British Film & TV Stars Sign Open Letter Demanding An End To “Systemic Racism” In The Industry
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More than 3,500 film and television professionals, including top British actors and creatives, have signed an open letter to the British film industry calling for an end to "systemic racism".
The letter was taken from a “powerful and eloquent” letter that was published in Hollywood last week. Signatories include Michaela Coel, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Colin Firth, Jane Featherstone and David Yates.
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You can read the full letter below, but there are four basic requirements:
Banish your weak excuses
Empower independent producers in black and brown
Expand your vision
Be more demanding
Other notable signatories include Noel Clarke, David Oyelowo, Stephen Graham, Sophie Okonedo, Meera Syal, Gurinder Chadha, Asif Kapadia, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Harewood and Himesh Patel. White members of the industry, including Sandi Toksvig, Colin Firth, Samantha Morton, Bill Nighy, Ruth Wilson, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes, Sue Perkins and Vicky McClure, also signed the letter. You can sign here.
It is followed by the newly formed Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic TV Task Force, which wrote a similar letter to British networks, streamers and the government last week, demanding changes. The letter was supported by 700 people last week. The task force has grown to hundreds of members after it was founded shortly after George Floyd's death and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The letter is complete here:
Dear British film and television industry,
After taking inspiration from the Black Film Collective, which last week wrote a strong open letter to Hollywood on behalf of many brothers and sisters in the industry, we want to work with you to send you something we think we can do with ours British industry is facing persistent problems.
This letter comes from your UK counterparts - Black and Brown (including all Asians), independent producers, writers, directors, and actors working with many advocates of change. As an expanded community, we need your active engagement to fight structural and systemic racism in our industry, in the UK and around the world.
While messages condemning racism and campaigning for solidarity on social media can arouse hope, British industry has to put its money and practices where their mouths are. From the stories and voices that are silenced and ignored, a direct line can be drawn to the discrimination and prejudice that is ubiquitous in the entertainment industry and in larger society. This moment in history gives you the opportunity to be a positive partner for change.
It is our goal that this letter brings you strategic commitments to transform our industry into one whose words are backed up by action. To this end:
1. Banish "your weak excuses"
Banish "it's too small" from your lexicon. It offends our stories, our history, our influence on world culture and our value. Our stories are called "too small" because they are not about white characters or a small subset of actors that you consider valuable. They are not always written by the same white writers you think are "safe". Banish "We already have a diverse project on our plan".
There is room for more than one. With white creatives, you create countless projects with similar topics and storylines. Banish "that feels risky". We know we're introducing new, unproven talents to you, but why is the same white man (who made a series of flops after his only hit 10 years ago) still considered less risky than a new brown or black writer with original and good ones Scripture ideas. We know that many of our stories seem unknown to you because they contradict your preconceived ideas about us and cause you to step out of your familiar world. But we are familiar with them.
Hire us and let's tell truthful, bold and imaginative stories from new perspectives. At the moment there are countless men and women on the streets who are risking their lives, their health and their livelihood and fighting for an end to systemic racism. There will be no end until financiers, dealers and the community of decision makers stop this practice of marginalizing our voices and stories. If black lives are important to you, our stories and the extent to which they are marketed and distributed must also play a role.
2. Empower independent producers in black and brown
The hiring of Black and Brown writers and directors is of course important, but this opportunity is rarely offered to independent Black and Brown producers. Only 5% of the producers supported by the BFI 2018/19 were color producers. This is particularly worrying as producers often work with multiple authors and directors. Support from a producer effectively supports many black and brown professionals above and below the line. Take a closer look at the community of independent Black and Brown producers who work hand in hand with talented directors.
Many have compelling plans for projects that willing partners need. Since 2017, there have been no black / brown producers on Variety's "10 Producers to Watch" list. We don't just want to point our finger at Variety, since similar lists are printed in different industries. In addition, all seek recommendations from agencies, management companies and elite publicists. So this incredibly valuable advertising is often limited to driving the careers of those who need the least advertising. Empower those who need it most.
3. Expand your vision
Think outside the box when looking for new talent. There are numerous diversity programs, which is a good start and we support them all. But we need more sustainable support. Strengthen those who come through these programs. Let us ensure that these graduates stay in the industry and are encouraged and promoted so that they become decision-makers and help create change. Until we are in positions of power, nothing will really change.
4. Be more demanding
Actors, managers and agents have to make higher demands on the teams behind the camera. If there are no black producers, no brown DOPs, no different department heads, you have to report and challenge. Actively ask agents on behalf of your customers. Also look at your rosters. Who do you represent? How diverse are they? Without your vocal support, we will continue to be largely excluded from this industry, and this is not due to a lack of excellence. It is for lack of will from producers, network managers and studio heads. As simple as that.
We encourage you to become willing partners in this crucial endeavor. If the entire spectrum of our experiences is not regularly produced, marketed and celebrated, you actively deny our humanity and our history. Our stories and experiences can no longer be limited to being sets for white stories and protagonists. Until we are able to show our COMPLETE joy, sadness, fear, history, pride and all the other myriad emotions and experiences, just keep the status quo and enable a society that white people in their racism and black and Black feels good Brown people have been dehumanized all the time. As long as we don't make mistakes like many of our white colleagues and are allowed to try again, we will never succeed in the same way.
They are a big part of the problem and it's time to be honest. For far too long, the images on our screens have projected lies and sometimes truths about our life and history, minimized our perceived value, and created ripple effects across society.
This letter serves to defend all creative artists in black and brown and the communities from which they come. It serves to defend the millions of lives that have not been recorded. It's in defense of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Bauch Mujinga, Trayvon Martin, Stephen Lawrence, Zahid Mubarek, Mark Duggan, Sarah Reed, the black and brown health professionals who died from Covid -19, and so many other lives senseless and senseless are cut tragically short.
Your messages in support of Black Lives Matter are a first step. But after decades of racism in your ranks and beyond, it's time to do more. If black lives are really important to you, so must our stories. Please help us tell the whole truth. The life of black and brown around the world depends on it.
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