Diversity and inclusion report
Hiring crew from under-represented backgrounds means widening contact networks, focusing on skills rather than credits, providing the right support and ensuring that locations and sets are inclusive places to work.
While these requirements might pose challenges for a freelancer-dominated production sector faced with tight turnaround times, the eight production professionals we spoke to who are engaged with diversity and inclusion (D&I) claim that the following practices will professionalise your recruitment process, widen your talent pool, tackle crew shortages and positively impact on screen content.
(1) Don’t wait for the greenlight
The pace which productions are expected to crew up following a funding sign off is usually the main reason that those with recruitment responsibilities can struggle to carve out time to seek diverse candidates.
“Speed is the enemy of diversity,” admits Minnie Ayres, an executive producer at TriForce Productions and company director at film and TV diversity and inclusion (D&I) service, Dandi.
However, she adds, hunting for crew and promising candidates with less experience can happen before budgets have been signed off. “If you start looking earlier it will give you more time to reach out,” she says.
Anouk Berendsen head of talent at the All3Media group, agrees: “Even if you’re busy you can always look up positions that are required. Start by identifying where the lack of representation is likely to be. Don’t wait for a green light,” she says.
(2) Cast your net wide
“Advertise wherever possible,” says Bella Lamborne, HR and operations director at independent production group Banijay’s UK division.
“Use databases such as The Talent Manager and Talent Base; reach out to networks that advertise for crews which support diversity such as The TV Collective; Dandi, Project Noir; and MAMA Youth. Knowing about these groups and getting the word out there that you are crewing up can help a lot,” she says.
Caroline O’Neil, a development executive, self-shooting producer-director, and a director at Deaf & Disabled People in TV (DDPTV), adds: “Follow us on social media. Get ahead of your commissions by putting disabled talent cross-genre on your radar so when you start crewing up you, you’re ready to on-board immediately.”
For mid to junior roles there’s TriForce Creative Network’s Talent Pool, a free resource which now has over 35,000 members. “There’s no subscription,” says Ayres, “We’re trying to take away all the barriers and share these jobs as widely as possible over social media.”
Also worth reaching out to are training bodies such as ScreenSkills which is willing to share its databases of diverse talent gathered through initiatives such as its Trainee Finder and FilmForward schemes.
(3) Lunch your list
Recruiting isn’t just about searching someone to match a particular brief, says Fey Norton, a talent manager at All3, it’s about establishing relationships. “Everyone from a very junior to a very senior level has a background, a story, and it’s important to get to know them,” she says. “You might reach out to someone because they’ve worked on a blue light TV project - but when you speak to them you find out that they’re trying to break into another genre. Unless you have those conversations, you don’t know.”
Berendsen recommends taking potential candidates out for lunch or coffee – or even arranging a zoom. Also worth courting, she adds, are champions of diverse talent - usually more senior crew who want to help create a more level playing field. “One director has taken me to at least three people. You find your champions in the business and you bring them in close,” she says.
Zoning in on industry groups that have grown organically with a common goal also helps. Noticing a shortage of female directors and shooting PDs in factual, Berendsen reached out to We Are Doc Women, a U.K. campaign group for more women directors in factual programming. “I took people out for lunch, we had drinks and now I know hundreds of female doc directors,” she says.
(4) Issue job descriptions
To be more inclusive, hiring processes in the industry need to become more formalized and skills-orientated says Banijay’s Lamborne. “As a group we’re working toward having descriptions for every role so that recruiters can work to the job spec rather than being led by an individual’s CV,” she says.
Ayres explains that those with hiring responsibilities can often make misinformed decisions when they are based on programming credits.
“A pattern we see from the CVs of people from under-represented backgrounds and/ or those who don’t have a huge amount of money behind them is that they don’t have the luxury of picking and choose roles, which can lead to a CV that may be perceived as unfocussed.”
“What that actually means is that they are quite versatile and can do lots of different things - recruiters need to see the strength in that and understand the benefit and value in a diverse range of experience,” says Ayres.
(5) Be flexible
Once you’ve identified areas of under-representation, flexibility may be required. Can the skills needed to make an observational doc be similar to those gained while working in reality TV? “I’d like to see a bit more movement between genres because it enables crew to move around more,” says Ayres. “You can see patterns in certain genres,” adds Berendsen. “Some are more elitist and, by default, less diverse.”
To correct this, All3’s Talent Team has been working with its production labels and one, Lion Television, ring-fenced a researcher’s role on a forthcoming Mary Beard history series to someone who wouldn’t normally get the opportunity.
“They changed the skillset so that they didn’t require previous specialist factual experience or an art history degree. The successful candidate was however, interested in Graffiti art, went to museums and loved Grime.” According to Norton, the placement helped the researcher secure a one-year contract on a BBC Studios AP accelerator scheme in Scotland.
(6) Do your due diligence on key craft roles
Actors and directors need to be equipped with the necessary tools to effectively portray a role and capture a performance. If the cast includes actors with different skin tones and hair textures, hair and make up teams need to be chosen with care to reflect this.
Black actor Dominque Moore shared her experiences at an ITV /BFI Talent Talk on this issue recently emphasising how this lack of understanding has a wider impact on the production: “Hair and makeup, that’s one of our tools we have to get into character. It’s going to affect the quality of our work and inevitably affect the quality of the production.”
Dandi’s Ayres adds that the network has spoken to a number of actresses in the past who have had their hair ruined on certain productions.
“Hair and make up is improving now, it’s becoming more diverse,” she adds, “but you still don’t get great lighting for black actors. You need operators that can work with a variety of skin tones otherwise it will have a direct impact on the quality of the production,” she says.
(7) Step people up
The industry is in the middle of a massive production boom and experiencing crew shortages, particularly in the U.S. and U.K. so there’s an opportunity to promote diverse crew to the next level, or to move them on to bigger productions.
ITV’s ‘Step Up 60’ scheme, which launched last year, aims to step up at least 60 people from under represented groups by helping them secure their first ITV senior editorial and production roles in directing, writing or producing on ITV shows such as Vera, I’m a Celebrity and Ant and Dec’s Takeaway.
“While we don’t pay their salary we work closely with our production companies and commissioners to ensure that each candidate is supported,” explains ITV creative diversity partner Nahrein Kemp, who is involved in running the scheme.
Film London’s Equal Access Network (EAN) ‘Breaking The Glass Ceiling’ programme, run in partnership with Bectu, is supporting 10 mid-level professionals from diverse backgrounds to become future leaders and department heads.
ScreenSkills similarly runs a mid management career progression scheme, FilmForward, specifically aimed at BAME crew with at least five years’ experience in below-the-line roles, and offers paid placements on UK productions with coaching and financial support.
TriForce Productions team
TriForce also works with productions to promote people: the network helped support Hatrick’s ITV Stephen Lawrence drama, Stephen, by stepping up several people to give them their first head of department role, where they were supported by the producers, line producer and production manager. And, on it’s own production for ITV, the Black History panel show Sorry I Didn’t Know, TriForce productions has stepped up four people to the next level.
Providing an element of on the job support to go with the promotion is crucial, according to Ayres. “It’s not just about giving people a chance and seeing if they sink or swim, it’s recognizing the help they need,” she says. “Things that are new to first time HoDs, for instance, tend to be the management aspect of the job and budgets – it’s about supporting them and giving them the tools to survive,” she adds.
ITV drama Stephen
8) Engage with skills transfer schemes
To address the skills shortages many productions are taking advantage of transferrable skills support schemes, which take individuals from different industries such as fashion, events management, accountancy and aviation and retrain them to play a useful and practical part of the screen industries.
It’s an area ITV is exploring to attract people from a variety of backgrounds into production. “Candidates tend to go in one step lower - just because of the fast paced nature of most productions - but they often progress at a much quicker rate,” notes Kemp.
ScreenSkills is also looking at transferable skill programmes to unlock the challenges that the industry face’s around access, according to the training body’s head of film and animation Gareth Ellis-Unwin.
Ellis-Unwin, a film producer whose credits include The Kings Speech, has run a location manager transferers scheme for people exiting from the military service and also ‘Grips for Heroes’ in partnership with military charity Help for Heroes, which provides training on the role, function and responsibilities of grips. He explains: “I shot a movie once in Jordan and thought ‘if you can keep a tank running in desert you can service a crane or a dolly’,” he says.
ScreenSkills' Grips for Heroes training scheme. Credit: ScreenSkills
Other organisations investing in transferable skills retraining include Film London and also Wales-based Step Across Scheme - supported by the British Film Council.
9) Educate yourself
It’s only once productions become more diverse that crew might start to encounter situations where they don’t feel safe or included. “It’s not enough to make sure you have a diverse team, you need to ensure that when they’re on set they are in a safe environment,” says Ayres.
Unconscious bias training for all crew can help with a basic awareness in the workplace and give those with key hiring decisions the tools of understanding what fair recruitment looks like.
Dandi runs a ‘safer work training session’ for all cast and crew at the beginning of a big drama, which looks at micro aggressions, work-place relationships and consent, mental health.
All3Media and Banijay have their own in-house unconscious bias training programmes, while ScreenSkills has developed an e-learning module which was initially developed for British independent Film Award voters and has since been turned into a popular free resource that anyone working in the industry can access.
Employers also need to be aware of their legal responsibilities, according to O’Neil. “Make sure you educate yourself on the Equality Act 2010,” she says.
She adds that it’s also worth reading up on any support you might be entitled to. Government funded grants such as Access to Work cover ‘reasonable adjustments’ that need to be made for disabled people in the workplace and it represents up to £60,000 worth of funding from the government.
10) Create a safe space
People naturally cluster towards those they know and have previously worked with. Being the new person on the set on a returning series on in a film department where everyone is socially tight can be excluding.
Ayres advises introducing buddy systems to “increase inclusion in the work place and make people feel more at home, wanted and accepted.”
For disabled staff, O’Neil has the following advice: “Just be open about your office/ set access and be flexible about working from home. Ask people about their reasonable adjustments; ask when you offer an interview and when you offer a job.”
She adds that HoDs shouldn’t shy away from tricky conversations. “Ask what people need - but don’t pry for excessive detail. Keep this detail confidential - ask what they want shared with the team.
She concludes with advice that applies to the recruitment of all underrepresented behind the scenes talent: “Bring people in with the idea that you want to retain and nurture and move them up the ladder, rather than it being just a box-ticking exercise. Check in on them, make them feel seen and supported.”