SPA survey suggests production boom is leading to skill shortages

With an unprecedented level of production going on around the country, local producers are reporting increased difficulty in crewing and are facing increased crew rates.

That’s according to a recent survey by Screen Producers Australia (SPA), conducted via its membership to paint a picture of the challenges that have resulted via of the surge of in-bound productions flocking to Australia.

Producers reported crew shortages Australia-wide, given the number of concurrent shoots and international productions.

Of the 41 respondents, 80 per cent reported crewing difficulties, with two-thirds also reporting this was the most significant challenge facing their business in the short-term.

Of those surveyed, 95 per cent reported increased costs. The average increase was 24 per cent, with some costs increasing up to 75 per cent.

The roles with the highest reported shortages include 1st ADs, line producers, production accountants, art directors, camera operators, gaffers, grips, DOPs and VFX artists.

Some of these shortages likely existed before the boom and have only been exacerbated. For instance, Moneypenny CEO Jane Corden has warned that there are not enough line producers, production accountants and accounts assistants to service the industry since early 2019.

(Image courtesy of SPA)

SPA has suggested the results highlight an opportunity for both government and screen agencies to assist in expanding training and skills development capabilities, including on-set training.

“While the current employment conditions are a boon for jobs and our world-class crews, there is a tangible flow-on effect into local productions and the local production businesses who are striving to maintain sustainability in challenging economic conditions,” said SPA CEO Matthew Deaner.

“These are the businesses who will revert to being the main source of employment for crews once the tide of international productions returns to normal levels.”

Roles where producers have reported shortages include:

  • 1st assistant director
  • 2nd assistant director
  • Animator
  • Archive researcher
  • Art department
  • Assistant editor
  • Camera operators
  • Cinematographer/DOP
  • Continuity
  • Costume department
  • Gaffers
  • Grips
  • Line producer
  • Location manager
  • Post director
  • Production accountant
  • Production designer
  • Production office
  • Safety officer
  • Script editor
  • Script supervisor
  • Series producer
  • Shooter director
  • Sound recordist
  • Supervising art director
  • Unit
  • VFX
  1. My Name is Frank McKenna and I run West Coast Grips from 2000 and since 2010 when a suffered a spinal injury I have received very Little support from the industry. Since about 2012 I have brought Matt McCabe into the running of the business which he is a very qualified Grip but struggled to get involved in any of the local productions as a grip so had to settle for a set building position instead. Even though he has access to Two complete grip trucks. Over the last Ten years I have put together a Gripping and Lightning course to help the younger generation access the industry. I have obtained a Cert IV in Training and Accessing that helped me design the course with the help from Wayne Jones from BTWA .I can understand that the industry feels that they are understaffed in certain area but know one want to take the time to train young people or even call other Technicians in the industry that are sitting around Twitterling there thumbs . Can’t wait for the phone to ring for the so called big one

  2. Great Article Jackie , Thanks for the update. It’s great to see so much happening , but I do know of a number of highly skilled and experienced crew who are available , (including myself) only too happy to have a chat with Producers & PM’s to bring their projects to life – Cheers

  3. I totally agree with Jane Corden of Moneypenny. The shortage of crew in many areas has been obvious for many years, and sadly once again (we have been here several times in the past 25 years) in these current boom times there will be rampant industry inflation, even for junior or unqualified staff, crew will be overworked, schedules tightened to counteract increased costs, quite likely reduced safety and OH&S, and very likely a loss of quality in the finished projects.

    Would be happy to jump back into the fray if any Producers out there are looking for some assistance from an experienced old hand …….

  4. “I can understand that the industry feels that they are understaffed in certain area but know one want to take the time to train young people or even call other Technicians in the industry that are sitting around Twitterling there thumbs”

    I’m one of these said technicians with over 20 years experience , a credit list to support, listed with booking agents, sending CV’s to productions via state screen production notices etc and not one bite for a role on said productions.
    Oh, that’s right, there a shortage…
    The above article is only half the story in this country as their are many experienced technicians that are sitting twiddling there thumbs. Producers need to move outside their closed close network bubble for once and have an open mind that other techs with CV’s, a credit list and vetted by booking agents are available for work.

  5. I’m Adam Marsh, a Melbourne based Camera Operator / 1st AC / 2nd AC.

    With all due respect, I haven’t seen any shortage – mainly because there are no advertised roles!

    Who are these producers looking for
    camera operators and camera crew members?

    I’m willing to travel for work, yet every job listed in industry groups on Facebook gets over 10 to 40 applications.

    I make phone calls, I’m a part of industry agencies & I send cold emails and the lack of response has forced me back into a 9 to 5 job, taking freelance gigs on my annual leave, after hours & on weekends.

    Why do I still it? Because I love the craft, even if it doesn’t give the same love back.

    If anyone can reach out with advice because I’m taking the wrong approach, then please contact me – 0410 737 457 /

    I’m all ears. Reading articles & surveys like this drive me crazy as chances are, I have contacted these producers only to not receive any response back or a follow when they do require a professional like myself.

    I would hate to see overseas crew flown in because production companies want the easy option, rather than taking a chance & developing Australian crew – especially when our tax dollars are used to support these productions.

  6. Yep, I agree with the other technicians who have commented above, there is no skills shortage only producers not willing to look outside their closed bubble of contacts. Look through the Agent’s listings, and broaden your networks as there’s talented crew all around looking for their break. Now is the time to support the local industry and build something great.

    1. Spot on Brad. Funding bodies and production companies far too reluctant to work with new and or emerging talent. There’s no skills shortage if you look outside your bubble.

  7. The problem is that jobs are rarely advertised and instead are given to a small inner group. Productions are also unwilling to give those new to the industry a chance to learn and gain skills on a larger production. If any of these producers are looking for someone with passion and an amazing work ethic, then please get in touch. I am early career and I am super keen!

  8. I would love to know where these producers are apparently looking for potential crew? Have they tried looking out of their phone contacts? I am one of many Camera Operators / Shooter Producers (really anything camera department) who is forever looking for work just to get by.

    The huge volume of applicants I compete with just to get any work through social media, LinkedIn and other avenues is telling that there is no crew shortage, but a mindset shortage. More than happy to beat reached out by the author or any would be potential producers for comment or better yet, for any work.

  9. Agree with many comments on here.

    Have often heard recently ‘oh there’s no one available’ by producers/UPMs etc, which is complete fallacy.

    It’s a complete crew bubble and you have to be in to get a go. No one willing to risk on unknown crew to them or very rarely give someone an opportunity to fill some shoes.

    Crewing lists and SQ ‘apply via email to a production’ are a complete joke & even being listed with solid booking agents rarely sees the phone ring.

  10. I totally agree with many of the comments. There is no shortage of experienced crew, only a lack of willingness to pay for their talents or try new blood. I am a veteran Gaffer of some 80 plus projects over a number of decades, have international credits and a number of overseas awards. On top of that a warehouse full of lighting gear and trucks.
    The crew bubble does exist and has for many years.
    Try looking on IMDB and you will see how much unused talent there is out there.

  11. I agree with techs above.
    I’m a makeup artist, hairstylist and editor with years of experience, trained internationally and have seen the same as other crew above.
    There is such a insular bubble, whereby people are being hired from within the same small group. This makes it increasingly difficult to get production work and then I see pieces like this about crew shortages.

    Look outside your bubble of contacts and you’ll find a range of incredibly talented Australians.

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