Employment among Film Graduates in 2005-2019

Summary in English

The research project reviews employment among film graduates as well as their views on the factors affecting their employment and opportunities to work in the field. Attention is especially paid to how equality is in this respect realized in the film and TV industry between the genders and different professional groups. The analysis focused on persons who had graduated in 2005-2019 from five Finnish educational institutions offering polytechnic or university level education in film. The research data were gathered with a web survey, which received 400 answers.

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Read the report in Finnish here:

Katja Oksanen-Särelä ja Ari Kurlin Niiniaho 2020. Sinnikkyys ja rakkaus liikkuvaan kuvaan. Elokuva-alalle 2005-2019 valmistuneiden työllistyminen. Cuporen verkkojulkaisuja 62. Kulttuuripolitiikan tutkimuskeskus Cupore.

ISBN 978-952-7200-52-0; ISSN 1796-9263

Summary

The research project reviews employment among film graduates as well as their views on the factors affecting their employment and opportunities to work in the field. Attention is especially paid to how equality is in this respect realized in the film and TV industry between the genders and different professional groups. The analysis focused on persons who had graduated in 2005-2019 from five Finnish educational institutions offering polytechnic or university level education in film. The research data were gathered with a web survey, which received 400 answers.

The employment market for film professionals is fragmented, and resembles in that sense that of any other field of art. The most common branches of employment are film, television and advertising, but more than a half of the respondents operate in more than one branch. A half also work in more than one labor market position. A half work in salaried employment, 30 percent as freelancers and one fifth as entrepreneurs. The level of permanency depends on the branch: in film and television permanency is rarer than in, for example, the game industry or advertising. Salaried employment is the most common among those who have switched to work in other fields. 

One third of the respondents had experienced periods of unemployment longer than three months. This was the most common among scriptwriters, directors and in general women aged 40 or older. Unemployment is a little more common among women than men. One fifth of the respondents work in some other field on the side. This is most commonly motivated by financial issues related to the fragmented employment opportunities in film, as well as by better terms of employment. More than a half of the respondents have done unpaid work, and equally many see this as a problem typical of the field. 40 percent have applied for a grant at some point and of them three out of four have received one. The applicants and recipients are most typically women with a university background.

Regarding the study orientations, a clear division can be seen between the men and the women. Also in working life many of the tasks are gendered, partly following this orientation. At the same time, gendered practices that can’t be directly linked to the study orientation also prevail in the working life. For example, women who have studied cinematography or film editing are not employed in these capacities to the same extent as they have studied these fields. The women who have majored in these fields have either moved on to other jobs in the industry or gone through longer periods of unemployment more commonly than the men.

Most of the respondents can in their current work put to use the knowledge and skills they have acquired from their education. 84 percent of those in working life were of this opinion, and there were no notable differences between the professional branches, occupations or age groups. Two out three of the respondents assessed the requirements of their work to match their education. The work assignments and requirements are seen to match the education the better the longer a person has worked in the field and the higher their educational level is. Two thirds of the respondents are satisfied with both their current work situation and their overall career.

Professional networks and personal social skills play a central part in the employment. More than a half of the respondents had found their most recent job through networks. They are important in all the professional branches and for all genders, although the men seem to form networks at an earlier stage compared to the women. Lack of networks in turn is the most central factor hindering employment. Employment has also been hampered by regional concentration of the labor market and work conditions that are felt to be difficult. The latter refer to certain aspects characteristic of the field, such as varying work periods and irregular working hours, which are found difficult to match with a person’s own life situation. There may also be poor organization of work or negligence with employment legislation, especially when it comes to working hours or work safety.

One tenth of the respondents had switched to work in other fields than film, most commonly motivated by a more stable income offered by salaried employment and better work conditions. Of them, especially the women only rarely want to go back to working in film and television. The persons working in other fields however feel that they can utilize their film education in their current work. Graduates from university typically have work experience in the field already from before getting a degree, and very few of them leave the field.

Experiences of inequality in employment and opportunities to operate in the field are common. Nearly a half of the respondents feel that possibilities to operate in the field are not equal in Finland and 60 percent that the practices regarding work opportunities are unequal. Of the grant applicants, two out of three see inequalities in the funding practices. The experiences are determined first and foremost by gender and occupation. Compared to men, women are more likely to feel that the employment opportunities are unfair, or that the possibilities to operate in the field are not equal.

Some 40 percent of the persons working in the field have encountered discrimination in the context of employment, most typically in connection with gender and young age. The women (43%) have encountered considerably more often gender-based discrimination than the men (6%). Of the women working in film 71 percent had faced discrimination. The discrimination is seen in attitudes about what kind of work one gets to do and whether the work environment offers opportunities to develop one’s own competencies.

The work conditions in film and television are especially stressful to women. One third of the women, but only one sixth of the men, feel that they don’t have resources to cope with the work pressures in the field. To some extent, those who experience the field as too stressful have switched to other fields. Two thirds of the persons working in film and television do however want to continue working there. The experiences of inequality or discrimination do not reduce the willingness to stay in the field. The result can be interpreted to mean that these experiences are seen as characteristic of the field or that people find the film and TV industry attractive regardless of the shortcomings. Increased discussion on the work conditions and equality in the cultural field may signal a change in the operating culture. This was also suggested by many of the respondents.

The legal measures regarding equality and employment protection do not always reach the employees, especially freelancers or those whose work is based on short-term contracts. Abidance with the law thus needs to be monitored; for example, conformation with employer responsibilities should be ensured in the granting of funding – with sanctions, if necessary. The professionals in the field call out for increased funding and more attention to the different work stages in the funding as well as openness and transparency regarding the grounds for funding. Good practices in the field could be distributed more efficiently. Building up a knowledge base through information gathering and statistics would enhance wellbeing at work and equality in the film and TV industry.

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Katja Oksanen-Särelä
Katja Oksanen-Särelä Researcher

+358 50 505 6414 Researcher profile »

Ari Kurlin
Ari Kurlin Researcher

+358 46 921 7755 Researcher profile »