Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Creating Diversions

Today, Channel 4 announced that they are issuing strict diversity guidelines to ensure there is greater diversity and representation in shows being commissioned. This means that commissioned dramas and comedies must have at least one lead role played by a BAME, LGBT or disabled performer and 50% of lead roles are to be played by women, if there are no other minorities featured.

So far, so bloody brilliant. But unfortunately these guidelines have been brought in with a threat to cut Channel 4 executives' bonuses if they fail to meet diversity targets.


Because there’s nothing like seeing diversity on TV and knowing it’s there because an exec has been bribed with money. That’s a definite victory for female, disabled, LGBT and BAME performers everywhere. Getting to be on telly because someone’s been threatened with having their pocket money cut is what we all dream of.

What we actually need is encouragement for dramas and comedies to be created with these under-represented groups because it’s more interesting watching something that isn’t just a bunch of white men dicking about. What we don’t want are so-called “minority” performers being crowbarred into programmes, especially given the way that these characters can be sometimes written...

Women can be fully dressed for the duration of their screen time. They can be over 18. They don’t have to be but they can. They can also be over a size 6. Again, they don’t have to be but they can. They can also have a role that isn't defined by their relationship with the leading white male.

Not all BAME males are criminals. Or shop owners. Or wise-quipping mates. They can also have a role that isn't just a bit part in furthering the lead white male's story.

Not all BAME females are oppressed, a sassy best friend or over-sexualised. They can also have a role that isn't just a bit part in the lead female's life, the female who is in a relationship with the lead white male.

When establishing an LGBT character, their first scene doesn’t HAVE to be about confirming their sexual orientation with the audience. They can also have a role that doesn't require them to deal with an unrequited love for or from the lead white male. 

Disability doesn’t necessarily mean being in a chair. Or being a pitiful character. But, likewise, they don’t have to be the villain either. That’s not the way to show you’re TOTALLY RELAXED ABOUT WRITING A CHARACTER WITH A DISABILITY. They can also have a role that doesn't involve them being called upon to give advice to the lead white male.

Basically, don’t base the character’s character on their minority status. You don’t have to ignore it completely but female, BAME, LGBT and disabled characters can have depth too.  If our streets were full of such stereotypes it would be bloody weird, and it’s no different on our screens too. 

Hopefully these new guidelines will be a celebration of the UK's diversity without a crowbar in sight. Hopefully they'll allow previously unseen performers have a chance. Hopefully it'll make television even more brilliant than it already is and be the shake-up that this industry needs. Hopefully I'll finally get a telly credit on my CV... 


Many thanks to @margojmilne, @daisymartey, @hayleynovember & @ShamirDawood who all helped with this blog. 

Saturday, 3 January 2015

2015 - The Year Of Brill

“So when are we going to be seeing you in Coronation Street then?”

“Why don’t you just get yourself a better agent?”

“You know, you could always just do acting as a hobby and get a proper job instead?”

Chances are, especially if you’re a relatively new actor or seeing family or friends who haven’t quite learnt the etiquette yet, you’ve fielded at least one of those questions over the last week or so. In an ideal world, we’ll have all had a wonderful year and will have responses that will stop the asker in their tracks and cause them to retreat back into their eye-watering helping of Aunt Judy’s ‘Boozier Than Oliver Reed’ trifle. However, chances are, you’ll mumble something about the industry being really tough at the moment and try not to get too upset over the fact that your niece’s role in the nativity is a bigger role than you’ve had in years.

But it’s fine, right? You can just sign off 2014 as ‘one of those years.’ Sure, you didn’t land that TV role you were hoping for and it’s been yet another year that the National failed to acknowledge your existence, but, hey, your pyjama draw has never looked so neat and you can now say with confidence that you’ve tried every single flavour of Walkers crisps. Bet Cumberbatch can’t boast such things.

The problem with the cheesy, porty No Man’s Land of Christmas and New Year is that while the rest of the world is marvelling at the novelty of getting up at 10am and being able to start on the gin at lunch, you’re waiting for everything to get back to normal again. Don’t tell anyone but, when you’re self-employed, lie-ins and gin can happen pretty much any day of the year PLUS you’ve got a chance of getting work. But add the festive period into the mix and all you get is an empty diary, people wondering what day it is and constantly being asked “Why don’t you just do panto?”

Basically, the rest of the world becomes self-employed. And if there wasn’t endless cheese, booze and every food stuff now wrapped in pastry, it’d be horrible.

So, let’s look to 2015. Everyone is heading back to work now and although you can’t get up watch an animated film on BBC1 with your breakfast every morning, you can start looking at your career again.

Maybe you’ve made resolutions. Maybe you’ve decided enough is enough when it comes to unpaid work. Maybe you’re finally going to get new headshots. Maybe you’re going to stop lying on your CV.

Whatever your resolution is, or even if you don’t like making them, I do hope that this year you promise not to be too hard on yourself. Obviously, don’t be so easy on yourself that you manage to blitz all 6 series of RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2 days but, also, don’t be so hard on yourself that you beat yourself up daily for not being Tom Hardy.

This job is appalling at times and it’s easy to beat yourself up over the fact that you’re not getting any work. It will feel like that one person you went to drama school with is practically everywhere while the only person who recognises you is the postman who knows you’ll be in everyday to sign for your neighbours’ deliveries. Yes, you’re more acquainted with your pyjamas than you are your agent and the only lines you’ve learnt recently are the ones you recite when someone asks whether you’re working on anything at the moment, but you’re still brill. Really brill in fact. Because if you can keep working hard and keeping hold of that dream that got you through school and still puts a little skip in your step despite constant rejection then you are definitely brill.

So go forth, my actors. Wear your pyjamas with pride, keep that dream alive and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about anything; not even drinking wine at 2pm a Wednesday for no other reason than there was a bottle in the house and you want to congratulate yourself for finally changing that lightbulb in the hallway. And if you do end up blitzing RuPaul’s Drag Race so hard that you end up saying “Halleloo” to everything, you’re still brill.