Creative England has been named as one of the best performing organisations for supporting female directors in publicly funded films.
And that's no accident. Since day one we've worked to support under-represented groups of filmmakers, game developers, digital & tech entrepreneurs and creatives to even out the playing field. Central to our approach is our belief that talent is everywhere - but opportunity isn't, which is why we focus on reaching out to creative people and businesses through our regional networks.
The Directors UK commissioned study, "Cut Out Of The Picture - A study into Gender Inequality Amongst Directors within the UK Film Industry", highlights our support of female directors showing that we award almost 50% of our funding to women, plus 42% of the features we've supported have a female director, and women applying to us have a much higher success rate (16.6% compared to 10.1% for male applicants).
As I've commented elsewhere, even though our stats are positive the research really does highlight a dire situation across the film industry. It has simply failed to support talented, creative women. It's time for industry to transform the talk and knowledge of shortfalls into action, and plan some proactive practical steps in order to actually make an impact.
Since the report was published I've been approached to explain ourselves. We are one of the closest to achieving parity, and well ahead of industry recommended targets too. But how exactly are we doing this?
With that in mind, here are my Creative England 'top tips' for supporting equality in filmmaking:
- Realising the business imperative for equality and diversity
Your whole company must not only feel passionate about supporting diversity, but understand the business imperative too. Diversity is crucial for growth and prosperity - many have said that diversity breeds innovation and I agree. It's not just a 'nice-to-have', it's a mentality that needs to be seeded at board and director level and flow through to the rest of the organisation.
This mentality needs to be seeded into your HR strategy too. Diversity of genders, cultures, class, experiences and age needs to be apparent from your workforce in order for you to fully realise your potential as an organisation. Once this takes effect, you'll be able to start working much more effectively to support and develop diversity in practice.
Some argue this is tokenism. I would argue that it's not only a clear way of promoting our commitment to supporting under-represented groups, but also provides a platform for that talent which they clearly aren't getting elsewhere. This has been proven with our iShorts+ Funny Girls programme aimed at female directors in comedy, where we had three times the number of anticipated applicants and Queen of Code - where we reached out to support female games developers. The directors themselves have commented that they probably wouldn't have been able to make these short films if it wasn't for our intervention - which means they wouldn't have been backed by the likes of Idris Elba and Sharon Horgan - and wouldn't have had their world premieres at LOCO Film Festival - and the tickets wouldn't have sold out in record time, twice over.
Any creative organisation needs creative people - that goes without saying. Our people go much further than that and are truly embedded in industry. They are filmmakers, entrepreneurs and creatives who have their finger on the pulse with networks to capture a range of new and emerging voices. These people who I'm fortunate to have as colleagues are open, collaborative with low egos who want to push the talent they work with to achieve its potential.
Pushing talent to the forefront of what we do is a key part of attracting and supporting diverse talent too. We showcase our Creative England projects and awardees on our website and to our networks, so we're not just giving someone cash but helping to promote their project to market as well. We'll always support talent to appear at events, join panels, speak on stage, attend networking and even offer PR and marketing advice.
...Within reason! Work with industry outside of your staff base for advice and mentoring on achieving diversity, and listen to their feedback. You don't want to be indulging every Tom, Dick and Harry who think they know how to run a creative business but those who are involved with industry and are willing to give you constructive criticism on diversity, you should pay attention to what they have to say - regardless of their level of seniority. This includes new filmmakers, seasoned directors or fellow funders. Knowledge sharing shouldn't be undervalued.
Spot where your shortfalls are and do something about it! Make sure your CRM system is functioning effectively, collect equal opportunities data and regularly review it to form a basis of your initiatives and programmes moving forwards. You don't want to neglect where you're succeeding, but then if you recognise that barely any women apply for your programmes for example then it's time to widen the net and change your ways.
If you discover a talented practitioners or an interesting business but they don't fit into any of your programmes, then find some other way to support them. This might be introductions, networking opportunities, or advice. We prefer to have the flexibility to develop in different ways that facilitate the talent rather than always going down a schematised route. Ultimately, diversity is about how you treat people - not just how or where you find them. We have to be sensitive about how to get the best out of people as people, not just 'statistics' and 'assets'.
Invest in marketing (this will make my Chief Marketing Officer laugh, given her budget) make sure your offer reaches far and wide, working with new partners to reach new audiences in creative ways. Over the coming year we'll be teaming up with some unexpected partners to deliver ground-breaking initiatives that we aim to attract diverse groups of creative talent.
This one doesn't need much explanation. Set yourself a target - achieve that target - and see the incredible innovation and creativity that is achieved as a result of your pledge.
By no means have we got it entirely right at Creative England; we definitely have further work to do. But I'm confident we've put in place the right systems, structures and a culture that enables us to continue to be responsive and flexible to our constituency.