Published on: 05 December 2019 in Campaigns

5 talking points from our BAME working group meeting

Reading time: 3 minutes and 55 seconds

Members’ views, needs and issues have always informed the work of the Directors UK team and are fundamental to shaping our ongoing campaigning and public affairs activity. 

Earlier this year, our BAME members’ open meeting highlighted the continued experience of under-employment in the screen industries, and picked up on a number of practical issues faced by all freelance directors.

Over the coming months, we’ll be working through what Directors UK can do to provide support to our membership on these issues as well as opportunities for lobbying and partnership working. Read about the key issues we discussed below. 

Freelancers and hiring practices

Some directors report that casual freelancer hiring practices continue to be frustrating.

  • Many members were concerned about the lack of transparency around recruitment processes and apparently little accountability for diversity choices in decision making.
  • Some members report that they have experienced producers inviting them for interviews and ‘mining’ them for production ideas without recompense. In drama, interview preparation can take two days, and this is a significant work not to be paid for.
  • Some directors felt that hirers not giving feedback to a director after an interview indicates a low level of respect.
  • Some hirers are inviting directors to meetings but not watching previous works or reading their CVs. This is perceived as diversity ‘box ticking’ and not a serious intention to hire.
  • Amongst some members, there is also a sense that hirers tackling inclusion for one group seems to negate supporting any other type of underrepresented directorial group.

Industry regulation

Some directors felt that diversity hiring targets for programme-makers would help get underrepresented groups into work. Whilst no one wants to be there as part of a quota, opportunities to demonstrate skills and creativity that win the next job would be welcome. It was also felt that longer term general support is needed to reshape the freelancer environment around pay, conditions and fair treatment.  

Homogenisation

Some directors report that it is commonplace for productions to expect BAME directors to conform to white editorial perspectives, rather than allowing them to make editorial decisions that use their own voice, perspective and expertise.

Profile of the director and diminished credits

Some directors report that they aren’t given the artistic and editorial control of the projects they are hired for. And when they challenge this limitation they are regarded as troublesome and not team players.

  • Some directors report that they are not able pick their own Heads of Department and are often required to inherit the production company’s established relationships.
  • Some directors felt that in the US, British directors are perceived to be highly valued because of the preparation they undertake, but that in the UK this is not so. It was felt that spending time in the US appears to make directors more hireable; they become ‘international talent’.
  • There was a feeling in the room that SVODs are better at targeting diverse demographics and making programmes for them, which means they tend to value diverse directorial perspectives more than their terrestrial cousins.

Overcoming hiring objections and unconscious bias

There was a sense shared amongst some of the group that race was the first thing noted about them in a meeting – rather than particular skills.

  • There was a suggestion that giving directors help in building their digital and social profile to amplify their work (e.g. Find a Director) would help hirers become more familiar with a director’s voice, style and work (and enable more hiring decisions to be made on merit).
  • Some directors report that despite being professional filmmakers, hirers will still tend to raise questions about their competence, using phrases such as “This project requires a high level of skill in x”. Support on how to positively respond to and deflect this type of evasion would enhance director’s skills in overcoming unconscious bias.
  • Some directors noted that although hiring language has changed in factual and there is less talk about the ‘risk’ of using different voices, they are still treated as ‘back up’ directors or only considered for short segments. The shift in language is not resulting in more work.

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