A Minority Writer’s Struggle.
Diversity, Representation, Inclusivity and BAME
Diversity, Representation, Inclusivity and BAME. What is it?
You would be forgiven, for not understanding the need for so many different ways of saying, “Stop artificially holding back our (minority) stories, characters and history”. It isn’t as eloquent as saying either of the words above, which, are infinitely more resonant.
Diversity reflects a range of perspectives. Representation as it pertains to storytelling, is about the depiction of something. In this case it is about addressing the lack of representation. Inclusivity is therefore, about becoming part of the whole. Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) is used mostly in the UK as a way of amalgamating the issues these seperate ethnic groups encounter. No one gets left behind, especially, if you unite the discourse as one complete issue. In this article, lets call the discourse and everything related to it ‘DRIB’ for short.
The Public Call For DRIB
This is the Genesis of hope for minority writers. All of a sudden there is a great big void for you to fill. You can’t help but get excited at the prospect of telling a story you have always longed to see on the screen or in another popular format. Commiting yourself to the task of filling this void, you study, you practice and you of course excel. What could possibly get in the way of your meritocratic rise? The fact that there are invisible steps you need to climb perhaps…
The Structure Has Not Changed
There is no point calling for DRIB, especially, if the structure in place, is not conducive to its constituents. This is the part that most writers and indeed other creatives who have seen their chances marginalised find shocking. There is a call and outright demand for these new stories and points of view. However, the decision makers are still the same, the processes to having these stories produced are still the same and even the extremely prejudicial road to representation remains unpaved. What exactly has changed?
Surely The Cream Rises…
The problem with that way of thinking, is that it places none of the onus to find those worthy, upon the existing structure and decision makers. Doing what has always been done, is not going to get the very best talent into the opportunities they so richly deserve. The cream can only rise to the top if it is given a chance to. What would you do?
What Needs To Change?
The one hundred million pound question! This isn’t Hollywood, you cant (Faux) re-invent yourself in one calendar year. You don’t go from marginalising groups of people, to being a safe zone in which, everyone is welcome overnight. However, you can put in place the types of culture and indeed minimum standard, which, is going to make the transition a lot easier to understand. This would be extremely for those who simply cannot empathise from their lofty position in the majority.
The Attitude of Gatekeepers
A line has to be drawn between what is inbounds and relevant versus what is speculative and irrelevant. Someone who submits their work for consideration, should not be subjected to critique which, doesn’t take time to consider the research and possibly even first hand experience of the situation. In short, just because in your life, you have had no experience dealing with a particular situation, it doesn’t mean the material isn’t relevant and important to people that have. Having read some of the worst feedback of all time recently, I feel this has become a regular occurence when dealing with minority stories.
All things should be equal, and they would in an ideal world. If someone makes a slavery film for instance, and claims it is historically accurate, then a minority filmmaker who wants to tell the story from the opposite perspective, should get the same opportunites and leeway to do so. Give and take…
Not everything needs to be compared to the absolute best example there is. Especially, when it has never been seen from this particular perspective before. There are plenty of headscratchers being made. If the argument against someones work is simply that it doesn’t match up to the greatest of all time…
Yes, it happens! You want to tell one story from your (personal/cultural) perspective, and all the feedback you get is somehow comparing it to a masterpiece. Not favourably, but in the hopes of discouraging you from trying. Can you imagine, going to see a Doctor, and then telling them, unless they are the world’s leading physician in this area of practice, they are useless. Unheard of! Especially, someone starting out. What?!?!
Names on Feedback
This could be an unpopular perspective, but I would definitely welcome knowing who exactly is providing the feedback on submissions, calls for representation etc. Feedback like, “We just didn’t connect with it” means absolutely nothing if there isn’t any clues as to who the ‘We’ might be. The cloak and dagger feedback system has to go. It would be a tragic situation indeed, if writers from DRIB backgrounds had to resort to submitting without names attached (A different identifier in its stead) in the hopes of receiving fair treatment.
Provide A DRIB Focused Platform
It should be obvious by now, you can’t simply leave it to the benevolence of the industry. The issues wouldn’t exist in the first place, if that were the case. Should it be public funded? No, not necessarily. Reduce the funding available to the companies who show the worst DRIB figures. Re-distribute it to the platform. The breaks they get tax wise? Same thing, until you’re showing compliance, re-distribute it.
This platform will have its own multi background script readers, multicultural producers, agents, managers etc. Storytelling is at the heart of the focus. Streamlined business is beneficial to all involved. Full transparency is what will keep this platform relevant.
Eventually (Not long) the DRIB platform will be self sufficient. The companies who had a hand in funding it, they get dibs on what it produces. They don’t have to get into the day to day running of this place. Their patronage is rewarded with first class products. It’s not something for nothing, it isn’t charity. It’s understanding there has been some negligent practices along the way and addressing it. If the UK does not keep up with the demand for unique storytelling that slides away from the usual, it may never get another chance to come back.
What Type of Success Could This Encourage?
For a start, you’d slow the talent drain which the UK is fastly becomming famous for. So many world class creatives, have had to leave these shores to receive their due. Hollywood is an ally, however, they are also direct competition to the UK. Can the UK, continue to be so grossly outperformed, by the very entity that takes its best talent and gives them a platform to shine?
On that basis, most Brits will have Hollywood as their preferred employer. That isn’t good news for the UK. This is one of the measures that just might counter the feeling of inopportuneness many creatives get from the UK.
Think about it, the brightest and best making their mark here. It will encourage future generations to do the same. Of course, it will also aid the UK’s bottom line. With Brexit around the corner and not a great deal to look forward to. We are going to need the creative powers this country is known for, to help us all through it.
What Are Your Views On DRIB?
Have any ideas of your own you would like to share in the comments section below? Perhaps, you do not think there is a minority representation problem? Are you happy with the current state of affairs? Whatever, you’re thinking, you’re more than welcome to share your opinion with other readers in the comments. I’ll do my best to approve comments in a timely fashion.
About Jay Mullings
Jay is a very talented, multiple award winning Black British Screenwriter. As early as age 9, Jay has enjoyed writing stories that make people think, feel and laugh. He has so far found the UK to be a less than perfect atmosphere, often objecting to his unique style of storytelling, despite it translating to a vast number of successes overseas. Jay wants to share his stories with the world and also, help other writers facing similar obstacles.