For Canadian film and television gatekeepers, “diversity” is an easy word to toss into a press release or slip into a panel conversation. Yet an all-too-common refrain from those in power is that it remains a challenge to actually find and recruit diverse talent in an ultra-competitive industry. Which is where the new website Film in Colour comes in.
Launched this week, the initiative is intended to act as a sort of Internet Movie Database for Canadian filmmakers who identify as visible minorities. Directors, writers, producers, editors, cinematographers, production designers and production assistants can sign up for free to make a detailed profile, which collected together serve as a rebuke to the argument that Canada just doesn’t have enough diverse talent on offer.
“I noticed a trend in press releases over the last little while of co-opting the word ‘diversity’ as a synonym for gender parity. In other words, tangible efforts geared toward gender parity, which are obviously needed, that are being championed as progress toward ‘diversity,’ while quietly leaving filmmakers of colour out in the cold,” says Pavan Moondi, the Canadian filmmaker (Diamond Tongues, Sundowners) who helped start the site.
“From what I’ve gathered anecdotally, this deliberate PR-speak has actually made things worse for filmmakers of colour over the last couple years. I wish I could cite some statistics, but aside from the Writers Guild of Canada, nobody is even collecting data as far as I know. I understand Telefilm is planning to change that this year.”
Moondi built the database with the assistance of BIPOC TV & Film, a grassroots Toronto organization focused on the representation of black, Indigenous and people of colour in front of and behind the camera.
“We’ve always been interested in the future of a database because of that common excuse in the mainstream Canadian industry that they can’t find the writers or the actors or the directors, that they don’t know where these people are. The truth is, they’re not looking, and we all know that this is a business where it’s not what you know, but who you know,” says writer and director Gillian Muller, a senior board member of BIPOC TV & Film. “So now we’re able to have such incredible talent all gathered in one place, and everyone’s ready to get to work.”
The site, which already has dozens of filmmaker profiles, is also intended to act as a hub where artists can connect and help shape the industry they want to be part of.
“This is yet another example of BIPOC filmmakers taking matters into their own hands. The industry often says it doesn’t know how to find BIPOC talent, which I personally feel is an excuse, so here you go,” Toronto-based director Amar Wala says. “Film in Colour puts the names right in front of you. It’s part of a trend I see of racialized artists coming together to push the industry forward.”
Film in Colour also urges industry decision-makers to “walk the walk” by signing up on the site as a supporter and by posting job opportunities.
“We have to make it really easy for people to help the cause, and really hard not to,” Moondi says. “Otherwise, they’ll just keep kicking the can down the road, as has been the case for the last few years.”
In a year’s time, Muller hopes the database will become the go-to resource for producers, and says discussions are now under way for how Film in Colour can work with the industry’s various unions and guilds.
“We have to make sure that basically the BIPOC community has to be undeniable, because we’re held to a higher standard than I think the dominant culture is,” she says. “And I would like to see the end of the excuse of, ‘We just don’t know anyone.’ ”
Yet, as Wala notes, Film in Colour also only exists because diverse artists decided to be pro-active. “I still lament the fact that all this labour falls on the shoulders of BIPOC artists with little to no power," he says. "The institutional powers in Canadian film and TV should be doing this work.”