Bafta report blames homogenised culture and 'class ceiling' for lack of diversity

Study finds that an environment of ‘fitting in’ and ‘who you know’ remains major barrier to increasing diversity

Minority film-makers need to work twice as hard as their straight, white, male counterparts, a new study commissioned by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts has found.

The report, Succeeding in the Film, Television and Games Industries, which was funded by Bafta in conjunction with Creative Skillset and the British Film Institute, highlights efforts which have enabled employment for a number of minority workers in the industry, and outlines initiatives to help further progress.

Its findings suggest unilateral steps need to be taken across the industries to combat an environment of risk aversion and reliance on familiar ties.

“[I]ndividuals from underrepresented groups who have managed to sustain careers in the film, television or games industry tend to be the exception rather than the rule,” says the report “and they often have to go above and beyond what is expected from their peers.”

The report continues: “A culture that values ‘fitting in’ and ‘who you know’ remains a major barrier to increasing diversity and needs to be challenged in a concerted and consistent way.”

It also found that “company structures, recruitment practices and mind-sets do create additional barriers with which practitioners from under-represented groups have to contend”.

Among those featured in case studies carried out for the report was the actor Riz Ahmed, who recently enjoyed enormous success in the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One. Said Ahmed, whose drama school fees were paid by a private donor:

“I think it’s twice as hard for minority actors than it is for white counterparts to achieve success. This is still the case, and I don’t see things improving much, to be honest, without concerted and decisive action on the part of funding bodies.”

Some of those canvassed in the report ascribed much of the inequality not to obvious factors such a race and gender, but to more hidden factors, such as socio-economic background. One anonymous industry insider was quoted as saying:

“In film, you have to know the people who make the decisions [about film funding] and speak their language, but it really helps if you have family money and backing. Being BAME is not the issue, it’s being working class and not having contacts or money to smooth your way.”

The report cited class as a “persistent challenge” to change. “The structural issues impacting on the sustainability of careers creates a high financial barrier for those without backing, personal contacts or the ability to take the risk of an irregular income. In addition, cultural codes and class norms can affect those perceived as not being part of the ‘in’ group.”

It also found that such conservatism on the part of commissioners extended to their being unwilling to take a punt on unestablished talent. “Many employers also raised the prevalence of appointing actors and ‘above the line’ talent on the basis of their background, gender and ethnicity,” it read, “which perpetuates typecasting and was often the result of ‘unthinking stereotyping’, which needed to be explored further and challenged.”

The three organisations behind the report say it will inform its thinking and future initiatives. Bafta has already embarked on a series of endeavours such as Elevate, which will this year track and mentor female directors, and enhanced masterclasses for actors, directors, writers and crew through its Guru and Network programmes.

Last year, Bafta announced that from 2019 films competing in the outstanding British film and outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer would have to adhere to BFI Diversity Standards, meaning they must show they have boosted opportunities for ethnic minority and socially disadvantaged film-makers.

Contributor

Catherine Shoard

The GuardianTramp

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