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British Film Institute Says Change ‘Too Slow’ As It Releases Findings of Diversity Report

The British Film Institute (BFI) has published its initial findings on how film productions in the U.K. have applied its “Diversity Standards,” a framework introduced in 2016 to address underrepresentation in the country’s film and TV industries.

The standards cover several aspects of diversity including gender, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, gender reassignment, age and pregnancy and maternity, as well as people from lower socioeconomic echelons.

Drawing on analysis of 235 movies produced in the U.K. over a three-year period, the report found that the framework has helped to drive inclusion, both in terms of on-screen content and recruitment practices. But the findings also highlighted areas where improvements are sorely needed, particularly when it comes to providing more opportunities for underrepresented groups behind the camera, especially in leadership roles.

“From this report, and what we hear from industry, we can see the Standards are having a positive impact on representation both on screen and behind the camera, particularly when they are used early in pre-production,” said BFI deputy chief executive Ben Roberts (pictured). “However, it also shows us where change is too slow and that there is more work to be done.”

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As part of its five-year strategy, the BFI has encouraged all producers in the U.K. to voluntarily adopt the Diversity Standards by 2022, as what the British funding body sees as the most effective way to foster real and meaningful changes around inclusion throughout the industry. The Standards were initially introduced for BFI-funded films, and were subsequently adopted by Film 4, BBC Films, BAFTA, BIFA and Paramount Studios.

To meet the framework’s requirements projects must show a commitment to inclusion and satisfy criteria in at least two of four areas: on-screen representation; creative leadership; training; and audience development. During the period covered by the report, 90% of productions studied met the minimum criteria for at least two of the standards, with 86% hitting the target for on-screen representation and 74% for training. Creative leadership and audience development standards were met by 67% and 25%, respectively.

The report found that productions using the standards are largely portraying diverse stories and characters on screen, while also encouraging more women in a range of positions behind the camera.

However, it also highlighted a number of areas that still need “significant improvement.” For example, more than half of the films included in the report cast underrepresented ethnicities as “other and/or supporting characters,” while only a third were cast as leads. Those ethnic groups assumed leadership roles in just 40% of the films, while only 25% offered senior roles for LGBTQ+ crew.

In the areas of creative leadership and training, the inclusion rate based on socioeconomic background, disability and gender identity were “particularly low.”

The BFI says it’s now taking a number of steps to improve engagement with the framework with Roberts noting that the findings will help the organization “see what targeted action we can take to see broader adoption of the Standards across the full breadth of the industry.”

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