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Deborah Williams Appointed British Film Institute Diversity Manager to Shepherd New ‘Three Ticks’ Initiative

Deborah Williams Appointed British Film Institute Diversity Manager to Shepherd New 'Three Ticks' Initiative

The British Film Institute (BFI) has announced the appointment of Deborah Williams to the organization’s newly created Diversity Manager position – one that will manage the BFI’s diversity agenda and also support BFI-backed productions to meet the recently launched “Three Ticks” diversity initiative. 

Williams was previously Senior Officer at the Arts Council England, where she was responsible for policy and research on equality and diversity. She will begin her new post at the BFI on June 1.

The BFI’s new “Three ticks” rule, which was announced last summer, speaks to 2 things recently discussed on this blog: first, my attempts to repurpose the Bechdel Test (a measurement used to highlight gender bias in cinema), to highlight and help erode racial inequalities also in cinema, using M. Asli Dukan’s 5 basic criteria for blacks in sci-fi films (read that here if you missed it); and second, and maybe more significant, veteran black British actor Lenny Henry’s very public ongoing diversity push, focusing his attention on the opportunities for black and minority ethnic groups in the UK TV and film industry today (catch up on that here).

In short, the BFI (British Film Institute) Film Fund has set up a list of criteria, focusing on 3 key areas (or “3 ticks” as they call it), that UK film productions applying for BFI funding, need to meet – all in an effort to improve diversity within the film and TV industries in the UK, in relation to ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic status.

The “Three ticks” approach will be implemented for all productions supported through the BFI Film Fund, and rolled out across all BFI Lottery funding for film by July 2015. 

This initiative is significant because the BFI Film Fund is the largest public film fund in the UK, investing over £27 million (or about $46 million) into film development, production, international sales and distribution, and supporting around 30 new film productions each year. 

The “Three Ticks” include: Diversity quotas in front of the camera, diversity quotas behind the camera, and the availability of opportunities for upward mobility behind the camera, for black and ethnic minority groups (BAME).

Williams new role will see her support the introduction and implementation of the new guidelines and provide guidance to BFI-backed productions and the wider industry. 

“The BFI has set the tone and shown real leadership around diversity in the industry and it is a pleasure to be joining them at this pivotal moment. Developing the Three Ticks, working with partners and supporting the industry as it rethinks and re-imagines the world around us on film is an opportunity that I relish and am greatly looking forward to embracing,” Williams said.

Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaziey added: “This initiative from the BFI should help raise the bar and ensure BFI lottery funded film productions reflect diversity both in front and behind the camera. I want to continue to see the TV, film and the performing arts industries actively discussing how they can drive change and improve diversity right across these sectors. I hope others will follow the BFI in developing and implementing possible solutions.”

And BFI CEO, Amanda Nevill chimed in with: “To stay really relevant, it is vital that our film and television industries reflect and properly represent our society. Diversity is good for creativity; it supports economic growth, taps into underserved audiences and makes for good business sense. It’s a complex challenge but one we want to approach with an open heart and mind and renewed vigour, so today’s announcement is just the beginning.”

Recent BFI Film Fund-backed productions (covered on this blog) telling diverse stories include Amma Asante’s “Belle,” currently available on home video via Fox Searchlight, “Gone Too Far” from director Destiny Ekaragha and writer Bola Agbaje, and “Pride” from director Matthew Warchus and writer Stephen Beresford. 

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