A few months ago The TV Collective was cc’d into a letter sent to the Exec of Drama Talent, Head of Diversity at the BBC and various talent managers at the BBC.

Frustrated by the lack of response, I have been asked me to post to their letter, in the hopes you guys might have some suggestions or advice:

Since you guys are respectively the DG, CCO and Chair of the Creative Diversity Network (CDN) I feel the buck stops with you guys on this issue I am having with BBC Drama and the lack of push to change things diversity wise.  From the email below you can see my previous attempt to BBC Drama and it is still unresolved in the sense no one from Drama has come back to me with any response on my issues.  I guess people at BBC Drama have different BBC ID cards and on the back they have different values and are exempt. In particular the value about “ We RESPECT each other and celebrate our diversity so that everyone give there best” or that they are busy developing more cop shows.

So you see I was going to leave this issue alone and carry on but yesterday I was in Birmingham, you know the multicultural city in the West Midlands; on a shoot I witnessed with my own eyes a BBC Drama co-production’s diversity polices in action and I cannot remain silent on this anymore.

A BBC 2 drama by the name of “Line of Duty” commissioned by Ben Stephenson was in full swing with actors, the actors where 1 Asian, 1 Black and the rest White, a well as a mixed bunch of background extras too.  A true example of a multicultural city in the UK fit for our screen, an effort that would make the Queen Vic proud.

Pictures taken on location of up and coming BBC Drama 'Line Of Duty'

But yet off screen every Jack man on the crew, along with production staff where all white! I was not in South Africa under apartheid but in Brum! Yes as I said this was in Birmingham! Statistically you might get a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic as a runner or some other kind of assistant role.  But there was none! I observed the goings on for 30-40mins, and since I have worked in film and drama I have some knowledge on what goings on, on location.

I felt angry and then embarrassed that in 2011 this still happens on a BBC Drama shoot.  Not only did I see this but it was confirmed to by old drama friend who was an AD on this production. So I am not just miss-seeing things on a shoot. I even took pictures.

But then why would I expect any different? So please can you tell why? Is this part of the CDN and BBC bigger picture? Or part of the “Delivering Quality First” stuff everyone is going on about?

As it seem the norm to my first-hand experience within certain BBC departments.  It first started with the BBC Design Scheme, that scheme to bring in wider groups of people in creative roles off screen in productions. But alas I was not even short listed for an interview and not taking anything away from the other candidates.  But if your portfolio’s was the yardstick to be shortlisted further, then I needed seriously ask someone to give me feedback  to what I did or did not do to fall short”.  My feedback was on how to write a CV, from the person running the scheme, who was only just looking at my CV for the first time.

In my portfolio I tried to show that I have a strong drive to work to the highest standards and I am committed to working with the best TV and filmmaking professionals. My art dept credits from two overseas American film production (all unpaid work) in the art dept, with a production designer great like Thérèse DePrez (Black Swan, High Fidelity, American Splendor, Summer of Sam and Arlington Road) and working with lead art directs from one the biggest film’s to be shot in Manhattan in decades, Will Smith’s film I Am Legand and Ridley Scott’s American Gangster to TV shows like Boardwalk Empire, The Jay Leno Show and 30 Rock. Yet I guess I took the hit for a white middleclass person, as they are so underrepresented in TV Drama roles.

I did a FOI request and only one BAME was short listed for an interview in the scheme and the same for the year before and most probably this year too.

And then there was my failed Holby application too and the feedback from the series producer was the same old catch 22 not enough drama researcher experience to get to the interview short list.  Yet 2 years as factual researcher both international and in the UK, as well as a BAFTA winning drama experience is just not enough. Even the fact that I am AP’ing and Art Directing on a short film being shot later this month doesn’t seem to be enough!

I was told I had passion for drama in the phone call.  But that’s like the careers teacher at school say:” you have great potential for success”

But if I’m doing it right and on merit too, then why does BBC drama feel like a closed shop?

By Anonymous

  • So let me get this right! This was sent to the D.G and Chair of the Creative Diversity Network which is Mark Thompson. And the C.C.O that has to be the one and only Chief Creative Officer Pat Younge.

    But theres more! It was also sent to “Exec of Drama Talent, Head of Diversity at the BBC and various talent managers at the BBC.” and the result was a “lack of response!”

    Not surprised at all! Well I expected better from Pat. But it’s the same old story at the BBC. But sadly its the same across all the channels, they all give lip service on”diversity” but no real action to have continued diversity for BAME talent across every kind of production. Not just drama.

    You can apply the following Stokely Carmichael’s speech at the Oakland Auditorium February 17, 1968 and change Education for media or drama. And after this letter and watching Top Boy and hearing that it’s getting a 2nd series, somehow this seems all so appropriate.

    “Franz Fanon says very clearly, “Education is nothing but the re-establishment and re-enforcement of values and institutions of a given society.” All the brother’s saying is that whatever this society says is right, when you go to school they going to tell you it’s right, and you’ve got to run it on down. If you run it on down, you get an “A”. If I say to you Columbus discovered American in 1492, if I was your teacher [and] you said, “No, Columbus didn’t discover America in 1492, there were Indians here,” I tell you you flunked the course. So education doesn’t mean what they say it means. So now we must use education for our people and we must understand our communities. In our communities there are dope addicts; there are pimps; there are prostitutes; there [are] hustlers; there are teachers; there are maids; there are porters; there are preachers; there are gangsters. If I go to high school, I want to learn how to be a good maid, a good porter, a good hustler, a good pimp, a good prostitute, a good preacher, a good teacher, or a good porter. And education is supposed to prepare you to live in your community. That’s what our community is like. If the educational system cannot do that, it must teach us HOW to change our community… how to change our community. It must do one or the other. ”

    So when they BBC, ITV, C4 and others film in our communities for TV drama and those who do all the filming are not from OUR COMMUNITY only proves the point of “re-establishment and re-enforcement of values and institutions of a given society.”

    BA

  • This will be brief but to the point, becuase my reputation may not be all that much but its all I have.

    I’m running an organisation of over 3000 programme makers with a spend of over £300m, making some of the BBC’s biggest shows – Eastenders, Strictly, Top Gear, Holby, Casualty, Countryfile, Antiques Roadshow, One Show, Deadly 60 and Frozen Planet…to name a few.

    I get hundreds of emails a day, and I did receive the email above. However, as the show it was complaining about was made by an independent producer, i felt no personal need to reply as it had been copied to all and sundry anyway.

    When i look at the dramas that come from the in-house drama department I’m responsible for – Eastenders, Holby, Casualty, Doctors, Luther, Silent Witness, The Fades, Body Farm – to name but a few, I don’t see the racially closed shop the complainant talks about. These dramas are all commissioned by Ben Stephenson.

    I realise the situation behind the camera isn’t as strong, but it is something that we are working on together with our colleagues on BECTU and other unions. We are also crucially working to create the next generation of writers and directors, through shows like E20 , and the Writers Room and Writers Academy http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom

    The reality is there are usually thousands of applicants for every job or entry scheme at the BBC. I didn’t get in my first time, but I persevered and got in eventually.

    Nowadays, with new technology enabling anyone with a passion to shoot, edit and distribute their own content anyway, you can also make your own way forward in ways that couldn’t be conceived when i was trying to enter the industry.

    So, keep up the pressure, but watch who you catch in the crossfire.

    Good luck
    P

    http://www.kickstarter.com

    http://www.youtube.com/creators/original-channels.html

    http://sbtv.co.uk/2011/08/the-new-star-of-google-chrome/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LonelyGirl15

    • The TV Collective

      Hi Pat,

      Hope you are well and thanks for replying. As you might know a group of very talented writers, producers, and directors responded to a Call of Action and met earlier this week to explore ways to enhance their presence in the industry .

      What advice would you offer?

  • Further to Pat’s response I’d like to also add that as Chair of CDN, the BBC recently sponsored an event at BAFTA called ‘Fresh Voices – The Real Deal’ a great new initiative to find Black British writers for television. The aim is to present fresh, new voices and perspectives sought by broadcasters and commissioners. Last week we kicked off with a staged reading of a television drama script. We can post details of the next one on the TV Collective site. The BBC also supports ‘Move On Up’ and has co-run two major Move On Up events in the last 12 months (there’s more info on this here: http://www.bectu.org.uk/events/move-on-up). I will always aim to respond to emails – addressed directly to me – within a reasonable period.

    Amanda Rice
    Head of Diversity , BBC

  • In response to both Pat Younge and Amanda Rice, I’d like to enquire how many dramas (series or serial), writers and/or directors have been developed from the BAME sector and how many were actually commissioned by the BBC to write programmes that were actually screened?

    Also, how many PROFESSIONAL (ie: established, not up-and-coming) writers have been given development/commission’s in 2011 in order to further develop their careers? And how did those projects go – i.e, when can we expect to see them on our screens, or were they discontinued for any reason?

    Courttia Newland