Sophia Ramcharan on the NFTS Black Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) Leadership Programme
Posted: Mon, 25 Apr 2016 17:13
Audience Development, Diversity and Engagement Co-ordinator - Broadway
Film Programmer and Producer
As one of the six-participants on the National Film and Television School's first Black Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) Leadership Programme, I'll undertake an intensive six-month programme of individual training, coaching and mentoring, allowing me to rapidly develop my career confidence in today's industry, with the ultimate aim of developing my leadership skills.
The BAME Leadership programme is a new programme to rigorously encourage diverse representation in the film industry, bringing on the next generation of diverse talent working at executive level in production, distribution, sales and exhibition. Supported by Creative Skillset, the scheme is aimed at emerging film business executives from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic backgrounds with a proven track record and the potential to lead in their industry to take part.
The programme kicked off with a 2-day immersive boot camp for the group as a whole with sessions focussing on building and honing leadership skills. The boot camp consisted of a packed schedule of guest speakers from across the film industry, including Ben Roberts and Ben Luxford (both from the BFI), Duncan Kenworthy (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill) and Finola Dwyer (Brooklyn). The venue was the Über modern Ingenious Media offices; very inspiring!
As a group we gained a wide ranging insight into the financing, sale, business affairs, marketing, domestic and international marketing/distribution of film, including up-to-date analysis of current market and financing conditions, and the practical and negotiation skills required to facilitate a project's success.
Participants were then matched with a mentor (a senior executive) for the duration of the initiative, and allocated sessions with a career coach. I am absolutely delighted that my mentor is Duncan Clark, President of Distribution at Universal Pictures International.
Why the need for a Leadership Course to target specifically BAME communities?
Targeted support of under-represented groups to encourage leadership is an essential strategy to address the current imbalance of diversity representation and equality of opportunity, particularly in arenas of strategic-decision making, such as commissioning and production. In a recent article the BFI stated:
"…picture of inequality among the workforce is bleak when looking at senior positions …fewer people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds (BAME), women and people with disabilities are employed in senior positions. What's harder to quantify is the effect that peoples' background plays in how successful they are in film, but anecdotal observations suggest that class is a strong factor affecting people's engagement with film and progression within the film industry".
Not very encouraging, I'm sure that you'll agree.
What is positive is that the industry does recognise that diversity is good for business. Variety magazine highlighted the "wildly inaccurate" figures when predicting the opening-weekend results of films with diverse leading cast, citing "Straight Outta Compton's $60.2 million debut was roughly $20 million more than most trade publications had predicted". Diversity means choice, and from my experience in films exhibition, I do know that audiences are thirsty to see fresh ideas and new cultural perspectives.
The BFI also support this view stating that "Diversity is not only good for creativity, it's also good for jobs. It supports economic growth, it taps into what audiences want to see and it makes good business sense".[ii]
I genuinely believe that the film industry is a fantastic place to work and I don't believe that "gatekeepers to power" are particularly racist or prejudice, however as part of this discussion, we should consider the phenomenon of unconscious bias, defined by the Equalities Challenge Unit as:
"Implicit or unconscious bias happens by our brains making incredibly quick judgments and assessments of people and situations without us realising. Our biases are influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences. We may not even be aware of these views and opinions, or be aware of their full impact and implications."[iii]
Social-economic factors and class are also important considerations when looking at access to opportunities and career development, in an industry where professional industry networks and contacts are critical to progression.
I'm not a supporter of nepotism, for me finessing the craft of the business is paramount. I'm an experienced film producer and programmer and it's important for me to be considered for my skills and abilities. As a black woman I'm not asking for special treatment, simply equal access to opportunities.
So, more to share with you in my next blog post, I'm looking forward to the journey ahead.
Sophia Ramcharan is based at the Broadway Cinema as the Audience Development, Diversity and Engagement Co-ordinator.
To read the BFI report in full see: http://www.bfi.org.uk/about-bfi/policy-strategy/diversity