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BFI brings in Deborah Williams to bring diversity to UK Film/TV

Written by Christine Eccelston-Craig

The British Film Institute has finally filled its newly created Diversity Manager position; Deborah Williams will be managing the BFI’s diversity agenda as well as supporting the BFI “Three-Ticks” initiative. Williams has quite a bit of experience promoting equality and diversity in film and other denominations of the media industry where she previously worked as a Senior Officer at the Arts Council England. There; she was responsible for the policy and research of black entertainers and other ethnic minority groups breaking into the industry and how they were portrayed on screen.

The “Three- Ticks” rule speaks on three majorly discussed topics at the BFI, one of which being the efforts to highlight the gender bias roles in cinema, also the push to eliminate the racial inequalities in film including persistent stereotypes and characters based on alluded prejudice.

In addition to all of this, black British comedian and actor Lenny Henry has stepped up and voiced his opinions and has had a much supported ongoing media campaign, which aims to give more opportunities to young minorities with an emphasis on young black people aspiring to be in the UK film and TV industries. All of this will hopefully be achieved through the new diversity agenda at the BFI with strong leadership from Deborah Williams. I think the BFI’s initiative could eventually rub off on other film industry sectors and hopefully not just only within the UK. However the hiring of Deborah Williams in the first place was a good first step as I personally feel that we do need more black leaders in inspirational positions of power. Hopefully this could be the start of change!

Williams’ new role will see her supporting the new guidelines the BFI are implementing and will again hopefully bring about a change in the way many diverse groups are represented in the media. This will initially be through BFI-backed productions but will eventually need to expand to the wider industry. To break down one of the main criteria’s of the BFI initiative, they are striving for Diversity quotas in front of and behind the camera and more accessible opportunities of mobility behind the camera for blacks. It’s pretty obvious that being a young black British citizen trying to break into film or TV is very difficult and jobs are far and few between. Especially without being stereotyped and having to play a racially degrading character. I’d even say it’s equally as difficult for black women. Often represented as the damsel in distress, shockingly butch or as a sexual object. Women characters in the film/TV industry here in the UK are too often  based on male prejudices.

I feel the efforts the BFI are making to rule out this pattern and make it more of a diverse playing field is something that should have been implemented a long time ago, nevertheless it is a positive change. They are finally taking action and aiming to enable a wider range of diverse people to be at the forefront of cinema and terrestrial TV.

Deborah Williams has her work cut out and a lot of work to do to change the way the industry currently is but with her newly assigned role I’m sure she will do us proud (hopefully?).

So let’s sum this segment up, the BFI Film Fund has set up a criteria list, which any UK film productions applying for BFI Funding needs to meet, this includes ethnicity, disability, gender etc all in an effort to improve equality and diversity in film and TV industries. It is a wonderful concept and I commend the BFI for their initiative, however it should have been happening a very long time ago and we have seen initiatives like this before which have not amounted to anything and that’s why we are still in this position now.