By Dr. Tamsyn Dent, Raising Films’ Research Manager
In February, Raising Films brought together a group of 50 representatives from across the film and television industries along with delegates from support organisations for a half-day conference to talk about what we need to do as an industry to make change for parents and carers.
The event took place at our partner venue, Soho House, and was supported by the BFI Diversity Fund. Its purpose: to engage industry influencers to discuss and develop practical solutions to improve access, career development and retention for parents and carers in the film and TV industries.
Our keynote speaker: Tracy Brabin MP
We were delighted to welcome Tracy Brabin, MP for Batley and Spen, who gave the opening keynote speech. Tracy spoke of her personal story of becoming a mother whilst working as an actress, sharing the personal impact that parenthood had on both her and her partner’s careers. Her speech linked the inequalities within the screen industries to on-screen representation and its power to influence audiences and drive social norms. This is something she has encountered through her work on gender inequality across the workplace as a member of the Women and Equalities select committee:
“It’s so political because if you don’t see it on the screen then it’s not normalised and when we’re going campaigning for better rights on maternity pay with employers they don’t see the normality of it, they don’t see it as a norm so it’s really important.” Tracy Brabin.
Breakout sessions: Encouraging sector-specific discussion
Following the keynote speech, delegates were split into four breakout sessions. These sessions were aimed at specific areas within the sector: individual creatives, policy representatives and support partners where grouped together in one session; employers and financiers in another. Representatives from different broadcasters/unions/support agencies who deploy standards and schemes within the industry met as a group, and finally those employed in the exhibition and distribution sector of the industry came together.
Each group discussion was chaired by one of the Raising Films founders, who provided a series of sector-specific questions they needed to address.
We were fortunate to include an academic consultant within each session: Dr Clive Nwonka, Dr Susan Berridge, Dr Natalie Wreyford, and Holly Aylett. Each consultant was able to contribute the wider academic and industry relevant literature to the discussions.
What was our aim for this conference?
We at Raising Films recognise that we cannot make change happen without engaging those that work within it. Our 2016 survey, Making it Possible, exposed the views of parents and carers who worked in the industry. We now want to engage with those that have the power and support the momentum to make change. By producing this conference, we are contributing to wider discussions on changes in the way we work and a growing awareness of widespread inequalities that remain a factor of our industry, raised by reports from BAFTA, Directors UK and our sister organisation PIPA.
We know that there is a big problem with the nature of project-based labour, the freelance and networking culture that operates in certain areas of the sector and we applaud the work being carried out by Matthew Taylor of the RSA in his role as Chair of the Modern Employment Review.
But we know that these issues go beyond mere employment practices and structures. One of the key comments that emerged from the conference across all the sessions was the need to generate more detailed, qualitative research to further understand both the structural and cultural barriers and develop practical solutions to ensure that we encourage, develop and hold on to talent from a variety of diverse backgrounds.
In her keynote speech, Tracy Brabin cited the global management consultancy McKinsey’s research on why diversity matters in the workplace. We know that there is an economic and social case for workforce diversity so how do we match this knowledge to provide better support for parents and carers in the film and TV sectors?
Conference closing speech: Charlotte Riley
Our February conference was closed with a fiery speech by our first official Raising Films Ambassador, actress Charlotte Riley, who also shared her personal experiences of motherhood and work in the industry, calling for the promotion of good practice and more support across the industry.
It’s surprising when you think it’s an industry that’s meant to be about people and creativity that we can’t put that creative energy towards tackling this problem. It’s not just actors, but every department. I know camera people who don’t see their kids at all when they’re working. – Charlotte Riley
Following the conference, we were able to announce our partnership with the the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund (CTBF) for a pilot scheme to provide financial support for families in the industry (see our previous post for more information about the scheme).
To support the CTBF scheme and our growing community, Raising Films has also created a secure membership area with MadeOpen. It is free to join, and interesting discussions are starting to take place there. Members’ discussions will inform our next steps in talking to industry influencers.
Further Research commissioned by Raising Films with support from the BFI Diversity Fund
Following ‘Raising our Game’ we are delighted to announce the commission of three targeted research projects that have been developed in collaboration with our academic consultants, all of which emerged through the discussions generated at this conference. A further review of the barriers for parents and carers within the exhibition and distribution sector will follow on as a result of this research drive.
We will present initial findings of this research activity in a report, produced with the support of the BFI Diversity Fund, in July this year. The research report will include a checklist of practical recommendations for the industry to ensure better support for parents and carers in the industry. We are excited to be working with both our academic and industry partners, building on our previous research and contributing – with our partners – to a wider movement for change.