A host of major film and television companies have pledged their support of U.K. screen agency Film London’s screen diversity initiative, Equal Access Network. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has committed a £50,000 ($65,700) funding boost to the scheme, Film London, the U.K. capital’s screen industries agency, announced Thursday.
Sony Pictures Entertainment, HBO, ITV, Pathe, Studiocanal, Film4 and Working Title are among 17 companies to pledge early support for the initiative. Each of the companies has committed to provide practical support in one or more ways, including paid internships for new starters involved in the Equal Access Network; “returnships” for those re-entering the industry; speakers and mentors for masterclasses, learning and networking events; and a promise to interview Network candidates for all entry- and junior-level positions.
“Londoners from all backgrounds should be able to see themselves and their stories on screen,” said Khan. “By supporting the Film London Equal Access Network, we can encourage employers to improve recruitment processes and ensure all Londoners have access to the career opportunities the growing film industry provides. I’m delighted that some of the major film and TV companies are backing this initiative, and I’d encourage others to follow suit.”
First announced in January, the Film London Equal Access Network aims to tackle the lack of diversity in the British capital’s screen industries to reflect the city’s diversity. The Equal Access Network has already provided training and opportunities for more than 250 participants since its launch.
The new funding from the mayor’s office will help Londoners from under-represented backgrounds to secure high-quality training as well as paid opportunities in film and television, and to encourage employers to find new approaches to recruitment to ensure a more diverse workforce. It also supports an extensive program of masterclasses, workshops, mentoring schemes and more. Additional funding for the scheme has been awarded by the ScreenSkills High-end TV Skills Fund, focused on the post-production and VFX sector.
In March, a report commissioned by the British Film Institute on workforce diversity in the U.K. screen sector between 2012-2016 showed that only 3% of production personnel working in the sector were from ethnic-minority backgrounds and just 20% were women. The Equal Access Network offers career support and individual advice to new starters, as well as mid-level and returning employees. The network aims to get 180 people into paid work in the next year.
“To maintain our world-beating position we must invest in a diverse creative workforce for the future, attracting the best and brightest talent from communities across the capital,” said Film London CEO Adrian Wootton. “With such investment and commitment we are looking forward to securing more paid opportunities in film, TV and post-production than ever before.”
Other companies committing their support to the initiative include Altitude Film Entertainment, Bankside Films, The Ink Factory, Two Brothers Pictures, Playground, Anton Corp., Objective Media Group, SunnyMarch, Rocket Science, and Michelle Kass Associates.
The announcement came ahead of the annual Mayor’s Gala at the BFI London Film Festival, which takes place on Saturday. This year’s Mayor’s Gala screening is Matthew Heineman’s “A Private War.”