As production by major U.S. players in Canada surpasses pre-pandemic levels, the Canadian entertainment sector is striving to achieve racial parity to ensure that early gains in diversity and inclusion are meaningful and durable.
Cathy Wong, vice-president of equity, diversity and inclusion at Telefilm Canada, the country’s leading film funder, says THR that a data-gathering campaign launched Jan. 4 aims to ensure that industry changes don’t simply become outliers in a still predominantly white, male-dominated Canadian film and television industry.
“It will allow us to learn more about our film industry, the projects and the needs and act accordingly,” says Wong.
Telefilm Canada is now shifting its focus – and its funding – towards underrepresented creators in order to break down historical barriers and eliminate systemic racism. The federal government funding agency focuses specifically on ways to support black producers and other creatives.
“We have to make changes to make [Black creatives] feel more comfortable and welcome applying to our funding programs,” says Wong.
Joan Jenkinson, executive director of the non-profit advocacy group Black Screen Office, adds that black creatives need to embrace Telefilm’s data collection campaign (which will identify the size and scope of black Canadian creatives in the industry). ) and put himself on the radar of the film’s financier.
“Now what we need is producer engagement, and I really hope that’s scaled up, because this data is fundamental to driving practical system change,” Jenkinson said. THR.
Securing this membership is hampered by a long-standing caste system in the Canadian film industry that guarantees funding to established and predominantly white producers and which historically has left little funding on the table for community members. BIPOC, Canada’s underrepresented groups rarely see themselves in homegrown films and TV series. While Canadians have access to a slew of American television shows from black creators like Scandal, Empire, Dear Whites and Blackish, local television dramas and films created by and featuring Black Canadians are rare. Among the exceptions currently on Canadian television is the CBC legal drama Diggstowncreated by Floyd Kane and picked up in the United States by BET+.
“Data collection is important because we believe part of the reason for the lack of investment in black communities and people of color is due to lack of data,” says Jennifer Holness, co-founder of Hungry Eyes Media, based in Toronto.
On the television front, efforts to expand on-screen representation have been hampered by the fact that Numeris, the Canadian television industry’s statistics collector, has never measured media audiences across the BIPOC, thereby preventing BIPOC creators from having meaningful access to national broadcaster advertising revenue and production subsidies for local television series.
While the efforts of Telefilm Canada and other national funders are welcomed by BIPOC communities, some argue that adequate funding for diversity in Canada’s entertainment sector still has a long way to go.
According to Toronto filmmaker Andrew Chung (White elephant), who is also the founder of the Asian Canadian Film Alliance: “There is progress, but the money available is still low.
This story first appeared in the Jan. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.