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