Labour has drawn up plans that would force film production companies to ensure gender equality and diversity on set, following fresh evidence of the slow pace of change in the movie industry.
Under a future Labour government, the party announcedon Sunday vital high-end tax relief, worth hundreds of millions a year, will be made dependent on a fairer, more inclusive mix of cast and crew on any film.
The term “inclusion rider” first leaped to prominence at the Oscar ceremony in Los Angeles last month as Hollywood actors cheered best actress Frances McDormand, when she called upon her fellow stars to demand more roles for women and for actors of colour whenever they accept a lead role. McDormand, who won the award for her performance as the bereaved mother Mildred Hayes in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, left the stage with the rallying cry: “I have two words to leave you with tonight. Inclusion rider.”
Much of the private funding available to major film productions on both sides of the Atlantic relies upon an A-list star attaching their name to a project. So, the argument goes, this is the best moment for big-name actors to flex their muscles.
Labour’s decision to get behind these efforts to improve representation comes in response to new research conducted by the shadow culture team that shows that just 15% of recent British films qualified to receive tax credit were directed by women. “For far too long, the film and TV industries have been dominated by a small and unrepresentative segment of society,” said the shadow culture minister Kevin Brennan this weekend. “Bringing inclusion riders from Hollywood to HMRC could put a rocket booster under the industry that pays lip service to diversity, but hasn’t always delivered.”
The political move would make Britain the first country to take such a form of positive action and Labour’s announcement is timed to stimulate debate ahead of the opening of the annual Cannes film festival in May.
“With Cannes just weeks away, it’s important we start an international conversation about the ways in which policy-makers can contribute to the urgent need for greater diversity,” said Brennan. “We will consult fully before bringing forward proposals but updating the film and high-end TV tax relief to require inclusion and diversity as part of the qualifying criteria would be a major step forward. The pace of change has been too slow so far. We need action now.”
The original idea of the “inclusion rider” came from Hollywood activist Stacy Smith, founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, and since McDormand’s speech it has found support from top male stars, such as Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Speaking in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Smith said: “There is only one way to change equity in Hollywood: hiring practices have to change. That’s it. That is the issue and until that happens…it doesn’t matter.”
In this country, films must already pass some statutory cultural tests to qualify for tax relief, but Labour’s planned alteration to the rules would heavily incentivise inclusion and equal representation standards on such productions. The three current tests of eligibility for tax relief are that the film must be intended for theatrical release, it must be certified by the British Film Institute as British, and not less than 25% of the core expenditure involved must be spent in this country.
The shadow culture team’s research figures cover films which had passed the tax relief tests between 2015-17 and which were worth £415m and £165m to the industry respectively in 2016 and 2017.
On top of new evidence of the low number of women film directors, and co-directing in the last week new research from academics at the universities of Edinburgh and Sheffield, who worked with the Barbican, Arts Emergency and Create London, found that more than 70% of British film, TV and radio workers were men.
Source: The Guardian