Magazine article Screen International

Diversify: To Quota or Not to Quota?

Magazine article Screen International

Diversify: To Quota or Not to Quota?

Article excerpt

The question of quotas for diversified talent in the UK film industry was a hot topic at Screen International and Broadcast's Diversify conference today; experts' views were decidedly mixed.

Femi Oguns, founder of Identity Drama and Identity Agency Group, said emphatically, "We should force a quota." Director Penny Woolcock agreed: "I actually think it's worth a try...it could open the door to new kinds of stories. It's the only way of changing it to force people."

But writer/director Amma Asante said: "I'm nervous about quotas. I've heard too many times even today, 'Oh she's there because she's black or she's a woman'... it's not the reality I'm worried about, it's the perception."

Jason Bradbury of LGBT-friendly distribution company Peccadillo Pictures was also fearful of quotes: "I'm not sure quotas would work, it's a dangerous route to go down."

Writer/actor/director Kwame Kwei-Armah, noted that several careers in the theatre world had been launched internationally after the UK government had previously put penalties on theatres that weren't diverse enough.

Kwei-Armah, who passionately moderated the On-Screen Portrayal panel, said he was sad that this conversation had been going on for 30 years, but he added: "It's important to celebrate the incremental changes over the last 30 years."

Danny Cohen of the BBC added that "Diversity comes in lots and lots of different ways. We want to make sure we're covering it in lots of ways, race, gender, social economics, class, disability, I want us to get better in all of those areas."

He said the BBC had made strides, including commissioning the first Muslim sitcom, Citizen Khan, but more work could be done. Cohen said: "We're genuinely making progress but what are the ways in which we can make faster progress. That's schemes, taking pitches. You have to have a diverse workforce to be as good as you need to be, and I think in the industry overall we're not there yet."Too many urban stories?

Another dividing point is whether too many 'urban' stories were being told, without enough diverse actors being hired for middle-class or upper-class roles. "I've seen a rise and rise again of urban stories, and very little of the black middle class," Kwei-Armah said.

Penny Woolcock noted that her films 1 Day and One Mile Away, defended her films about urban black youths. …

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