Careers In The Industry
Not too long ago, a parent would likely be concerned if their teenager indicated they were interested in a career in film or television. Now, they need not worry. Toronto’s film, television and digital media industry offers significant economic benefits for those choosing to make it a career. Career education and training programs are provided by industry (unions, guilds, industry associations and not-for-profit organizations, festivals, training institutions and the private sector), community colleges, and increasingly, initiatives with community organizations not traditionally associated with the sector. Most of these occupations pay decent wages and provide opportunities to advance.
In addition, the industry emphasizes learning through employment. Media production is incredibly complex, and production experience allows people to better understand it, first-hand. Peer mentorship (formal and informal), apprenticeships and ongoing training requirements drive home the value of on-the-job experience. At the same time, community colleges are experiencing ever-increasing enrollments in film and television programs, mirroring an increase in consumer demand for screen content. Both the availability and diversity of workforce training initiatives drive the talent pool. However, the current number of entrants into the industry and the number of qualified college graduates are not adequate to meet workforce needs.
There are dozens of different occupations in Toronto’s film and digital media industry. According to job posting data from 2018-2021, in combination with input from industry professionals, we determined seven of the most in-demand occupations in Toronto’s film and digital media industry.
- Audio and Video Recording Technicians
- Film and Video Camera Operators
- Theatre, Costume and Lighting Designers
- Visual Effects Artists
- Grips and Riggers
- Production Assistants
- Hair and Makeup Artists
Only a couple of decades ago, the industry was largely confined to movie production, television, music production, sound recording and radio. Today, the industry is being propelled by the convergence of streaming entertainment, new technology and digital industries that include animation, visual effects, web gaming and virtual reality. How and where we access entertainment is constantly changing. And while Toronto will continue to be a destination for large movie or television productions being filmed downtown, it is also home to some of the most skilled animation and visual effect studios in the world.
The effects of COVID-19 have clearly accelerated some industry trends. First, more people are finding new ways to access content from their own home. After the pandemic is over, it is unclear what role movie theaters will play in entertainment or if attendance will return to pre-pandemic levels. Second, many artists and content creators have found new ways to reach audiences, whether it is via YouTube or a live streaming service. While these new avenues have the potential to broaden opportunities to enter the industry, it is not yet clear on how much revenue and income can be consistently generated through these medias.
Source: Global Web Index, Coronavirus Research Report April 2020
Changing Viewing Habits
More than seven in ten Canadian television watchers (73%) have “binge watched” during the pandemic (Harris Poll 2021).
The viewing of live events (live concerts or sporting events) online has increased by 10% over the past year (Harris Poll, 2021).
Number of Sound Stages in GTA: 140. Total Square feet 2,121,000 (approximately the size of 36 Football Fields).
One in five Canadian television watchers (18%) paid to watch a motion picture that was not shown in theatres because of the COVID-19 pandemic (Harris Poll, 2021).
Five hundred hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. That’s 30,000 hours of video uploaded every hour. And 720,000 hours of video uploaded every day to YouTube (Nielsen).
North American youth aged four to fifteen spend an average of 85 minutes per day watching YouTube videos and 80 minutes per day spent on TikTok. Time spent on mobile games, like Minecraft, has increased over 100% during the pandemic (Qustodio Survey, 2021).
Toronto’s Film and Media Industry
Film, television and digital media production is an industry of strategic importance to the City of Toronto. Toronto welcomes over 1,500 productions annually and is among the top five film and television production clusters in North America. Toronto is headquarters to many of the film, television and digital media industry’s offices and the majority of Ontario’s studios and production facilities. Toronto is in fierce competition with global locations for film and television projects. Its competitiveness is a function of many factors: the value and quality of products and services produced and delivered, and the cost, quality and depth of the labour pool. Our skilled, friendly crews, top-quality studios and infrastructure contribute to making the region attractive.
Before the pandemic, Toronto’s Film and Media industry had grown significantly over the past two decades averaging between 5 and 8% growth in terms of both production and the size of its workforce. The industry includes everything from movie and television film production to animation and visual effects. Occupations vary greatly and include audio and visual technicians, writing, casting, production, post-production and animation. While employment numbers vary pending production schedules, around 40,000 individuals in the GTA and 65,000 in Ontario are employed in the industry.
As noted in the graph above, foreign location production has driven the phenomenal growth in the industry. Domestic segments of the film and TV production have remained fairly stagnant over the past decade. While this growth should be seen as positive; Toronto, Ontario and Canada are in a very competitive and international market.
What We Heard
Over six months at the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021, we had discussions and interviews with the industry and reflected on views and perspectives from studios, industry associations, guilds and unions and influential industry professionals. Our insights include:
- Having skilled talent in a region is one of the industry’s most important factors in determining where to locate production. Toronto’s community colleges, universities and unions have been a critically important asset by providing a good talent pool for the entertainment and digital media industry to draw upon.
- The film, television and digital media industry’s need for talent is ever increasing in both Toronto and Ontario. Careers in this industry can be rewarding and provide decent to good wages. Job posting data, culled over a five-year period, indicates that there is constant demand for technical occupations (camera operators, animators, scenery painters and other jobs) and in industry infrastructure employment (everything from truck drivers to specialized accounting jobs) even during the downturn caused by the pandemic.
- As the co-evolution of entertainment and technology continues, our public institutions will likely demand new strategies and agile approaches for companies and creators. This is especially true given the convergence among video, games and music. As North America moves to 5G wireless networks – we can expect the disruptions of artificial intelligence, virtual reality and interactive media to accelerate.
- There is nonstop disruption in the film and media industry, disruption that creates significant risk to all production clusters, including Toronto and Ontario. While there is risk, this disruption also creates a new space for enormous creativity, huge innovation and technological advances (for example the 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube each minute as we mentioned before). Indeed, instead of “reacting” to these changes, Toronto may want to consider ways to cultivate, nurture and embrace these disruptions to the benefit of artists and future production.
- Health safeguards, diversity and environmental sustainability initiatives are shifting attitudes and expectations on-screen and off. These changes will increase opportunities for employment across the Toronto Region.
- Given the ongoing and accelerating changes, Ontario’s drive to be a leader in the development of microcredentials holds significant promise and potential benefit for the film, TV and digital media industry. These short-term programs can ensure that our workers have been trained on the latest technologies and have the type of valued skills that are essential for the industry to thrive in Toronto. We feel that there is significant merit in Toronto’s education and training system to take the lead on Film and Media microcredentials.
We welcome the use and sharing of the research data contained in our reports, articles and website, with attribution to “Toronto Workforce Innovation Group (TWIG)” as your source.
June 1, 2021