Finding work in the New Zealand film industry. The creative industries volunteer ten years on: emancipated or exploited?

Tennant, Lewis
Harrison, Jacqueline
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Master of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

This thesis examines whether the use of volunteer labour in the New Zealand screen production industry exploits those who gift their time to the sector. Those who volunteer their labour do so in the hope of establishing themselves in the industry, and there is an oversupply of aspirant workers. The thesis suggests that this profusion of workers is due to a rise in the public profile of the local industry, as well as a proliferation of tertiary trained ‘film school’ graduates. Three case studies of workers from the New Zealand screen production sector are presented, and grounded theory method is used to analyse their reflections on the use of volunteer labour within the industry, as well as reflections on their workplace in general. It is found workers must compete with one another for ongoing project-based work, that graduates are considered ‘unskilled’ within the industry, and that ‘know who’ or social capital is as important to long term success in the industry as ‘know how’ or the technical abilities to perform specialist roles. Those who volunteer their labour must prove their willingness an industry where pay rates are inconsistent, hours are long, transactional contracts are malleable, and ‘being liked’ is essential to securing ongoing project work, as is networking. Analysis of case study participants’ responses indicates that volunteering can be exploitative in certain circumstances, though there is a wider issue to address regarding workers’ being conditioned to accept an under-regulated workplace where the rights of workers are concerned. Film workers do not speak out about such issues as it is counter-productive to ‘being liked’ and gaining further project-based work.

Film industry , Volunteer labour , Grounded theory , New Zealand , Film school , Screen production , Creative industries , Creative labour
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