Urgent Call For Change For Disabled Talent In The Screen Industries

The BFI with its Disability Advisory Board today launches Press Reset, a short film and digital campaign urgently calling for the screen sector to change how the industry engages with disabled talent behind and in front of the camera. Press Reset will screen as part of a panel event showcasing Rising Phoenix, a new documentary directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui, on which 16% of the film’s working days were fulfilled by people who identify as D/deaf or disabled. Rising Phoenix tells the story of the Paralympic Games and will launch on Netflix on 26 August 2020.

The Rising Phoenix event saw a discussion on how to unlock barriers to authentic representation of disability on screen and of creative and crew identifying as disabled gaining access to the work in the industry. It was introduced by Chair of the Disability Advisory Board, Andrew Miller and hosted by BFI Advisory Board member Kim Tserkezie.

As the majority of production in the UK has been on hold due to the Covid-19, Press Reset urges the industry to ensure there is equality for all, particularly in terms of access for – and representation of – disabled people, as productions begin to restart. The RESET of the campaign offers clear and concise actions to rebuild an industry which is more inclusive and with equality of opportunity for all: Recruit responsibly; Engage with the D/deaf and disabled community; Set targets; Equal Pay; Think about access.

Press Reset sees disabled talent calling for urgent change:

Adam Pearson, presenter, actor and campaigner

“Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, as far as disability and inclusion was concerned, the industry was very much broken. And now we’re in the midst of Covid, the industry it’s pretty much broken for everyone. Welcome to our world!”

Lindsey Dryden, director and producer

“We don’t want to go back to the way the world was before, because it wasn’t working for so many underrepresented, marginalised and incredibly talented artists. If you’re thinking about your bottom line, you could actively include and cater to the 13.9 million disabled people in the UK who are longing to see themselves depicted on screen and in the arts. And who would pay money to see themselves on screen and in the arts.”

David Proud, actor and writer

“If we’re being brutally honest, the industry was just wasn’t working for disabled artists. And when disabled stories were being told, they were largely being told by non-disabled people. When we rebuild our industry, don’t rebuild the barriers. It is really time the harness that rich diverse mix of talent and let disabled people tell their own amazing stories.”

Frankie Clarence, actor

“The media in the UK is on the brink of being irrelevant because it is not replicating reality, i.e. the reality of everyday life of disability. We have this opportunity now to press the reset button and actually capture what reality actually is.”

Kyla Harris, actor, writer and activist

“Disabled people are often left out of the debate about diversity, but we need to be included in these conversations and included in the industry. We are full of diverse, interesting, authentic stories, and it is time to include us from script to awards stage.

Sam Renke, actor

“Don’t be scared of using the ‘D’ word disability needs to be talked about, and it is fine if a disabled person is at the forefront. Invite disabled people to the table, we can direct you to a whole host of disabled talent.”

Andrew Miller, UK Government’s Disability Champion for Arts & Culture

“Before this pandemic, representation of disabled people was wholly inadequate in our industry, but solid progress towards equality was being made. We mustn’t allow the pandemic to risk disabled people becoming invisible in our media once again. It’s time to Press Reset.”

Dan Edge, actor

“This is a time for us to press the reset button. To make sure that all D/deaf and disabled talent are included in the film, television and theatre industries moving forward.”

Press Reset is calling for the screen industry to:

  • Recruit responsibly – there is an abundance of great talent within the industry and therefore it’s best practice to avoid “cripping up”.
  • Engage with the D/deaf and disabled and inclusive arts community. “Nothing about us without us” – disabled stories or characters should not be created without the input of disabled people. See list of organisations that can support this: https://www.bfi.org.uk/supporting-uk-film/diversity-inclusion/press-reset-resources
  • Set targets for D/deaf and disabled talent on and off screen and use paid job opportunities to help achieve them.
  • Equal Pay – commit to equal pay so that D/deaf and disabled talent are not expected to give their time or advice for free.
  • Think about access – improvements usually have wider benefits and not all of them cost money. Start by making yourself accessible to D/deaf and disabled artists.
  • And finally, Be an ally and an advocate meet new D/deaf and disabled people, connect and amplify talent, create connections and challenge if you feel something is missing or lacking.

Press Rest builds on the BFI’s work to break down barriers for disabled talent in the production industries. This follows the commitments outlined with the BFI Disability Advisory Board in February 2020, at the regular Busting the Bias event: https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/announcements/bfi-reveals-commitments-disabled-filmmaking-community-busting.

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