We have developed some ideas, suggestions and practical ways that the industry, productions and individuals can use to continue this diversity drive forwards. Please use all the highlighted links to find further information.
First, is TRANSPARENCY; this is the key. We need more transparency when it comes to rates and deals, but also the interviewing processes. This is essential so that we can make sure it is fair for all from the get go. To ensure Productions should broaden their interview opportunities beyond the usual favorites. Micheala Cole set a great example when she shared her experiences and deals (watch the video here). In terms of pay why wait for some damning information and statistics to come out before taking action, such as those that related to presenters’ pay gap and #Publishingpaidme created an opportunity for authors to share advances to expose racial disparities. It has been widely reported that there is £3.2bn UK pay gap for black, Asian and ethnic minority workers across all industries. If it is happening everywhere, then it will be happening here within the TV and film industry. It is also evident that 78% of production companies in the UK pay men on average more than they pay women. It appears more so for freelancers as this area is still unregulated.
In my time at RA Agency, we’ve seen it time and time again. Requests come in for female crew and I am urged by the production company to view the low rates on the table as an opportunity for my female clients. It’s dangerous territory. Black and female crew don’t want to be hired on low rates because they are seen to be in need of experience. They don’t want to be undercutting their peers and their peers certainly do not want to be undercut either. If we don’t pay Black / Female crew fair and equal rates then we will collectively create a cheap source of labor that will create the wrong incentive for the industry to Diversify.
Being transparent, is a solid precaution that allows us all to avoid any unnecessary embarrassment further down the line. For example women presently only represent a very small percentage of the camera and sound crew with a representation of below 10%. It’s only when 50% are female can we do a fair survey on pay and accurately assess the results. To push towards that goal RA Agency wants to proactively learn from other people’s mistakes and take the necessary precautions. Productions do not have to pay union rates but it is a choice, and it’s a choice they ought to be making. It’s our company policy to always get as close/or higher than the recommended BECTU rates not only because it is the right thing to do for anyone, but it also protects all parties from any potential embarrassment.
“The reason we are particularly focused on this is that, as a union, we know that productions may believe that they are doing something progressive (i.e. ensuring that women/BAME get a larger share of the work) but they are actually accidentally and inadvertently doing more harm than good when they only offer this work significantly below industry norms.”
There has been a recent surge in black led drama (I May Destroy You, Yardes, Small Axes) but how much of this is reflected in the representation of onset technical crews in camera and sound? It has been disappointing when we look at who is directing and leading the camera and sound departments. The onset crews are still predominantly white and male. There are already black directors, cinematographers and sound recordists ready and available to work . Hiring these diverse HODS then leads to a trickle down, to hiring diverse talent below the line crew. Production companies need to source the talent here in the UK. Look at Sporas List but interview more than one potential candidate. For example in drama there are at least 3 that are black Sound Recordists. Interview all 3, because not every black recordist is the same.
At least you will create new leads for hiring at future opportunities. Give yourself the responsibility to set the example of opening up the interviewing process and making a concerted effort to meet the UK’s diverse crew face to face.
Black filmmakers also need to champion black crews. If they don’t, who will? It’s the same for women too. We have seen many high profile female directors surrounding themselves with ‘safe’ experienced men.
We also need to see a fair distribution of job opportunities, more job sharing and hiring block by block; dividing the work up and including more opportunities for a truly diverse crew so the end result is more people getting opportunities to get that experience and show their worth. We need to invest more into crew as The British Film Institute says ‘’10,000 new entrants are needed over five years “to keep the UK in the vanguard of global film production”.
‘’If we want Britain to enjoy the benefits of having one of the world’s best audio-visual industries, then we have to work together – the training institutions, the TV companies, the filmmakers and the government – to ensure that, in the decades ahead, we have the people with the skills to make it happen.” Lord Puttnam
Job sharing has been tried and tested and proved successful from by BECTU’s Take Two initiative, who have created a blueprint as well as media parents who have been building a job sharing platform for the last 10 years, If it can work for costume department, then it can work for the camera department too. In long running dramas, break down the blocks and hire a different camera operator for each, after all any good camera operator should be able to slot in.
Lastly, it’s down to individuals like HOD’s and senior crew who can take more responsibility and hire within their grade first with dailies and 2nd units. For example, if you’re a camera operator, look within the ACO and meet the
female/BAME camera operators listed there. There are only a handful. Reach out to them, mentor them, take them
under your wing, recommend and hire them. Do for them what was done for you. There was always a first time
someone took a chance and employed you despite never working with you before. It only takes everyone to do this
and we would be moving at a much faster pace.
This is how we can invest in more skilled crew to allow the industry can boom. Go over the resources below in your downtime too. Look to set up meetings with more diverse crew that you can then hire in your own team or recommend to your HOD as dailies or trainees or even deputies for yourself.
Be someone that knows how to help diversify whatever working space you are going into next.
Dailies are a great way to introduce new faces to the team. But also actively hire the few role models we already
have consistently, so that the industry is sustainable for the established talent. We need a real effort to keep diverse and female talent in the industry and not force them to leave by sidelining them especially following the current pandemic.
It’s been said that if you are not part of the solution, then you are a part of the problem. We all need to do our bit to
help ourselves diversify our industry. Let’s expand our horizons together.
Take a step back and look from a the perspective of someone in the ‘diverse’ category. Ask yourself “How would I
feel if I were in that position? If I don’t help to right these historic wrongs, how does this reflect on me as an
individual and how does this make my company or my production look?”
Places to look for Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority crew talent and women: The British Black List, Tv Collective, The New Black Film Collective, Sporas (A new Collective for Black Cinematographers), Black and Brown/BIPOC British Behind the Camera Talent IMDB List, Mama Youth, Digital Orchard, RA Agency, Women Behind the Camera, Illumantrix, Primetime, Birds Eye View, and recently guilds are being more proactive and promoting talent at the British Cinematographers Society and the Association of Camera Operators. Screenskills-volunteer to be a mentor. I recommend supporting the Soul Film Festival now online throughout August and when festivals are back I couldn’t personally recommend AFROPUNK enough, it blew my mind and it’s where I met my best 1st AS!
Immerse yourself and enjoy the discovery!