by Natasha Tony, CEO Elevate Inclusion Strategies
The entertainment industry in North America has been under scrutiny over the past few years and is examining long-standing exclusive practices to move toward a sustainable culture shift.
While we’ve experienced positive strides in support of equitable practices in many ways, the need for education and training to build more inclusive workplaces could not be more urgent.
So, where are we today?
Building Inclusive Film & TV Productions: breaking through the barriers
One area of contention I hear about through my work is ineffective training programs that miss the mark on specific pain points. Many industry professionals feel frustrated and say that DEI training is either too academic or too simplistic without addressing the complex ecosystems within the entertainment sector.
For many years, our approach to Professional Development and Skills Building Training has had an equity and inclusion lens firmly rooted in human rights, policy/procedure and occupational health and safety. This formula has worked well for our clients. While we don’t shy away from the concepts of DEI in our course offerings, the more profound emphasis is to develop and implement the vital skills set each individual on set must have to support inclusive productions.
Inclusive leadership training, inclusive workplace training and conflict resolution training for all crew members and senior/key personnel are just as essential as the technical and creative skills training required for each specific job.
For example, if you are in a supervisory position, you have a responsibility to lead by example and to model inclusive practices that your team will respond to and emulate. Film and TV professionals taking our inclusive workplaces and leadership training understand the need to dive deeper into conflict resolution and its relationship to a healthy work environment. We intentionally offer conflict resolution as a two-day leadership intensive as well as a one-day intensive for film workers, with the prerequisite of taking the inclusive leadership or inclusive workplace training. This way, participants have ample time to practice and focus on navigating conflict with grace and compassion.
It’s been an honour to work with numerous film and television personnel over the last ten years and witness the training’s impact. That experience, along with my leadership coaching and consulting has informed my approach to what industry stakeholders can do to facilitate this skill’s development program.
What can film and TV stakeholders do to support equity and inclusion skills development training?
First and foremost, dedicated resources for this type of training are fundamental. One of the biggest industry challenges is prioritizing the time and funding to implement a training program beyond what some call “checking off the box.”
It’s also necessary to offer inclusion training on a continuous basis. Further, performance measurement systems and key targets must be put in place for training leaders, supervisors, and crew. And lastly, I’d like to see regional partnerships to establish ongoing training initiatives.
Inclusive culture shifts become sustainable when these four foundational steps are incorporated:
- Designated funding from industry stakeholders for inclusive workplace programs and initiatives
- Mandatory inclusive workplace training customized for film and TV professionals
- Dedicated benchmarks to measure progress and impact of industry initiatives
- Collaboration with key industry stakeholders and regions for implementation
Sustained partnerships between industry organizations will open the door to more inclusion in film and TV
My intention is to collaborate with key industry stakeholders to offer Elevate Inclusion Strategies’ Professional Development and Skills Building Program for Film & TV. There are opportunities for collaborations with federal and provincial governments, the Canadian Media Producers Association, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the Unions/Guilds. Ideally, partnerships would result in dedicated annual training funds to pilot Elevate Inclusion’s Professional Development and Skills Building Program. This is a viable next step.
There is a demand for this training at the level we offer because it works and resonates at all levels. Smaller union locals across Canada pool their resources to maximize the number of members who can access the skills-building training and keep the costs equitable by region. I often work with smaller organizations and independent productions to ensure that they get what they need within their budget.
On a cautious note, with progress, we also need to be aware of the risk of retrenchment. Establishing such a program, with dedicated resources and industry support, enhances the industry’s long-term commitment to reconciliation, equity, diversity and inclusion.
Moving Forward: Where are we headed?
As well as the work being done to train key personnel and crew to work more inclusively, I’m encouraged by other positive initiatives within our industry.
A significant culture shift has emerged to address the lack of diversity in the stories being told, who tells them, and who works on them. There is the Black Screen Office, Indigenous Screen Office, Racial Equity Screen Office, and a newly announced Disability Screen Office. These two organizations – BIPOC TV and Film and Access Reelworld provide networks to find BIPOC industry professionals. Telefilm Canada has just launched its Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Action Plan, and Warners Bros Discovery Access includes talent development, mentorship and placement opportunities, all designed to act as a conduit to connect underrepresented talent to its content and brands.
There are chapters across Canada for Women in Film and TV that amplify women and non-binary filmmakers. Film Training Manitoba is also committed to including inclusion and respectful workplace training as part of its program. Many Film Festivals continue to create space for intersectional storytelling – Creative Pathways and the Creative Equity Road Map are two initiatives in British Columbia that highlight the importance of mentorship, skills development and forging paths into the industry. There’s much to celebrate and much more to come.
It was promising to see equity initiatives front and centre during the last round of collective bargaining in the US and Canada. This will deepen the industry’s cultural awareness and commitment to build inclusive practices and positively impact the industry as a whole.
Also encouraging is that some funders have mandated inclusion training for all the productions they fund. Bell Media, for example, is specific about the training that key personnel and crew need to have around building cultural competency and a culture of accountability.
Another good news shift: Some studios are prioritizing paid half-day or one-day training for crew and key personnel before the production goes to camera. This also includes actors working on the production — it allows the crew to bond and talk about how they plan to work together on set. Independent production companies also realize how important this type of training is and often include a budget line for ongoing training and skills development.
The commitment required to open up the film industry and invite more diverse creators and workers means we must be realistic about how the industry maintains a diverse workforce. Based on my labour relations knowledge, professional development and skills building that focuses on inclusive practices is a crucial element in continuing that momentum.
My vision is to continue collaborating with the film and TV industry so that we get to the point of inclusive representation both in front and behind the camera.
This year, I celebrate 30 years of working in the film and television industry. Our work makes a difference — this is my passion, and I am committed to being a part of the change we want to see.