EXCLUSIVE: Nearly 6,500 film and TV workers have now signed two open letters calling for an end to systemic racism and the introduction of equal opportunities for BAME creatives at every level of the industry.
The two letters have sprung up independently in recent days, fuelled by a sense of injustice over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and emboldened by the Black Lives Matter movements across the world.
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The letters serve different purposes, but have a shared goal of banishing the lack of diversity that has riddled the UK’s film and TV industries for decades. Their message is simple: enough is enough.
That they have gathered support so quickly is a sign that they have struck a chord, not just with those from diverse backgrounds, but with notable white stars and decision-makers, who recognize that now is the time for action.
The first letter, published by the newly-formed Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic TV Task Force last week, was addressed directly to the UK government, as well as broadcasters and streamers, including the BBC and Netflix.
It called for a raft of industry changes, including boosting the number of BAME commissioners and storytellers by 2022 and measures to end nepotism in hiring decisions.
The letter has doubled its number of signatories to 1,400 since being published on Friday, with notable supporters including broadcaster Afua Hirsch and Kidulthood actor Femi Oyeniran.
The second letter was adapted from a missive published in Hollywood last week by the Black TV & Film Collective. It is addressed to the industry as a whole, and calls on people to “banish” their weak excuses and empower more BAME producers. A-list stars such as Idris Elba, Olivia Colman, Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor are among its 5,000 supporters.
Nisha Parti, the producer of the BBC’s BAFTA-nominated The Boy With The Topknot, helped spearhead the letter alongside friends and colleagues including comedian Meera Syal. It was opened up to white signatories after there was a feeling that change “should be a collaborative” endeavor.
“I think people who historically haven’t made diverse films are signing, in a way to pledge to make changes,” Parti told Deadline. “I’ve had emails from white producers this morning saying, ‘We’ve read your letter and we’d love to talk to you.’ I need to figure out how we can help. But I also hope the demands are simple enough for people to take and use.”
She added: “There’s a confidence now to say that this is not acceptable… I feel like change is coming.”