More than 3,500 workers in the British film and TV industry have signed an open letter calling for senior figures and decision makers to make several “strategic commitments” to reshape the landscape of the sector and “tackle structural and systemic racism.”
The letter comes a week after the Black Film Collective issued a similar statement to Hollywood, with its creators — including producer Nisha Parti (The Boy With the Top Knot), actor-writer Meera Syal (Goodness Gracious Me), actor Indira Varma (Patrick Melrose), playwright Tanika Gupta, actor-director Pooja Ghai and presenter Anita Rani — having revised it for the U.K., where they say the industry suffers from “same lack of diverse representation in front of and behind the camera.”
“While messages condemning racism and advocating for solidarity on social media may inspire hope, the U.K. industry must put its money and practices where its mouth is,” the letter states in its introduction. “A direct line can be drawn from the stories and voices that are silenced and ignored, to the discrimination and biases that are pervasive in the entertainment industry and larger society. This moment in history presents an opportunity for you to be a positive partner for change.”
Among those who signed the letter are David Oyelowo, Chiwitel Ejiofor, Gurinder Chadha, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Asif Kapadia and David Harewood. While the majority of signatories are people of colour, other supporters including Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Ben Whishaw and Ralph Fiennes, alongside behind-the-lens creatives such as Chernobyl producer and Sister founder Jane Featherstone, Harry Potter producer David Yates and The Bodyguard creator-showrunner Jed Mercurio.
The letter underlines four key commitments. Among these are banishing the thought that diverse projects are “too small” or risky, and that having one on your slate is somehow enough. It also urges decision-makers to “empower black and brown independent producers,” pointing out that only 5 percent of producers supported by the British Film Institute in 2018/2019 were people of color. Under the title “expand your vision,” it says the sector should “think outside the box when looking for new talent,” ensuring those who come through the various diversity schemes on offer stay in the industry. Finally, it states that actors, manager and agents must become “more demanding” about the teams behind the camera and to speak out if there’s a lack of diversity.
“Your messages in support of Black Lives Matter are a first step,” the letter concludes. “But after decades of enabling racism in your ranks and beyond, it is time to do more. If Black lives really matter to you, our stories must as well. Please help us tell the whole truth. Black and Brown lives all over the world depend on it.”