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Posted by Jo Welch

Post-Diversify – connecting stats, stories and voices

Both the Diversify event at BAFTA in November and January’s industry round table meeting hosted by Ed Vaizey looked at the representation of BAME people in theatre, film and TV.

The event’s not only stimulated nuanced debate, but powerful demands for more action on the striking under-representation of BAME people in those industries, both on screen and stage, and behind the scenes.

At Creative Skillset we support the workforce who make content, steer and manage businesses, discover new talent and much, much more within the ever-changing worlds of the Creative Industries.

Diversity, and representation of any under-represented group, is not a numbers game for us. We’re not just looking at how many non-white people can be seen in the statistics (an appalling 5.4% in the Creative Industries in Creative Skillset’s last Census), we’re finding that influential senior and creative roles – business strategist, producer, director, and writer – often have the fewest BAME people in their ranks.

People in these jobs also have considerable power and influence over the commissioning and making of content, and the hiring of talent to create it.

Geographically the figures cause even more concern, especially considering the make-up of those who view and listen.

We have a UK BAME total population of 12% and a UK BAME working age population of 9.1 %, but in London this rises to 40% and 28.8% respectively. Over half of the TV and film industries are located in London and the South East, but only 8% of the TV workforce and 6% of those working in film production are BAME.

Try swapping the UK ‘population’ label with ‘audience’, who are people who consume and watch TV, film theatre and all things digital. Are we being served? I want to see myself and my kids reflected on-screen. If I don’t, I can feel that our world is not of interest or value to those who decide what is available on UK TV and in films.

At worst we can all suffer too from the impact of negative or unrealistic stereotypes, however frequent their occurrence. Popular comedy and drama can have a huge influence on audiences, alongside efforts to increase the number of times we see diverse people on screen in high profile or incidental roles.

The aspirations of the next generation of diverse talent watching and listening will be considerably affected by how ‘minorities’ are involved in the making of the content they consume. We want to encourage that talent, not ignore and alienate it.

Creative Skillset is taking action. With industry, we tackle diversifying the workforce along two main lines:

  • We develop training, skills and career help for people who are under-represented in the creative industries, to enable them to access entry level jobs AND take up opportunities to progress in their careers.
  • We offer practical help to the employers who are in a position to recruit, to provide inclusive and properly paid placement and job opportunities to a more diverse range of new talent.

All these links will take you to practical help and information.

Trainee Finder is a new service to match trainees with companies across the film, TV, animation, games and VFX industries. It demonstrates one of the ways we encourage co-investment in skills and training to ensure a continued supply of a new generation of talent, capable of world class creative content.

Apprenticeships in creative and digital media exist in a range of media companies, offering a variety of jobs. Fashion and textiles, radio and advertising, marketing and communications all have apprenticeships for those who don’t want to, or can’t, go to university.

Employers – you can use the Apprenticeship Toolkit for employers and Work Placement Guidelines to find out if an apprentice can bring you new perspectives and help your company grow.

We also support skills programmes that enable under-represented groups to progress up the ladder to the less and less diverse higher echelons, hopefully to become the influential leaders, strategists and creative content makers of the future, right across the UK.

One example: A female producer in Wales benefited from our Skills for the Digital Economy project, and moved her career along with a commissioned documentary series.

Soon we’ll also have our own new online portal, through which you can find contacts and work opportunities – extremely valuable when jobs are scarce and budgets tight.

We also connect with a range of industry networks, which are addressing and challenging under-representation of people in the workforce, and their portrayal across different forms of media. Several of these networks came to Diversify, here are just a few connections you can make:

The TV Collective: Magnificently run by Simone Pennant and her team, trains, informs and supports those who want to work in production for film and TV. They provide a huge amount of the insider knowledge and contacts that make the world of TV an exclusive zone, which often seems alien and un-navigable to those who don’t often see themselves represented there.

Women in Film and TV: While women can be more visible and influential in TV and Film than they were a decade ago, when we dig deeper into the statistics, we find a common problem of fewer women in influential creative roles – writing, producing and directing. This under-representation can have an impact on the inclusion and portrayal of strong women characters. Take a look at WFTV’s website for some eye opening research from the US and elsewhere about off screen roles influencing on screen output.

Media Diversified: Describes itself as tackling the lack of diversity in UK media and the ubiquity of whiteness. Its aim is to help writers and journalists of colour be published in national newspapers, magazines and get their voices heard in the broadcast media. They do this by giving them advice, contacts and promoting their work online. The network, as well as providing a resource for the media has also provided a much needed life-line and vibrant forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences.

The British Blacklist: The UK’s only database of Black British Talent. Follow their #TBBLSundayread for articles, features and interviews focussed on Black talent, and their experience of and views on the worlds of film, TV and music.

InterMedia: Is a network for LGBT people working across media. They hold events and also have a Fair Representation Group which is working on resources to help broadcasters and film-makers include positive, realistic LGBT characters and contributors, and all media employers to provide inclusive workplaces for LGBT media professionals. InterMedia holds events in London and Manchester.

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