Michael Flynn on why collaborative action on diversity is essential
Wales has grown as a creative hub, with inward interest and investment increasing as the large international entertainment players see us as a valid production base, but there is a problem, and that is one of capacity.
‘We cannot promise the delivery of many productions simultaneously because we simply do not have the people’, says Natasha Hale, former Deputy Director of Sectors and Business – Welsh Government Department for Economy, Science and Transport.
The current lack of capacity within the local talent pool could be resolved by actively opening up that pool and making it more accessible to a wider demographic. As Lord Holmes, Diversity Adviser to the Civil Service has put it, ‘This is not about political correctness, it is about competitive edge’.
So who is missing out?
Despite the rich cultural landscape of Wales, our Film and TV industries continue to suffer from a lack of diversity across gender, disability, sexuality, age and socio-economic backgrounds in all sectors. Film and TV should have a workforce that represents the communities in which they operate. A wide range of people who have a wealth of expertise, skills and experience are missing out on careers in the sector.
In 2015, Diverse Cymru was commissioned by the Welsh Government’s Creative Industries Sector Team to conduct independent research into diversity in Film and TV in Wales. As an independent third sector organisation, we had the expertise in challenging discrimination and promoting equality across Wales.
Through the project, we reached out to individuals who had faced discrimination, to individuals who had overcome discrimination, to support organisations, to funders and to the industry itself.
The developed recommendations diversecymru.org.uk/diversity-in-film-and-tv
will raise awareness of inequality, provide solutions and help to develop the talent pool in Wales. The under-representation in the industry is quite obvious so I would like to look at some outline solutions.
- Provide targeted information and support for individuals from diverse communities in finding and securing opportunities.
There is an urgent need to identify and communicate information on opportunities and roles available in the industry to different minority groups. We also need targeted activities to increase access into the industry for minority groups. These could include workshops, mentoring, shadowing, open casting sessions, auditions, work experience, and training in roles where there is under-representation (e.g. women in technical roles). These activities should be designed to be accessible to all, including people on low incomes, people of all ages, people with family or caring responsibilities, and disabled people and include funded or paid opportunities.
There is also a need to investigate the development of a diverse talent agency or function, which would provide support to diverse individuals to enter the film and TV industry in Wales and act as a casting agency for diverse individuals.
- Employers in the film and TV industry should use positive action and change recruitment practices to remove any existing barriers.
Diversity monitoring, positive action and proactive engagement with diverse communities is needed to seek out and recruit for diversity. Links to equality organisations and guidance should be easily accessible to all Film and TV industry organisations, including freelance companies and casting agencies.
- We need to work towards ensuring that there is education, information, and careers advice about the wide range of careers in the industry in school, college, higher education and the community; and that courses are geared to the industry’s requirements.
Welsh Government should support the develop of a network or sub-group to focus on developing and promoting pathways into the Film and TV industry.
- Industry organisations should involve, connect and maintain links with diverse communities and also with organisations and experts who support individuals from diverse backgrounds. All support should be co-produced with diverse individuals and community representatives.
We need to also address inaccurate portrayals, for example, by delivering targeted crew nights in diverse community settings and by working with casting companies who have good links with third sector organisations or groups that represent people from a range of diverse communities.
- Welsh Government should support the development of a specific Film and TV diversity network and conference for Wales and support diverse talent networks. We need to focus on progress, joint development and implementation of actions and the sharing of expertise and good practice.
- The Wales Screen database should be developed into a one-stop-shop for employers to find and network new, diverse employees.
The database should include the ability to identify an individual’s protected characteristics for in-front of the camera roles; all possible career pathways should be included (e.g. hairdressing, electricians, accountants); a shared database of trainees and new entrants from diverse backgrounds; links to consultants with knowledge of diverse communities; information and links about placements, apprenticeships and employment opportunities.
- Organisations in the Film and TV industry should work together and with community groups to proactively address specific barriers for groups and communities.
Focus should be around: Training on accessibility, childcare, flexible working, making reasonable adjustments, cultural awareness, paid placements, travel and other expenses, challenging stereotypical prejudices in the industry and identifying and promoting role models to inspire individuals from diverse backgrounds to take on roles in the industry.
- Welsh Government should investigate the possibility of developing a diversity standard specifically for the film and TV industry in Wales.
There is currently no enforceable policy in place to encourage productions to be fully inclusive. Such a policy could include a requirement to address under-representation on screen i.e. casting and characters, and in employment. The industry should demonstrate a comprehensive equality and diversity policy, comprehensive equality training delivery for all staff, zero-tolerance approaches to discrimination and proactive involvement and engagement with diverse communities.
Achieving a minimum standard could be a requirement that a production company must meet before any work could be commissioned or funded.
- Support the development of funding for under-represented individuals, and industry organisations trying to increase diversity.
Investigate links and possible funding sources for diversity actions which link to other Welsh Government departments; this could include education, careers, work placements and apprenticeships. Also investigate possible European and UK Government funding sources for diversity initiatives; this should include funding for ongoing initiatives, not just new or pilot initiatives.
Look at possible ways to reduce costs for individuals to access training, networking and opportunities.
The only way forward is for the industry itself to take ownership of these recommendations; for the Government and funders to actively provide the resources and to support the channels to implement them; and for individuals, support organisations and the diverse communities themselves to engage and provide the expertise to make it all work and become sustainable.
We are currently working with Welsh Government to implement these recommendations, as it is committed to making a real difference.
Editorial note: This is the first in Click on Wales’ week-long focus on media issues. The Media Policy Group of the Institute of Welsh Affairs is holding the third Cardiff Media Summit on 29th March and booking information can be found here
6 thoughts on “Diversity in Film and TV in Wales is key to growth”
I love it when the politically correct come up against political correctness. The result in this case is that the author fails to address the reality of employment into every level of media in Wales. Wales’ Welsh language media has for several decades received hugely disproportionate funding from the Welsh Government, the Westminster government and from local authority grants to small production companies.
As a result the TV and Film industry in Wales is filled with fluent Welsh speakers. Think about this Mr Flynn; 11% of adults In Wales are fluent Welsh speakers. For that 11% S4C received the equivalent of £120 million pounds in funding each year and BBC Cymru and Radio Cymru also received funding for their Welsh language output. Simultaneously Welsh language production companies like the now bankrupt Caernarfon company, “Barcud”, received millions more in grants from both National and Local Government. Fluent Welsh speakers became millionaires and were disproportionately engaged in Media production, a happy position where the consumers of the product, Welsh Language TV and Radio, were also the suppliers of the product and any sensible criticism of this self-serving and self perpetuating system was (and is) censored as being “Anti-Welsh bigotry”.
So here we are where the underdog, the dispossessed, the people who cannot gain entry into a particular field of employment are characterised as a social minority ignored by the mainstream:-
.” The industry should demonstrate a comprehensive equality and diversity policy, ….zero-tolerance approaches to discrimination and proactive involvement and engagement with diverse communities.”
So I can offer advice here; it takes 7 years of constant application to become a fluent speaker of any language.
“Film and TV should have a workforce that represents the communities in which they operate. ”
Wales has a non Welsh fluent population of 89%. Try redressing that imbalance in the Welsh Meeja world Mr Flynn!
Diversity is easy to talk about and much more challenging to put into practice – and it does come down to that, practice. Practical action, testing approaches to overcome barriers to entry, of which the creative industries has many – not least long, inflexible hours; recruitment practices that favour the status quo, hiring those who are already known; highly concentrated centres of production; and heavy dependence on freelancers. All this combined has made it an exclusive profession – what help if you’re living in an economically deprived area, outside of Cardiff and with no peers in the business?
And yet, there is need for the sector to improve its capacity and to become representative of the people it seeks to serve. That is the route to being relevant and valued, and to support growth.
There’s good work being done and it would be valuable for Welsh Government to shine a light on this and make it visible for others to benefit and build upon it. For example:
– Hijinx recently launched their online actors agency for those with learning disabilities https://hijinxactors.co.uk/
– SHIFFT offers a peer-to-peer network for female filmmakers https://www.facebook.com/ShifftFilmmakers/?ref=page_internal&hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE&fref=nf
– and Ffilm Cymru Wales are piloting new entrant training for those living in economic deprivation in partnership with Housing Associations: http://www.ffilmcymruwales.com/index.php/en/news-and-events/586-get-your-foot-in-the-door-of-the-film-industry
Let’s not reinvent the wheel. Let’s figure out what works and do more of that.
Who could possibly argue against ‘diversity’ in all situations in life. This is of course if ‘diversity’ doesn’t mean that people/companies are getting jobs/contracts when they are clearly not the best available for the position.It seems to me that the people who are the ‘excluded’ in Wales today are the white working classes who in the main are English only speakers and tend to look to what’s ‘appertaining’ over the border,rather than the drivel in main coming from this side of the border. The main driver for obtaining ‘diversity’ is of course education,however since devolution the main driver at WAG has been the welsh language,and consequently as you have proven the performance of the many has not taken place,whilst resources transferred into the ‘few’. I agree entirely what you have said about BBC Wales/S4C and it seems amazing that in my lifetime (72) every head of BBC Wales has been a welsh speaker,which has to mean that the 89% of us are thick/unmotivated as it couldn’t be anything else??.The whole funding of BBC Wales/S4C needs urgent review as the vast majority are paying for the provision of services that are a)too expensive,b)not ‘diverse’ enough for the 89%,c)very poor quality,d)poor performance as evidenced by viewing/listening figures.There is more chance of me winning Wimbledon as the ‘power brokers’ are all in side a well protected tent,and the rest of us are shivering in cold and feeling unwanted and marginalized.
“So I can offer advice here; it takes 7 years of constant application to become a fluent speaker of any language.”
Good advice. We need Welsh medium education in every school then.
Wales had a great TV industry in the 80s and 90s. with small independent production companies spread throughout the country (around 80 in all). Mainly one person bands who produced niche programmes that reflected different communities. There were also two Channel 4 funded workshops – Red Flannel (women’s workshop in Pontypridd) and the BAME workshop in Cardiff Bay. Both worked on successful innovative projects within their respective communities where groups were encouraged to learn a variety of production and technical skills – several members of the Red Flannel workshop went on to work in mainstream productions, but not sure what happened to the BAME workshop people – some at the time were certainly reluctant to work with the mainstream companies as they felt that they would not fit in with the organisational culture, especially where there were no other BAME workers present.. Are there lessons to be learnt from our past?
There are a number of small innovative digital companies based throughout Wales generally working in the non broadcast sector making community, educational and corporate videos. Many practitioners, especially Heads of Departments and groups of artists, have set-up their own companies to enable them to gain more work often in TV, Film and the wider creative industries, these vary from Designers, Costume to Special FX, Electricians and a variety of performer collectives and bands. There’s a need to map the broader sector to truly understand Wales’ creative industries.
BECTU, Equity, the Musicians’ Union and the Writers Guild of Great Britain are partnering the Wales Co-op Centre and a range of other organisations including HE via our CULT Cymru project on an event to explore how creative workers can collaborate to help create sustainable employment in our communities. Research by Wales based Academics identified that by supporting atypical workers in their training and development and by providing affordable and practical solutions to their legal requirements e.g. insurances – unions are an invaluable resource and a lifelong critical friend to many workers. For further information on the event to be held in Merthyr in June please email: [email protected]
Sian Gale works part time on the CULT Cymru project supported via the Welsh Government’s Wales Union Learning Fund. She is also a freelance tutor (PGCE qualified) and consultant working mainly in the creative industries and third sector.
She is passionate about equality and diversity. She was on the Wales Committee of the Equality and Human Rights Commission for five years where she worked on a range of equality in the media initiatives including hosting sessions with the third sector and media industry on ‘Gypsy Travelers’, ‘Transgender’ and ‘Mental Health’. She worked at the Welsh Government for four years on a large European funded programme supporting under-represented groups in setting up in business. She is currently vice chair of the Wales TUC”s Equality Committee.
Thank you Michael for opening a much needed debate on diversity and discrimination in the media. It gave the opportunity for people to voice their comments. You did a very good job and covered many aspects of the project. Unfortunately there is always some one who will find fault although they are glad to add their comments, which is what you want. Your job is not to name and shame. Leave it to them. Keep the debate going.
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