Gold Coast women in broadcast take on the world
March 3, 2023
Summer and Australia’s obsession for all things sport are a match made in heaven. Indeed, armchair sporting enthusiasts have a lot to be thankful for when it comes to the fleet of outside production vehicles gathered at major sporting events.
NEP Australia (part of the NEP Worldwide Network) is the leading worldwide outsourced technical production partner for premier content producers of live sport, entertainment, music and corporate events.
Now NEP is shaking things up with its Women in Broadcast training program, with NEP Australia Training Manager, Gerry O’Leary at the helm.
Based on the Gold Coast, Gerry is tackling the gender imbalance within the industry head on with the training program not just ramping up to cover the summer of sport but also getting crews ‘match fit’ for the 2026 Commonwealth Games and the Brisbane 2032 Olympic Games.
One of the most prolific screen production centres in the Southern Hemisphere, the Gold Coast has a vast local network of skilled technicians and crews.
Broadcast engineer Celine Wienand is one of the training program mentors.
At 23, Celine is one of the youngest qualified female broadcast engineers in the country.
Returning from the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, where she worked as Senior Video Guarantee Engineer for literally 45 days straight, Celine says although the hours were long the reward was palpable.
“I had a blast,” she smiles. “I learned a lot from the global crew and made valuable connections and friendships.”
Growing up on the Gold Coast, Celine graduated from Bond University with a Bachelor of Film and Television, which led to a student assistant role at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
“At uni I was more interested in film. I wanted to be a cinematographer.
“The Commonwealth Games came along and changed all that. I was a technical assistant on the beach volleyball,” explains Celine.
“I was stuck with one of the broadcast engineers, followed them around, figured out what they did and I got hooked.”
Celine is determined to help other young women get into the broadcast engineer industry.
“Women are few and far between. It will take awhile for the balance to shift but it’s fantastic to see more women interested in engineering roles and older men in the industry being more accepting of it,” she says.
“I am spreading awareness, getting girls interested and motivated to join in and not be nervous to be interested in tech.”
Celine has had a number of women interested in engineering roles reach out to her.
“I understand how hard the journey through the industry can be. There’s a lot of young talent on the Gold Coast that Gerry is finding, young women interested in television who are brave enough to step up and compete with the boys,” adds Celine. “My advice is to always jump in; ask questions and don’t be afraid when you walk on site and there are 30-40 men.”
It’s important to be able to handle stress, the pressure, keep calm and be level headed, says Celine. It can be a bit of a circus!
“Give it a go and see what you like,” says Celine. “And if you don’t like what you’re doing, you don’t have to pigeon hole yourself to a particular area. There is variety and a broad spectrum of roles to get involved in.”
“I am excited for the future of the industry. It’s a good time to get in and be involved. We’re pushing boundaries, thinking of new and different ways to do things and that’s exciting,” adds Celine.
“We’re making the impossible possible every day.”
Arriving in Australia from Germany in 2015, audio technician Claudia Firmenich was unsure she would return to the broadcast industry.
Eight months later, she was living on the Gold Coast and back in the game.
“I started as a video and sound person in Germany in 2000. I was the first female to work in this area. Quickly I decided I was more interested in audio,” explains Claudia, 44. “I like to be outside, working on the sidelines of sporting events, sending good audio signals to the engineers in the truck. We are in control of the signals to and from the sideline.”
Working every weekend and most holidays, Claudia says a ‘short’ day is 10 hours, a ‘normal’ day is 12 hours and a ‘long’ day is 16 hours. Running up to 14 kms during a shift is common.
“We’re weird people, in a good way. We are like family,” she laughs. “We still love our jobs despite how tough our days can be.”
“The pressure can be high. If I send a wrong signal or hand out the wrong microphone or forget to change the batteries, everyone can see my mistake,” says Claudia. “If you are watching someone but you cannot hear them, that’s my problem.”
“I believe sound is a little bit more important than the picture. If the TV loses sound, people will move to a different channel. If the picture goes away but the sound is still on, people will stay with us,” she smiles.
Claudia travels extensively during the cricket season with the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) and has learnt to love the game. Cricket, after all, is not a common sport in Germany.
“The first time I was involved with cricket, NEP called and asked ‘Hey Claudia, can you do The Ashes?’ Of course, I said, ‘Yes, no problem.’ Then hung up the phone and turned to my partner and said ‘I’m doing The Ashes, what is it?’” she laughs. “I soon discovered how important The Ashes was but to be honest, it was a little boring for me. Since working on WBBL and BBL, I love cricket. It’s the best sport. I understand it now.”
Once cricket season is done, Claudia will focus on AFL, netball and soccer, scheduling visits with her family when she can.
Claudia is encouraged by the interest of women in broadcasting.
“It’s good we’re trying to get more women into tech. My advice is to go out there and be loud. Not in a bad way, just don’t be shy,” she says. “We are actually a very open industry. Everybody is welcome and everybody helps when you ask.”
“If you have questions – ask, ask, ask! Because there is nothing worse than pretending you know what you’re doing. Get involved and bring yourself into the conversation.”