Changing the Narrative
2020 Status of Canadian Black, Indigenous and People of Colour in Canada's Screen-based Production Sector
IssueEquity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization
Reelworld Screen Institute
Maria DeRosa and Marilyn Burgess
The intent of this report is “to measure and benchmark employment conditions of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) in Canada and the extent to which they participate equitably in Canada’s booming screen-based production sector and shape screen content”. The analytical methods include a literature review, 13 “interviews with BIPOC freelance professionals and industry representatives, and a survey of 663 self-identified BIPOC freelance professionals working in the screen-based production sector across the country”.
The report describes the survey respondents as “highly educated, highly experienced professionals who work in a wide range of occupations in the film and television industry”. Despite their education and experience, there is a “dearth of BIPOC stories and of BIPOC professionals in creative leadership positions (as showrunners, directors, producers)”, which presents “a major impediment to employment for BIPOC talent and other professionals”.
One-half of survey respondents (50%) indicated that they have found it difficult or very difficult to access job opportunities. The survey probed respondents’ perceptions of the barriers that they have faced, and the report highlights the fact that more than one-quarter of respondents (28%) believe that they have been subject to overt discrimination (i.e., feeling “excluded from job opportunities because [they are] a BIPOC professional”). Other barriers include feeling overlooked for job opportunities (45%), being unaware of job opportunities (42%), lacking access to opportunities in their specific field, role, or specialization (also 42%), and lacking “access to professional networks that could help [them] access job opportunities” (39%).
The report concludes that “this survey of BIPOC professionals finds that far-reaching change is needed to improve access to employment opportunities and adjust the colour balance in Canada’s screen-based production industry”. The authors recommend four “future directions” to lower to the barriers faced by BIPOC professionals in the industry:
- Tracking and reporting: The current lack of “reliable data is an obstacle to measuring and evaluating policies and programs designed to cultivate a screen-based production industry inclusive of BIPOC professionals”. The report points to the United Kingdom’s Diversity Analysis Monitoring Data project (DIAMOND) as a model “to benchmark and track the participation of BIPOC professionals in the industry, both on- and off-screen”.
- Incentives and targets: Interviewees for the project believe that funding targets “by public agencies and broadcasters would be an effective strategy to facilitate equitable access to employment”. The report provides another example from the United Kingdom in this regard.
- Inclusive workforce fostered by unions and guilds: The report notes that the interviewees “are of the view that consideration should be given to special membership categories that can facilitate the entry of BIPOC professionals” into unions and guilds.
- Strengthened career development infrastructure: The report outlines a need “for more employment-focused, pathway-driven professional development”, which would “encourage the growth and development of networks between BIPOC professionals in the industry”.