Lulu Elliott, founder of RA Agency, an agency that represents exclusively female crew, on how the industry can help drive diversity behind the camera.

Over the last few years, we’ve heard sobering statistics on diversity and how the film and tv industry is slowly improving issues around inclusion. This seems like a good time to talk and reflect over the last 18 months of running RA Agency (an agency exclusively representing women, several of whom are black) who hold key crew positions in sound and camera whether it be in Drama or Features.

We have developed some ideas, suggestions and practical ways that the industry, productions and individuals can use to continue this diversity drive forwards.

Firstly is TRANSPARENCY; this is the key. We need more transparency when it comes to rates and deals. Pay wise why wait for some damning information statistics to come? Such as those that related to presenters’ pay gap and #Publishingpaidme. It has been widely reported that there is a£3.2bn UK pay gap for black, asian and ethnic minority workers across all industries. If it happens there, it will be happening here within the TV and film industries.

In my time at RA Agency, we’ve seen it time and time again. A request has come in for female crew. I am urged by the production company to view the low rates on the table as an opportunity for my female clients. It’s dangerous territory. If we don’t pay black / female crew fair and equal rates then we will collectively create a cheap source of labour and it will create the wrong incentive for the industry to diversify.

By being transparent, it’s a solid precaution to avoid any unnecessary embarrassment further down the line. Productions do not have to pay union rates but it is a choice, and a choice they ought to be making. It is our company policy to always get as close/or higher than the recommended BECTU rates not only because it is  the right thing to do for anyone, but it also protects all parties for any potential embarrassment.

There has been a recent surge in black led drama (I May Destroy You, Yardes, Small Axes) but how much of this is reflected in the representation on set of technical crews in camera and sound? It has been disappointing when you look at who is directing, leading the camera and sound departments, the onset crews are still dominantly white male. There are black directors, cinematographers and recordists ready and available to work, production companies need to source the talent here in the UK, look at the Sporas List.

We also need to see a fair distribution of job opportunities, more job sharing and hiring block by block; dividing the work up and including more opportunities for a truly diverse crew so the end result is more people getting opportunities to show their worth and get that experience.

Job sharing has been tried and tested and proved successful from BECTU’s Take Two, who have created a blueprint and media parents have been job sharing for the last 10 years.

Lastly it is down to individuals like HOD’s and senior crew who should take more responsibility and hire within their grade first with dailies/2nd units. Go over these resources below in your downtime too. Be someone that knows how to help diversify whatever working space you are going into next.

Places to look for Black, Asian and Ethinic Minority crew talent and women: The British Black List, Tv Collective, The New Black Film Collective, Sporas, Black and Brown/BIPOC British Behind the Camera Talent IMDB List, Mama Youth, RA Agency, Women Behind the Camera, Illumantrix and Primetime.

Lulu Elliott

pic: RA Agency Jen Annor 1st AS Boom Operator

Jon Creamer

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