Blog: Bectu’s practical approach is the only way to tackle #OscarsSoWhite

7 February 2020

It’s awards season again, the Baftas last week and the Oscars on Sunday, and unfortunately the lack of diversity at both sets of awards continues to be an issue.

Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of Bectu’s work and I was bitterly disappointed to see the nominations lists for the Baftas. An all-male nominations list for best director for the seventh year running is a terrible legacy for the industry. Just as bad is the gaping hole where people of colour were omitted. The Oscars have only managed one nomination for a person of colour across twenty possible spots.

Joaquin Phoenix’s Bafta acceptance speech as leading actor seemed to encompass what so many of us who are working to improve diversity in the industry believe.

“I don’t think anybody wants a handout or preferential treatment although that is what we give ourselves every year. I think that people just want to be acknowledged and appreciated and respected for their work”, he explained. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a few minutes of your time.

Bectu is wholly committed to prioritising diversity and that’s why ahead of this year’s Bafta ceremony I wrote to its chief executive Amanda Berry. I have requested a meeting to discuss a diversity proposal Bectu is pushing for industry bodies to adopt. The proposal would cover all grades working on a film set and is based on an existing agreement between the Directors Guild of America and many major motion picture producers that already operate in the UK.

The diversity agreement in America focuses on directors’ grades, but Bectu’s proposal would require concerted efforts to increase the number of women and Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff working as heads of department (HODs) and in grades below HOD across the crew. It also calls for an established dialogue between employers and Bectu so that progress can be monitored.

Bectu sits in the middle between employers and crew and we are happy to do the leg work that will result in greater diversity in the industry. Our aim is to find practical solutions for these issues and our members are the ones who tell us what needs to be done.

Just last week Bectu’s branch that represents camera crew members, covering posts such as director of photography camera crew members, camera operators, focus pullers and trainees, organised their first ever diversity initiative in partnership with Primetime. Over two days 230 15-minute meetings took place between Directors of Photography and BAME and female members of the camera department.

The whole idea was to allow these two under-represented groups working in the camera department to make contacts, get advice, and develop a relationship with people who have the power to hire. It is only through these kinds of initiatives that we can start to organically address under-representation.

Bectu will continue to push for these practical initiatives. We will continue to highlight where there needs to be improvement and be the critical voice embedded in the industry to bring about change.

Change doesn’t happen overnight but, with Bectu’s practical support, hopefully rather than #OscarsSoWhite at some point we will be instead celebrating the wonderful diversity being recognised at this acclaimed event.