Levelling the playing field
24 November, 2016
A piece written in Broadcast Now by Anne-Marie Corvin about diversity organisations offering training opportunities praises Creative Access.
The training available to those from under-represented groups
TV is united in its goal of creating a more diverse industry: it is beginning to use the new reporting system, Diamond, and broadcasters are starting to insist that programmes are made by a broader range of people.
But what are training providers doing to help achieve this goal? Organisations that specialise in diversity, such as Think Bigger!, Creative Access and Mama Youth, say they have never been busier.
These groups are increasingly broadening their definition of diversity to include people from disadvantaged social and economic backgrounds. And the emphasis has shifted from box-ticking training courses towards schemes that allow trainees to learn on the job and secure tangible outcomes: a promotion; regular freelance work; a job and/or that all-important broadcast credit.
This is what six of the top diversity training initiatives have to offer.
Triforce Creative Network
“What people really want at the end of a training course isn’t the possibility that someone from Channel 4 might look at their script; they want a writing credit,” says Fraser Ayres, founder of the 12-year-old networking initiative Triforce Creative Network.
Triforce acts as a production company and focuses on tangible outcomes for diverse writing talent.
To this end, Ayres is launching a training scheme in January 2017.
Six people from different socioeconomic backgrounds will be ‘incubated’ with a group of more experienced TV scriptwriters for intensive peer-to-peer learning.
The new recruits and experienced hands take on writing projects as a team, allowing the new writers to gain experience and a credit, while mitigating the risk for broad casters of using new writing talent.
“They might work on three or four projects throughout the year, which is a better model than working on one project over two years without funding or a guarantee of a commission at the end of it,” says Ayres.
He adds that the broadcaster gets the benefit of a US-style writers’ room without the costs, plus the opportunity to commission work from a diverse range of voices.
Writers can draw on a development fund during their training, which can be spent on their individual needs.
Ayres says: “Those needs may be childcare or travel to London. It means there are no obstacles to anyone taking part in the scheme, regardless of where they are based in the country.”
This dynamic, Lambeth-based social enterprise was set up by 26-year-old film-maker Victoria Ijeh. It operates as a video training and production company for young people who need extra help to achieve their goal of working in the media.
Partnered by the British Film Institute, Iconic Steps is housed on the Southbank and offers an intensive, six-day summer course to introduce trainees to the basics of documentary film-making, music videos and commercials production.
Ijeh organises CV workshops and visiting speakers for organisations such as Betty TV, UKTV, Wildgaze, ITV and Barclays to give advice on TV production, networking and personal finance.
For the rest of the year, Iconic Steps operates as a production company (clients include The British Museum and BioPharm) and regularly employs some of the 100 or so young people who have completed its training scheme.
Ijeh says the corporate work pays for the training, as the company receives no other funding.
She adds that Iconic Steps acts as a “pushy parent” to those who may not know how to take that first step into the media. “A lot of what I say to them sounds like something a mother might say: ‘Why haven’t you done this?’ ‘Have you thought of doing this?’ ‘Have you contacted this person?’”
Some alumni have found work as script readers and production assistants, while for others, the training course has served to affirm that TV is a viable career and has inspired them to apply for university media production courses.
Mama Youth Project/Procam
The Mama Youth Project gives young people aged 16 to 25 from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to receive hands-on training and gain real-world experience in the broadcast industry.
The project works with a range of companies including Fremantle, Endemol Shine and ProCam. The latter has been a partner for the past two years, offering four, 13-week paid technical placements: two for camera work and two for sound.
The trainees are treated like any other new member of staff and, after a health and safety induction, each spends three weeks working across different departments, from the drivers to the sound and camera rooms, the main kit room and the warehouse.
Of the 15 people placed so far, eight have been offered permanent positions already working as sound recordists.
“The scheme has given us an opportunity to tap into a talent stream we might not otherwise have had the chance to access,” says Procam human resources manager Louise Challinor.
Former audio trainee Jack Lucas appreciated not being kept in the kit room for 13 weeks. He says: “I got to go out with the projects team to the Under The Bridge venue at Chelsea’s football stadium to help with the Made In Chelsea end-of-season show. This was a great learning curve as although I’ve had experience working on shoots, they were on a smaller scale.”
Pact Indie Diversity Scheme
Now in its fifth year, Pact’s scheme, which is open to both graduates and non-graduates, came out of a desire at the trade association to fund its own indie-led traineeship. Six big hitters, including All3Media, RDF, Hat Trick and Endemol Shine, collectively fund the initiative.
Bespoke training in social media, digital content, music copyright, finance is provided in-house and via the Indie Training Fund.
To cast its net wide, the scheme has partnered with several diversity specialists, including Creative Access and Mama Youth Project and, this year, Think Bigger!.
According to Bella Lambourne, human resources director at Endemol Shine UK, each trainee now has a mentor, and their progress is closely monitored.
“We’ve honed the training elements of the scheme, but we’ve also had to offer lots of pastoral care that we didn’t realise we needed in the beginning,” she says.
Around 44 trainees have graduated from the scheme to date and next year Pact aims to fill 16 places. It is also seeking to expand the scheme into Scotland.
Successful applicants will be offered a six-month contract at the London Living Wage. According to Pact, eight of the 11 trainees this year have been retained by the company with which they trained.
“The scheme has changed my life,” says 2015 trainee Alex Garlitos, now a researcher at Hat Trick Productions. “Being able to learn and earn is such a rarity, especially in the TV industry.”
Creative Access offers young ethnic minority graduates paid internships in the creative industries. In the four years it has been running, 280 trainees have been placed in film and TV.
Former agent Michael Foster was inspired to set up the charity following the 2011 London riots, and Creative Access now places five people each week in year-long, paid media jobs.
“The conversion rate to jobs at the end of the first year was 95% – 19 out of 20 people who join our scheme remain in full-time freelance work.”
Foster puts the success rate down to outreach work, where they visit communities to educate them about the jobs available in the media; placing students in the right jobs; and mentoring both the employer and the intern during the placement.
The charity also hosts pan-media networking events at companies such as Google, Facebook and Penguin for trainees and alumni alike.
Creative Access has built up an enviable database of talent, says chief executive Josie Dobrin, and production companies are increasingly tapping into this resource now that broadcasters are starting to require a broader range of talent to work on their commissions.
While efforts so far have concentrated on graduates, the charity is currently working with a range of TV companies on a proposal for the Department for Education to create a film and TV researcher apprenticeship for 18 to 25 year-old non-graduates.
People with a disability make up less than 1% of the TV and film industry and Writer’s Cramp aims to boost the numbers by giving them a voice as script writers and script editors.
Launched at The Edinburgh International TV Festival last year, the five-month, entry-level scheme is supported by Creative Skillset’s High End TV Drama Fund and its first student has just completed their training.
According to the training provider Think Bigger!, the recruitment process focuses on finding eight students who demonstrate a commitment to scriptwriting or drama and are seeking their first commission or script-editing job.
The scheme, led by script editor Kate Leys, culminated in a two-week shadowing placement for script editors, for which they receive an allowance, while writers receive individual feedback on an episode outline and sample scene.
The initiative is free but participants need to fund their own travel and are not paid for their work.
Students attended one London-based evening workshop each month, where writers including National Treasure’s Jack Thorne and drama execs such as C4’s Manpreet Dosanjh were on hand to provide advice.
Thorne’s early TV drama, C4’s Cast Offs, featured six disabled actors playing reality show contestants.
He describes his involvement with Writer’s Cramp as “a great privilege”.
“Too much of the disabled experience is represented blandly on screen,” says Thorne. “These are the group of writers to challenge that. Their passion was brilliant and their talent clearly there. The whole thing made me feel a lot better about the future of our industry. I left smiling.”
WHAT BROADCASTERS ARE DOING TO IMPROVE DIVERSITY
Channel 4 will only accept individuals who are disabled or from a BAME or socially disadvantaged background onto its production training scheme next year.
C4 creative diversity manager Ade Rawcliffe says its strategy is to broaden out the definition of what diversity means. In 2016, there has been a big drive on disability, whereas last year, C4’s national and regions diversity scheme focused on disadvantaged social economic groups, including people in the care system.
“The media industry is too focused on training when it comes to diversity,” says Rawcliffe. “Training is not enough. Employing people and giving them opportunities is more important.”
To this end, C4 is running initiatives such as 4Stories, which gives three new writers and directors from under-represented groups the chance to make a half-hour TV drama with Touchpaper.
The BBC has a similar initiative in documentaries with a scheme devised by new BBC2 editor Patrick Holland. Six new directors from under-represented backgrounds are given the opportunity to produce their first long-form doc.
All of the main UK broadcasters recognise the need to increase diversity at a decision-making level and have welcomed the Creative Diversity Network’s second commissioner development programme intake.
Funded by Creative Skillset, in 2015 the scheme gave seven senior-level diverse talents one-year, fixed-term contracts across the BBC, C4, ITV, Sky and Channel 5.
This year, all but one has stayed in employment.
With the Media Trust, ITV offers the Breaking Through Talent and Breaking into News initiatives, which offer practical skills and confi dence to 16 to 25 year-olds. The broadcaster also operates a 12-month paid apprenticeship scheme in departments across the business, from which 85% of apprentices progress into employment or higher education – 63% of them at ITV and a further 10% elsewhere in media.
ITV’s Southbank HQ now houses Creative Access. To date, ITV has offered around 50 internships with ITV Studios and other production partners via the scheme, with more than a third of the those who take part going on to secure permanent roles after their placement.
This year, the Sky News Work Experience scheme was made available exclusively to people from ethnic minority and socially disadvantaged backgrounds, while its new training programme ‘Get into Tech’ provides 60 free specialist training courses for women seeking careers in technology.
Sky is also working closely with external training providers such as Mama Youth Project to support diversity across the talent pipeline.