Toronto: BIPOC Filmmakers Launch Inclusion Initiative to Boost Marginalized Creators

Courtesy of Samantha Kaine

Red11 Productions’ Samantha Kaine

TIFF will host The Independent Media Producers Association of Cinematic Talent as it unveils a roadmap to empower under-represented storytellers.

A group of diverse and under-represented storytellers are coming together at the Toronto Film Festival to make the Canadian entertainment industry less white, as their newly-launched Independent Media Producers Association of Cinematic Talent looks to advance Black, Indigenous and People of Color industry professionals.

Red11 Productions’ Samantha Kaine says IMPACT emerged from a loose coalition of indie producers left marginalized in a disproportionately White Canadian film and TV industry. "I've been working in this industry for over ten years and the doors have been closed to me. There were opportunities I felt I should have had, when it came to funding and pitching broadcasters on shows, and they weren't open to me," Kaine, who is also a founder and executive director of IMPACT, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Against the backdrop of the Coronavirus pandemic shutting down the Canadian production sector, indie producer Coral Aiken of Aiken Heart Films adds IMPACT hatched a "Producer Pledge" to in part encourage established industry players to divert 10 percent of emergency COVID-19 relief funding they received from the federal government to support BIPOC creators.

"We want to dismantle systemic racism and in doing so make the industry a more equitable space for independent producers — especially those who are Black, indigenous and People of Color — and also indie producers who don't have big companies, aren't well capitalized and are just emerging," Aiken explained.

The roadmap for IMPACT to lasting careers for under-represented filmmakers includes making the Producer Pledge an inclusion rider in Canadian indie production, more dedicated financing for BIPOC creators from funders, broadcasters and major production companies, and more under-represented producers, directors and writers being hired by a diversified base of industry gate-keepers.

"We need our own pool of money, readers and decision-makers in order for our stories to be understood. BIPOC stories will never be understood if only White, older men assess them," Charlie Hidalgo, a producer, writer and director with Meraki Moving Pictures, argued.

IMPACT is also calling for equal pay for BIPOC creators too often offered unpaid mentorships that lead nowhere. Karen Harnisch of Film Forge, a producer of indie films by Andrew Cividino and Brandon Cronenberg, said structural change will come for the Canadian industry if under-represented talent and execs unite and collaborate.

"We watched and participated in the push for gender parity. But who came out of that on top were White women specifically. Women of color, Black women, indigenous women were really left out. An intersectional approach is the only way to get lasting change that is truly equitable for all people," Harnisch said.

TIFF's spotlight on IMPACT will stream on Sept. 12 as part of the festival virtual industry conference.