Saving Mr Banks producer Alison Owen has claimed that diversity in UK drama is being hampered by the increasingly international nature of the genre.
Owen, managing director of Ruby Film and Television, said she had seen on screen diversity “get better and then get worse” in recent years, highlighting attitudes in other nations as a barrier.
“When I started in the industry, funding was very much domestic from the UK,” she explained. “But what’s really difficult is if you’re trying to raise money for something and you’re raising for an international market. Try selling something to Italy with black people starring in it, try selling something to Asia with women in it. It’s really hard.”
Owen added that it was “dispiriting” as she had “fought so hard” for women and ethnic minorities “only to see that bit eaten away as international sales form so much of the funding these days”.
Speaking this week at a diversity event organised by campaign group Act For Change, Owen was asked how she combats prejudice and replied: “I will ignore it and put my budget down so I don’t have to sell to that country.”
Dancing on the Edge writer Stephen Poliakoff, who was also on the panel, agreed with Owen’s argument about international funding, but said the industry needs to look closer to home to combat diversity issues.
“The basis for all drama, television drama, is it starts with the home market and very few people run television channels [in the UK] - less than 10 people. We can make a real difference. It’s not like taking on the whole of Hollywood, we’re taking on very few people,” he said.
The Act For Change Project was formed by actor Danny Lee Wynter earlier this year after he watched a trailer for ITV’s Where Drama Lives and realised that no BAME actors were included in the minute-long marketing campaign.
The Project has set out a manifesto calling for an independent body to be established to monitor diversity levels in drama by 2015. In 2016, it wants the Ofcom broadcasting code to include a guideline which requires production companies to audition at least one BAME actor for every leading role.