Sincerity is so important during times of great change. The lack of it is often transparent, morally redundant and can be seen as box ticking.
The following is written from my perspective; a white male who has seldom faced any prejudice and has, unwittingly or otherwise, benefitted from being born who I am. That is why I sought the feedback of trusted colleagues and friends when approaching this subject, as I would hate to come across as a drum-banging white guy who lacks self-awareness.
Who really thinks that banks or building societies ever truly gave much of a shit about diversity?
Each year our high streets are awash with rainbow flags during Pride week, often flown by some of those high streets’ biggest brands. But, tell me honestly, who really thinks that banks or building societies ever truly gave much of a shit about diversity until it became clear that everyone was showing their colours, so to speak? The important thing to them was to be supportive, whether that was genuine or through fear of being seen to be unsupportive, who knows?
This came to mind recently when I asked some friends what they think of the idea of BAME directors (which is a whole other eyebrow raiser - someone from Botswana and someone from Hanoi are really not that similar a person) being requested for scripts, along with female directors? I receive a lot of scripts, and each one says 'BAME and female director reels are welcome'. Some even preface that with 'needless to say'. Well, here’s my question around sincerity; are these directors actually going to be given the chance to treat on, let alone shoot this script? Will they be offered the opportunity to make a commercial which will, in turn, afford them the chance to make another, and another?
Are those in a position to change the lives of the directors who represent backgrounds sorely lacking in our industry prepared to take a risk?
I responded to one particular script saying that Kode did have a Black director, but not one who had the reel that matched their script. However, that same director is great at casting, and has some terrific visual storytelling on their reel. Could they be considered? I sent the director's reel but it wasn’t watched the whole way through, neither were the individual spots watched to their conclusion. I surmised from that, the director wasn't considered.
To continue the theme of sincerity; are those in a position to change the lives of the directors who represent backgrounds sorely lacking in our industry prepared to take a risk in what I understand is a risk averse time (though when isn’t it?)? And do those same people understand that writing 'please send us BAME and female options' means we should want to change people’s lives, as opposed to simply suggesting that we can.
This is a responsibility for us all, and many are shouldering that responsibility with a passion;, the APA, Pitch magazine, shots’ own features on black directors (simply highlighting the talent is a great way to generate opportunities), Hire Black Creatives and Bid Black, and this is just a small cross section. I can only speak for myself, but I have long talked to directors from every walk of life, and often it’s their work that has drawn me in before I have any knowledge of who they are. Last year, Kode worked with five women on separate projects which we were so happy with, and all because the talent was right, and the appetite genuine.
Small changes, cumulatively made, make generational ones.
There are times that I understand that a client would love to select a director from an underrepresented background, but then someone totally right is also available. The people who I have been putting forward will only be that ’totally right' person when they are given the chance to show what they can do, and not just be a box to tick.
Small changes, cumulatively made, make generational ones. We don’t want to be talking about this in the future because we don’t want it to be an issue that needs addressing. With a sincere desire, followed by actions, this can be achievable.