Development blog: Diversity

Development blog: Diversity is the Next Big Thing

iFeatures Development Blog.

Whilst partaking in Birds Eye View’s inaugural filmonomics programme, producer Marcie MacLellan was introduced to  Christopher Granier-Deferre, Executive Producer of iFeatures, Creative England’s innovative low budget filmmaking initiative. Joining director Dan Kokotajlo and writer Charlotte Wise , Marcie submitted a feature film project, Apostasy, to the programme and shortly afterwards learned that the project would receive development funding. In this blog series, Marcie provides an account of her development journey with the iFeatures programme. 

Here, Marcie discusses how diversity in film is the next big thing…

Putting Diversity on the Agenda

When it comes to tackling diversity in film, it’s proven to be a contentious issue. Generally speaking, the majority of people I’ve talked to or worked with agree that the industry is long overdue a shake up and that the benefits to be had will be many. But, exactly how we are going to better represent the world we live in – both in front of the camera and behind it – is a much more difficult topic to agree on.

The BFI is taking a stand on this issue. And what’s more, it is putting its money where its mouth is. For any new film seeking BFI backed funding, it must firstpass its new three-tick system that guarantees the film is meeting at least the minimum in its diversity requirements. This means reflecting diversity in gender, social mobility, race and disability.

This is something I will be taking to heart, given that I am currently a part of Creative England’s leading film development programme, iFeatures3, supported by the BBC, Creative Skillset and the BFI. With gender diversity among its requirements, it is also particularly relevant to me as I’m among a very small percentage of female producers in this industry. But gender, rightly so, is just the beginning.

To make such a significant challenge feel manageable, the BFI has published a thorough set of guidelines. The goal is to get at least one tick from each of their three categories.

  1. Onscreen diversity: This bit is fairly straight forward. The BFI are looking for films where”the narrative reflects diversity through the story and its characters,and explicitly and predominantly explores issues of identity relating to ethnicity or national origins, women, people with disabilities, sexual identity, age and people from a socially disadvantaged background.” They also place value on films that “attach value to aspects in relation to religion or beliefs.”
  1. Offscreen diversity: This gets slightly more complicated – not in its concept but in its execution. It starts off easily enough saying that the Director, Scriptwriter, Composer or Cinematographer must be from a diverse background. It then goes into very specific breakdowns of percentages required across heads of departments, crew and production company staff.
  1. Creating opportunities: This all comes down to the production company itself. In a nutshell, it essentially asks that production companies offer paid internship, employment or trainee placements to people from diverse backgrounds.

Fortunately, in the case of our feature, Apostasy, we’re well on the way to earning our three ticks. In fact, the key elements of our story were a perfect match from the start. Our lead characters are female, our story is set amongst the Asian population of Oldham, a key supporting character is disabled and our film centres around the subject of religion. When it comes to diversity behind the camera, our scriptwriter and myself are female as is our preferred DoP. That said, we’ve still got more work to do to get a perfect score.

As for why the BFI is implementing these new guidelines, their recent press release summed it up best. It is looking “for a fair reflection of people from different backgrounds in every aspect of our work – for the sake of greater creativity and authenticity, to widen the talent pool, to offer fair access to the industry and to introduce new voices and untold stories from across the UK. 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.”

Written by Marcie MacLellan

Marcie MacLellan is co-founder of Incontext Productions, a content production house based in London, England. She has a BA in Journalism and a MA in Screenwriting and Production. She is the producer for Apostasy, a feature film currently in development with iFeatures3. Stay tuned for her next blog about the iFeatures process.

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