Diversity On and Off Screen in Australian Film Schools Report

This report outlines the results of a national survey measuring levels of diversity on screen and behind the camera in 2019 Australian university capstone or culminating screen production units. The report was commissioned by the Australian Screen Production Education and Research Association (ASPERA) and was designed and implemented by members of its Research Sub-Committee, for the benefit of the ASPERA community in Australia and other screen/media education and research communities internationally.

The survey results reveal that, firstly, while close to even numbers of male and female students are completing capstone projects at film schools, crew roles are indeed gendered. The skew towards a particular gender is most pronounced in the roles of cinematographer and sound designer (male dominated) and producer and production designer (female dominated). Other roles, while less skewed, also show a larger percentage of males occupying them. Instructor comments suggest that the majority of student crews are self-formed by students (featuring members from within and/or outside of the capstone cohort) or achieved through a pitching or interview process, with no examples given of direct intervention to ensure gender diversity in student production teams.

Secondly, the survey results reveal that diversity on screen in capstone projects is limited. While there is an even split of male and female lead characters in capstone student projects, the diversity of characters is low or minimal in the other categories surveyed (cultural background, principal language spoken, disability status, sexual orientation). Notably, there are higher levels of cultural diversity on screen evident in postgraduate projects than in undergraduate projects. This may reflect the typically higher percentage of international students in the postgraduate cohort.

While the ASPERA survey provides significant data in regard to levels of diversity associated with Australian capstone projects in 2019, further research could involve greater study of both undergraduate and postgraduate cohorts across a number of years, so as to provide longitudinal data and to further ascertain patterns and divergences. Data has not been collected from students, as this was outside the scope of the ASPERA project, but such data could provide more insight into decisions around crew role selection and the identification of diversity on screen.

Click here to download a copy of the report (PDF 1.9MB).

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