Asia Pacific Defence ReporterA program to recruit, train and mentor Australian Defence Force veterans into a career in Australia’s film and television industry was held recently. The program is a joint initiative of the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) and the Veterans Film Festival (VFF).

The Screen Warriors program was launched in late 2022 by VFF Executive Chairman Warwick Young OAM and AFTRS CEO Dr Nell Greenwood, commencing a call out for applicants from across the Defence force spectrum interested in pathways to a screen industry career. The pilot course of the innovative program was held on 8-9 March 2023 at AFTRS in Sydney. Twelve participants were in the first intake and have already departed from Defence and are currently transitioning or supporting a family member in the ADF.

Young said there were immediate opportunities in a range of areas in the sector where trained Defence personnel skills would be highly valued, and he said the screen industry was keen to recruit and train suitable candidates to fulfil a pipeline of skills demand. “It may not be apparent that a creative industry like film and television is an obvious destination for a post-services career, however, our collaboration has identified several vocations in the sector with an exceptional match for veteran qualifications. There is both an immediate and a long-term need for qualified people in the film industry in roles such as production and unit management, locations scouting, assistant directing, accounting, transport and logistics – roles that are in high demand but with a short supply of skilled workers,” he said.

Greenwood says, “At AFTRS we know the power education has in shaping students’ futures. When you combine that with a growing industry in critical need of skilled workers in particular areas, Screen Warriors is an incredibly exciting, pathway for new talent into the industry.”

Ana Tiwary, Acting Executive Director of the Australian Directors’ Guild said, “The Screen Warriors program – it truly is a ground-breaking concept; a win-win cross-training initiative which has incredible potential to deeply benefit both the Veterans community and the screen industry. Kudos to the VFF and AFTRS for creating this landmark program and we wish them all the success.”

“The high-level training and experience delivered to personnel in Army, Navy and Airforce programs equip prospective candidates with precisely the skills required in the many logistical aspects of production such as effective communications, working independently and in teams, punctuality, motivation, efficiency, leadership and adaptability – all highly desirable attributes we know are honed in military service,” Young says.

Young’s pathway from Army Officer and active service in Iraq and specialist crisis response roles in Australia, was in tandem with his acting studies which led to Directing studies at AFTRS and a European Union Film Award upon graduation for his film Stuffed. He has subsequently won several international awards and worked on multiple films as well as his productions, while heading up the VFF, now slated for its 8th edition this year.

It is his experiences and personal passion that ignited the Screen Warriors concept, which was embraced by former and current AFTRS leaders.

The Australian film industry is among one of the world’s most thriving. In 2019 it was the 11th-largest by revenue generated and it flourished during COVID under tightly managed protocols, attracting high-profile productions.

Greenwood points out there is a nationwide spread of production activity in film and television always scouting for enhanced local talent, offering stable career prospects in many parts of the country. “We’re experiencing unprecedented demand for skilled graduates. Industry need is clear,” she said. “This is a career sector with an exciting future and fast-growing ecosystem of work and skills development.”

Young says beyond the obvious logistical roles and skills, he knows the more creative aspects of the industry could also attract powerful storytellers with experiences and ideas from their time in service and he hopes to see the program also nurture roles in directing and the creation of films that would flow to his highly-regarded festival.

Registrations are now open to current serving and ex-serving personnel and their family members. Jobs are ready to be fulfilled immediately for suitably qualified applicants. VFF have already showcased the program in Darwin, Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane with the national tour of ADF Transition Seminars.


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