Film industry hopefuls head overseas

Things aren’t going too badly for the Australian film industry. Some big budget Hollywood films have been filmed here, including Thor, Pirates of the Caribbean, with filming for new Marvel film Thor: Love and Thunder due to take place in Sydney next year and Screen Australia announcing funding for 17 new productions in Australia

Australian Chris Crawford has worked on both television and movie sets, in the props department and as a training assistant director. Photo: Courtesy Chris Crawford

Australian Chris Crawford has worked on both television and movie sets, in the props department and as a training assistant director. Photo: Courtesy Chris Crawford

Yet despite all that, many Australians who want a career in the film industry choose to try their luck finding work overseas, often in the United States.

The most common hurdle for Australians seeking work in the US is obtaining a working visa, which can be a lengthy and difficult process due to tight border constraints.

Williams Management talent agent Gael McDonald, who is based on the Gold Coast, said a lot of actors didn’t realise how hard the visa process was when moving to America and are sometimes forced to travel between countries.

“A lot of actors choose to live here and travel to the US,” Ms McDonald said.

“A lot go over for pilot season,” she said.

Ms McDonald said for some actors, the allure of greater fame and money was enough reason to make the jump from Australia to the US.

She said it was much harder to break into the American film industry as an actor with so much competition in Hollywood.

 “You might have made it over here, but get nothing over there,” Ms McDonald said.

Australians in Film (AiF) is a foundation based in Los Angeles that supports Australian talent in the industry.

With around 700 members, AiF oversees special events and education programs to support the growth of Australian talent.

AiF executive director Peter Ritchie said Australians pursued film work in America because people usually went wherever the work was, but said it could be tough.

“While it might look appealing, it’s very competitive and isn’t as glamorous as it looks,” Mr Ritchie said.

 “You have to be at a world standard to succeed in LA.”

“There’s a lot of Australians [end up] working in cafes just trying to make it big.”

Gold Coast based Australian actor Cleo Rose Massey has travelled to the US for work.

More commonly known for her role as Kim Sertori in the popular Australian television series H2O: Just Add Water, Ms Massey is currently co-writing season two of Stage Mums with her own mother.


Australian Dave Beamish travels between Vancouver, Australia and the United States for film work. Photo: Courtesy Nancy Trieu/NAT Studios


The actor has great passion for the film industry and seems to always be working on new projects.

“I’ve written my own film,” Ms Massey said.

“A comedy, which is in development.”

Ms Massey was one of the lucky ones when she received an email from a manager in LA who agreed to represent her in America.

Ms Massey said she was excited to work in America but had a special place in her heart for Australia, though she could understand why people might still want to seek film work overseas.

“I can see how it is frustrating sometimes,” she said.

“They bring these big productions to Australia, but they cast most of the roles in America and that’s frustrating.”

 “It’s a tough industry.”

With more and more exciting projects moving closer to home for production, Ms Massey said she believed the film industry was getting much better for Australians with other countries realising their potential.

Dave Beamish is an Australian actor based in Vancouver, who travels between the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada for work.

He has a number of projects coming out before the end of this year including feature films and shorts, which were developed in Australia and overseas.

Mr Beamish said it was not necessarily the location itself that determined where people travelled for film jobs, but said people tended to follow job opportunities.

“I think it’s the opportunity, just by the number of productions,” he said.

“There’s more work in Canada and the States.”

 Mr Beamish has also been working hard to create a name for himself in the industry, as a writer, a director and a producer.

He is set to display his skills as writer, director, producer and actor in his film Darkest Corner, which will be released in Australia this November.

Like Ms Massey, Mr Beamish said he enjoyed coming back to Australia for work and did so whenever there was the opportunity.

“Australia is still home and where I cut my teeth,” he said.


Australian Chris Crawford worked on the pilot set of The End Of The World As We Know It as key production assistant. Photo: Courtesy Chris Crawford


Australian Chris Crawford has settled into Canada’s film industry in Vancouver as a training assistant director, although more recently he has been working within the props department and hasn’t stopped work since arriving.

He has worked on a range of popular television shows including Supernatural, iZombie and Once Upon A Time, all of which are shot in Canada.

 Mr Crawford said working in the film industry has allowed him to live comfortably since moving to Vancouver in September 2016.

“I don’t have a second job so that I can live here,” he said.

“Film pays for my life.”

“The only time I’ve not been working is when I’ve chosen to take time off.”

“There’s always been something to keep me busy.”

Having experienced work in film at home before moving overseas, Mr Crawford said there was a big difference between the film industry in Australia and the more prolific American industry people often think of.

“You can’t compare them,” he said.

“They’re nothing alike.”

Mr Crawford said many people trying to break into the industry in Australia were forced to work for free for “experience” or “screen credit”.

But he said it took only a week after arriving in Vancouver before he locked in paid film work, the beginnings of a booming career.

Mr Crawford said while he would love to come back to Australia for work, it might be hard to secure work with so many others needing the experience and employment.

 “There’s not enough work for the younger people to come in and start doing it,” Mr Crawford said.

“I would need to come back, do a ton of networking,” he said.

“Then fight tooth and nail to beat out somebody else who deserves it just as much as I do.”

“Unless someone is retiring, there’s not a lot of need to bring in somebody new.”