Some of the UK’s top actors, writers, and directors are joining together to help increase diversity working in film and TV across the country.
Sir Lenny Henry and Dame Emma Thompson, along with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, David Oyelowo, and Ade Adepitan, are lending their voices to the campaign in support of women, BAME, and people with disabilities.
“All we’re asking for is a seat at the table,” Henry told BBC News. “We’re still in a situation where we might not get a job because of the way we look, or somebody perceives that our education isn’t up to scratch, or we might not even get in the door for an interview.”
“But at the moment, we’re still behind the door like Dickensian children and that needs to stop,” he said.
Henry, along with several others, delivered a letter to 10 Downing Street — the London home of Prime Minister Theresa May — on Tuesday, signed by their fellow campaigners.
Other signatories include Malorie Blackman, Jim Broadbent, Lolita Chakrabarti, Alesha Dixon, Neil Gaiman, David Harewood, and Gemma Chan, among many more individuals and organisations, including Women in Film & TV UK, the TV Collective, and Act for Change.
The letter, also published by the Guardian, says that Britain’s “talented women, black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME), and disabled creatives … enrich the creativity of the UK and add to our cultural heritage, but unfortunately they continue to be the exception rather than the rule.”
Marcus Ryder and me pre Downing street pic.twitter.com/qPkmFMSn7a— Lenny Henry (@LennyHenry) November 6, 2018
It asks the government to introduce a “representation tax relief,” which it believes is necessary to support efforts to bring greater diversity to British media.
The letter adds that tax relief is a “tried and tested mechanism to increase employment and activity in the UK film industry.”
According to the letter, a representation tax relief would give UK film and television productions tax relief is they meet three of the four following criteria:
- The director is a woman and/or living with a disability and/or from a BAME background.
- The writer is a woman and/or living with a disability and/or from a BAME background.
- The director of photography is a woman and/or living with a disability and/or from a BAME background.
- 50% of staff spend behind the camera is on female staff, or 14% on BAME staff, or 18% on staff with disabilities.
“True representation of the diversity of the UK isn’t just about what we see on our screens but also the people writing, directing, filming, and working behind the camera,” it added.
The letter also cited “shocking” statistics when it comes to representation in British media.
Of all UK television, according to a report by Directors UK, just 2.3% is made by directors of BAME background. Over the last decade, women have made up just 13.6% of working film directors in the UK, it adds, despite making up the majority of film students.
Meanwhile, just 0.3% of the total UK film workforce and 4.5% of the television workforce are living with disabilities — compared to the 18% of the British population who consider themselves to live with a disability.