Excellence and ethnicity
Why we shouldn’t separate background and brilliance
If you are black and working In the UK’s film production industry you earn 25% less, on average, than a white employee doing an equivalent job (Skillset 2010 Film Production Survey). What can we do about it?
One-third of people in the UK say that our film industry is too dominated by white voices from the South of England. Fundamentally, it doesn’t speak to them – and the industry is missing out on a huge audience.
And the sector is also missing out on rewarding the talent from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) filmmakers, for the work that they can do.
B3 Media - showcasing creative talent
That means supporting organisations like B3 Media. B3 develops and showcases creative talent – filmmakers, visual artists, musicians – from communities that are under represented by the mainstream.
They do two main things. They run talent development labs – casting the net wide, then working with the best BAME talent to hone their skills. Then they act as producers, taking and shaping individual works, working closely with the writers or directors, and find a new market for them.
Their hot project at present is The Elders by Franklyn Rodgers. These are striking, memorable images of the elderly first wave of African Caribbean settlers who arrived in the UK in the early 1960s. Like most of B3’s work, the project is also mixed media, with portrait photography, text and narrative audio clips. They are planning a stronger online presence.
It’s intergenerational – with people of all ages contributing to it. Fundamentally, it’s about identity, community and what it means to be British.
This project was part of a major festival in London, the Festival of Britain, where it was seen by nearly 700,000. And it’s just won at Power to the Pixel's 2011 Pixel Lab, a prestigious digital competition.
In a society that is on the hunt for new ideas, new talent, new stories that really connect with people, it’s ludicrous that we’re underusing a massive section of our population.What can we learn from B3?
B3 focus on the end product. They support high-quality, high impact work that wins awards and brings communities together.
Even though they cast the net wide to find talent to draw from, they work intensively with the most talented individuals, to make sure their productions are finely honed and widely distributed. And as a result, the organisation has Arts Council England (the main funding body) support, it's won awards, and is in conversations with organisations from as far afield as Banff (Canada) and Washington DC.
The secret? They’re about excellence, not just ethnicity.