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Awards Organisers: Are We ‘All About Merit’?



Shiny Awards’ managing director Caroline Bottomley shares some observations and opinions on where filmmaking awards events are on diversity right now

Awards Organisers: Are We ‘All About Merit’?
Most awards events do really badly on diversity statistics. 

It’s hard to celebrate under-represented directors at the top of the game, if most of those directors are male and pale.

But there are actually LOADS of black and brown people, and women, making branded content and music videos, and loads of black and brown people, and women, featuring in them.

I run awards celebrating new directors, which luckily makes it much easier to celebrate work from a very diverse set of directors.

Out of the 17 finalist films in our last Shiny Awards, all but two films were made by directors of colour, or had people of colour as a lead character. Six finalists were women.

Here are some observations:
1. There’s a lot of directors of colour and women entering the industry.
2. There’s a substantial number of production companies signing new directors of colour and women (our last Shiny Awards were for best new director signings).
3. Making work featuring people of colour is a current trend.
4. Awards for more established directors remain overwhelmingly male and white.

And here are some opinions:
More diverse directors are entering the industry because of activism - the many, many grass-roots organisations who actively encourage new and young directors in so many ways.

We activists benefit individually from helping each other.

Trends come, and more importantly they go (who else remembers loads of us women prefacing our opinions with “I’m not a feminist but…” during the Lad Culture of the ‘90s? I hope I didn’t but I bet I did at least once).

If we care about becoming an anti-racist society, we have to keep examining the way we work. 

‘It’s all about merit’ maintains the status quo. Choosing who we award and celebrate is a cultural decision. Choosing how we award and celebrate directors is a cultural decision.

Can bigger awards, for more established directors, celebrate more under-represented people yet? Probably. 

We (and others at our level) can do our bit by feeding more under-represented directors into the industry. But there’s more to it than that.

Diverse representation, apart from being fair and proper, is an exciting and creative challenge. It means examining what we mean by merit and examining what we want to celebrate. There’s more to be done than waiting for diverse representation to move through the pipeline. I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation - please do comment or get in touch if you’d like to discuss.

NB: a note on chosen terminology
“Of colour”: An inclusive term often accepted as appropriate when discussing people of multiple ethnicities at once (e.g. BECTU discussion on anti-racist terminology)
“Black and brown people”: A term that many involved in the Shiny Awards apply to themselves and feels appropriate for this discussion

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Shiny Awards, Tue, 06 Apr 2021 11:22:53 GMT