In last month’s Newsletter Nick introduced the Watch Report and we continue this new DiversifyTV tradition and expand on it with more reviews. There have been many Watch parties and discussions this month. I’ve always wondered why we have Black History Month when streaming services and catch up services make it so easy to make programming available all ‘Black History Year.
Many channels now have a BLM watch list. Watch Parties with chat options have been springing up in the response to requests from those who now want to learn. What follows is a round up of just some of the shows we’ve seen this month. If you have other programmes that you wish to suggest – please drop us a line. And feel free to comment always.
While we are gradually coming out of lockdown, many festivals and markets and Industry Organisations are still busy online. The Edinburgh TV Festival is offering free passes for Freelancers, PACT are supporting UK Indies with free membership until October (https://www.pact.co.uk/) including a virtual roadshow, COVID advice and online sessions with top execs. PACT has produced a full guide on production protocols during COVID and you can also enroll for a free Screen Skills Covid Awareness course here and you even get a certificate after your course to add to your CV.
BLM has seen a rapid change in attitude. And old films and shows made when times were very different – well that’s what we expect and personally, I’m ambivalent about some of the immediate culling decisions and wonder if they were made with a BAME person in the room. The famous Fawlty Towers “Don’t Mention the War” episode was removed for a while – is there a more classic comedy episode than that? It’s important not to confuse satire with racism. I was glad to see that HBO Max brought the contentious Gone With the Wind back, with accompanying disclaimers giving context about its horror of slavery denial in the form of explanatory documentaries – it is a piece of cinematic history, not in the least because it features the first African American to win an Oscar, Hattie Daniels.
Blackface is another issue though… Little Britain, 30 Rock, The Office, Community, Scrubs, even (controversially) The Golden Girls have been deleting, editing out and apologising for episodes that might now be considered racist. Unlike Gone With the Wind, these shows were not made in the 1930s or even the 70s, and it’s worrying that there are so many fairly recent programmes like this – even Jimmy Fallon and Kimmel were up to it and young YouTubers like Jenna Marbles (3 million views). Blackface was always racist and also, like custard pies – rarely funny. Most of these programmes belong in a museum. Or rather, in the kind of history documentary where the whole show is an apology. Again with more BAME commissioners, writers, directors and senior executives – they are less likely to make such mistakes in the future and the humour might evolve into something a little more.
I loved the quirky strangest of the movie Sorry to Bother Youin which Lakeith Stanfield’s character, Cassius Green, is taught by Danny Glover’s Langford to use his ‘white voice’ in order to be successful. Little did I suspect that ‘impoverished’ white actors were voicing popular black animated characters in shows like Family Guy and The Simpsons. White actors such as Jenny Slate, Kristen Bell, and Mike Henry have now quit their roles and handed back their mics – and black voiceover artists will now have, well, a voice or two.
Director of Programmes Ian Katz has been seeking British Filmmakers’ response to George Floyd and the Black Experience. They are looking for Short and Long Form Factual Programming.
Fatima Salaria, Head of Specialist Factual at Channel 4 said: “This is a great opportunity for black filmmakers to make their voices heard at a crucial time. I look forward to supporting them and helping them bring their ideas to the screen.”
It’s so good to see a little less talk and a bit more positive action. Stormzy has pledged 10 million over 10 Years to help fight racism. Boy Band BTS, and the Weekend and Lady Gaga have also made BLM donations.
During a BLM rally, John Boyega worried that his career might be over after taking part in such a politically charged event. We think he’ll be OK. He’s recently signed a deal with Netflix to make non-English language content. They plan to “develop film projects based on stories, cast, characters, crew, literary properties, mythology, screenplays and/or other elements in or around African countries.”
“Black lives have always mattered,” Boyega said. “We have always been important. We have always meant something. We have always succeeded regardless. And now is the time.”
The most important event in the industry opened for submissions this week.
The Diversify TV Excellence Awards that you made possible.
Some of you have asked – but what happens if there is a second wave and MIPCOM is cancelled? Not to worry – there is always a good back up plan. The 4th Diversify TV awards will take place virtually and/or be streamed online and you can be sure it will be as prestigious, studded, and well attended an event as ever. With all that has happened so far this year, expectations are high and all eyes on you – the diverse filmmakers, talent and execs. If you haven’t submitted your programming yet – please do so here: http://ow.ly/IjH950Aa16Q
BBC pledged £100 MILLION for Diversity and Inclusion
Meanwhile, the BBC has already announced its own 100 million fund to produce “diverse and inclusive content.” The fund was announced by Head of Creative Diversity, June Sarpong (above) on the anniversary of Windrush, and will be spread out over 3 years from April 2021. There is also a target to have 20% of underrepresented groups (e.g. BAME, Disabled, from disadvantaged backgrounds) on screen.
A two-day programme of masterclasses, talks and interviews will take place online from 7-8 July, Aimed at 16-24 years. We got a sneak preview last week and it looks likely to be an impressive and highly interactive and collaborative event.
This month, I’m sure everyone has been asking you what it’s like to be black in the TV industry Podcast. Actually, they probably used the more inclusive (and yet somehow, infinitely less inclusive) term, BAME. Diversify TV’s David Cornwall shared his thoughts with the C21 podcast team along with Derren Lawford from Woodcut Media and David Chikwe from Three Tables.
We are delighted to see Diversify TV’s friend, Mo Abudu (above left) announcing a major deal with Netflix. As an early champion of Ebony Life’s “Death and the King’s Horseman” and Lola Shoneyin’s “Baba Segi’s Wives”, I was personally pleased to see these projects finally cross the finishing line. Netflix’s head of original series in Africa, Dorothy Ghettuba, (above right) announced the deal and praised Mo Abudu’s “passion for creating passion for creating high-quality, riveting multi-genre films.”
“The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives,” will be developed into a series, and Soyinka’s play, “Death and the King’s Horseman,” will be adapted into a film.
Patience, Strategy, Resilience and some good African IP is the key to this success. Stand by for more Netflix news from Nigeria.
Netflix Commits $100 million for Black Businesses.
In an attempt to help end systematic racism – Netflix has announced they’re investing 2% of their holdings – starting with $100 million to invest in banks and institutions that support black businesses. In short, if you’re in the States, they hope that this will help even out the disparity between those who can get a loan for a home or a business, and those who just can’t. This is an initiative that will most certainly help Killer Mike find something to eat (see Watch List) we’re hoping they extend this initiative to the Rest of the World.