Open letter to the Chair of the CDN and Head of BBC Drama – Why does BBC drama feel like such a closed shop?by The TV Collective November 20, 2011
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.
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?