in focus


There has been a deserved round of hand wringing among film companies and moviemakers here recently, following the publication of a terse report that says ethnic minorities and the poor are finding it tough going in the U.K.'s audiovisual job market.

Everyone involved in the film biz knows just how hard it is to get a movie made, but for those from ethnic minority communities or poorer backgrounds, the barriers are even more imposing.

"There is definitely a sense that there is black filmmaking going on out there but it doesn't often cross over into the mainstream," says Peter Carlton, senior commissioning editor at Film4, the moviemaking arm of Channel 4.

Carlton also thinks "there is probably a lack of awareness of black cultural diversity among those commissioning films. Black filmmakers should feel able to make movies across the range of genres whether or not they involve so-called black issues."

For this situation, there is no "but" coming. The methodical report, written by the Working Lives Research Institute at London Metropolitan University and backed by government-backed training organization Skillset and trade body BECTU, says it in black and white.

Carlton and Film4 are determined to redress the balance. Film4 is setting up a development forum with indie filmmaker Marc Boothe's B3 Media to "open dialogue" and "break down barriers that have seen cultural breakdowns" between commissioners and black and Asian filmmakers.

"Black, white and Asian — there is a real paucity of projects looking at the cultural diversity of Britain today anyway," Carlton says. "It is slowly changing, but it is that big thing of, until people start to see it, they don't think they can do it. Until there's a body of work to refer to, then no one will be able to move on."

British-born Asian filmmaker Asif Kapadia, whose latest movie, "Far North," unspooled to critical acclaim in Venice and whose first feature, "The Warrior," was shot in India with Indian dialogue, encountered huge difficulties when starting out and agrees on the quantity of work required to reference.

"People who commission films have to open up their minds a little bit more to the stories out there," Kapadia says. "You can only tell the stories you're interested in and try and make the best film you can."

While he says it's a battle for people of color, it shouldn't be an excuse not to try.

"You just have to get out there and do it yourself and get a loyal family (crew) around you," Kapadia says, citing Spike Lee as an early inspiration. "You just have to write and direct the best thing you can."

Food for thought for all story tellers out there.

Stuart Kemp can be reached