president Megan Riakos said the report is driven by the long-term sustainability of the industry – both industrial and individual.

“We hope this report kickstarts a long overdue conversation around the challenges and obstacles that parents and carers face and drives strategies to address them.”

The report makes recommendations, though Riakos said these are not exhaustive and she hopes that the industry comes together to work out practical solutions.

They are:

  • Measures for supporting carers to return to work (including funding incentives, subsidies for childcare provisions, flexible arrangements such as job sharing, more predictable working hours)
  • Industry incentives that reward inclusive production structures and processes
  • Recognition of carers as productive industry members (including strategic roles that can be continued while caring e.g. professional advice and consultancy, assessment activities; and subsidised access to industry events)
  • Actions to redress the negative impact of attitudes to carers in the workplace (including support programs for managers who have employees returning to work, industry-wide workshops, learning from other sectors, and more consideration for carers in regards to events)
  • Introduction of care sensitivity in funding agency processes (including budget line item clarity in relation to childcare in the A-Z budget/transparency around the eligibility of childcare as a QAPE-able expense; recognition in funding applications of career interruptions due to carer responsibilities)

A further analysis of the report will be handed down in November, and broader strategies discussed at an industry forum at AFTRS in December. After that, Raising Films Australia intends to deliver a second report next year which will provide recommendations around the way industry can implement these changes, as well as a checklist to make it easier for small production companies to become more family/care friendly.

Taking action 

However, based off this initial report, the South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC) has already announced policy changes and initiatives.

Speaking at the launch, SAFC CEO Courtney Gibson pointed out the danger in losing skilled practitioners from the sector.

“Some parents and carers, unable to find working conditions that match their capacity to work have just left the industry… meaning that knowledge built up over years and decades, born out of significant investment by agencies and by the industry more broadly, is just lost to us. And when you consider the importance of safeguarding that investment in our screen practitioners practitioners and their cultural output, not caring about caring isn’t an option anymore,” said Gibson.

“The Raising Films data tells us that people who take time out then sometimes don’t make it back into the sector or are forced to re-enter the industry at a lower level than they left it are, for the most part, women. It’s women then who are penalised and marginalised by prevailing production methodologies, requiring extremely long hours – as indeed are those they are caring for.”

The new initiatives from the SAFC, to apply from Jan 1, 2019 are:

  • The Return to Work Rider: Any project that receives over $400,000 in funding must engage one crew member, key creative or HOD who is returning to work after time away as a carer. Gibson said that SAFC will encourage consideration on these projects for 40 hour weeks and job sharing. To support the industry, the agency will create a Return to Work Directory with the details of practitioners ready to re-engage with the workforce.
  • Keeping Your Hand In, a program to support people taking time out as carers to keep pace with change in the industry. Measures include:
    – To secure development funding, any TV drama writers’ room must include a paid attachment (funded by the SAFC) who is away from the industry, working and living in a carrying capacity. These paid attachments can also apply to production.
    – When SAFC engages with consultant screenmakers, mentors, workshop leaders and external assessors, it will prioritise working with people taking time away from work for caring
    – SAFC funds will be available for training practitioners to update their skills with regards to changes in technology, business models or other developments

Gibson said the agency will also commit to having more industry events in the morning with an eye to being more family-friendly.

Later this year SAFC will also introduce Doing it Differently, which will seek to develop and ultimately provide production investment towards projects with production methodology that goes outside of the norm.

An inspiration for this initiative was Closer Productions’ 52 Tuesdays, which shot every Tuesday for a whole year while the team continued working on other projects during the week.

“We’re looking for new production models that are outside the box which will deliver fresh forms of screen entertainment, and what we anticipate getting applications that are proposals that present new ways of working; ways of working which might become a new norms in themselves,” said Gibson.

Speaking from the audience, Screen Producers Australia (SPA) CEO Matt Deaner said he would like to see other states and Screen Australia follow suit with similar initiatives, arguing that it was necessary for the screen industry to retain its skilled practitioners.

Australian Directors’ Guild CEO Kingston Anderson agreed, and said that addressing the issues raised in the report was crucial, particularly with regards to raising the proportion of female directors in the industry. “If we want women directors, we have to do this.”

This report and subsequent announcements also follow the launch of a free crèche to delegates at SPA’s Screen Forever conference. The crèche, funded by SAFC and Create NSW in partnership with SPA and WIFT Australia, is now fully booked for the November event.

WIFT NSW, with the backing of Create NSW and Women NSW, has also launched the Making It Possible pilot program, a free course to assist women who’ve had careers stall due to the impact of parenting/caring. 

The full summary report is available here:

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