With the world having just celebrated International Women’s Day, women are becoming more empowered than ever before to stand up for their rights and be heard. So, it is very timely that the role of female scriptwriters in the UK drama industry is currently in the spotlight.
Britain’s unique mix of commercial, private TV and public-service broadcasting has meant that the UK has become one of the world’s leading production hubs. But, despite the fact that Britain is producing some of the highest quality drama in the world, is there enough diversity amongst show-runners and writers?
Nurturing female talent
In an open letter to TV drama commissioners last month, over 70 female scriptwriters criticised the ‘‘glass ceiling’’ and claimed British drama is “overwhelmingly written by men”. If you look at the dramas currently or recently aired on British TV, it’s hard to argue against this. Of the 20 primetime dramas aired so far in 2018, just two – Heidi Thomas’ Call The Midwife and Kay Mellor’s ITV series Girlfriends – were written by women.
I am a real sucker for a good TV drama. The most gripping dramas are those that weave together multiple plot strands before smashing your expectations out of the park with twists and turns that you just haven’t seen coming. When the UK does drama well it is very hard to beat. Making quality TV is recognised internationally as a great British trait and the global appeal of our output is second only to the States. But we do need to nurture the female talent on our little island.
The exception not the rule
Most of the British dramas I’ve enjoyed in recent times have been written by men; Netflix’s The Crown (Peter Morgan), BBC’s Dr Foster (Mike Bartlett), BBC’s The Moorside (Neil McKay), ITV’s Broadchurch (Chris Chibnall), and Sky Atlantic’s current drama Save Me, written by and starring The Walking Dead’s Lennie James. Jed Mercurio’s Line of Duty is also a particular favourite of mine.
There are some notable exceptions. Last year’s BBC Three Girls, written by Nicole Taylor and based on the true stories of victims of sexual abuse in Rochdale, and Sally Wainwright’s excellent Happy Valley, which for me is without a doubt one of the best dramas ever shown on British TV. Yet, it is beyond question that this is a genre very much dominated by men.
Change is coming
Commissioners have suggested things will change in the future. Recently, ITV’s head of drama, Polly Hill, promised that four new dramas written by women would be revealed soon, and yesterday she announced the female-led drama Deep Water from leading producer Kudos and written by Anna Symons. BBC One’s Piers Wenger has also said that 40% of the dramas he has commissioned in the last year have been written by women. With so much talent out there, I’d like to see that glass ceiling come crashing down and shattering into pieces very soon. To quote the Spice Girls – it’s all about #Girlpower.
By Melanie Webb, Senior Account Director, Franklin Rae
At Franklin Rae, we’re passionate about championing and promoting diversity in all forms across the international TV industry. The issue is very close to our hearts. And we’re thrilled to be official partners for the inaugural Diversify TV Excellence Awards at MIPCOM in Cannes this October.
Created by Diversify TV, a pressure group co-founded by Scorpion TV Managing Director, David Cornwall; All3Media International’s Nick Smith; Little Black Book CEO, Bunmi Akintonwa; and Reed MIDEM’s Liliane Da Cruz; the Diversify TV Awards aim to recognise productions that celebrate diversity, equality and inclusion on the small screen.
And who better than Sir Lenny Henry to lend his support. An instrumental voice in raising awareness around the lack of diverse representation on and off screen. He has long been at the forefront of campaigns to make British broadcasters address issues of diversity, and this year Sir Lenny Henry will deliver a keynote address at MIPCOM to coincide with the inaugural awards.
Categories for Diversify TV Awards include scripted and non-scripted content: representation for race and ethnicity, representation of LBGTQ and representation of disability. With entries officially open to producers and production companies across the international TV industry, we’re urging others to take part! The deadline for entries is Friday 6 October at midnight BST and there’s more information available here.
With the launch announcement covered in Worldscreen and Video Age International we’re proud to be associated with Diversify TV Excellence Awards and such a powerful initiative.
See you at MIPCOM!
At the Edinburgh International TV Festival, news presenter Jon Snow delivered a stirring and emotional MacTaggart Lecture in which he argued the media has become “disconnected” from some parts of society. His impassioned speech had tears in many of the audiences eyes, mine included.
“The completely man-made Grenfell disaster has proved beyond all other domestic events, how little we know, and how dangerous the disconnect is.”
“The Grenfell story was out there, shocking in its accuracy, hidden in plain sight.. but we had stopped looking.”
The challenge for the media is; how can it better reflect the problems, interests, and sensibilities of different cultures so that it better represents modern British society?
Behind the Camera
One of the best ways to achieve this is to increase the diversity of behind the camera talent. These people decide what is interesting, what programmes are made, and what news is reported. It is an issue that needs to be tackled at the grassroots level. It’s about increasing awareness of opportunities that are on offer – and shedding light on TV as a potential career.
Edinburgh International TV Festival’s Talent Schemes
This is where PR can help. As a company operating in the media industry, there’s scope to use PR to develop awareness and events to raise the profile of the industry in communities. At Franklin Rae we work to promote the Edinburgh International TV Festival’s Talent Schemes, Ones To Watch and The Network. These work together to drive applications from all parts of the country.
To engage with people from a number of varied communities meant we had to work differently. In order to raise the profile of the talent schemes we worked closely with local journalists, placing case studies and using social media in ways that would resonate with the audience. For example, interviews with creative leaders of diverse backgrounds and sourced testimonials from TV talent who are well known in these communities.
Both schemes do incredible work getting people from all walks of life involved in TV. Jon Snow applauded the schemes in his speech for this very reason – to great cheers from this year’s members! We were with the members of the schemes throughout the festival and their enthusiasm, knowledge, and skill was incredible. Their energy will really help drive the industry forward.
By Xander Ross, Senior Account Executive at Franklin Rae
It’s no mean feat to get an independent film made and released in cinemas. It’s hard work. Especially when you don’t have a five-figure budget and the only films that seem to really “make it” are the big budget, star-studded Hollywood blockbusters. This is why we came on board to launch new UK crime thriller, The Intent. Our job wasn’t just to help sell out cinema screens. We needed to promote a greater understanding and appreciation of independent film, and the work that goes into bringing topical stories and issues to the public via the big screen.
Written, produced and directed by two, very talented filmmakers Femi Oyeniran and Nicky ‘Slimting’ Walker, The Intent tells a true and chilling story of gang warfare and greed. Starring an array of incredible British actors including Dylan Duffus (1 Day and Line of Duty), Sarah Akokhia (Venus vs Mars, Hallows Eve) and Shone Romulus (Topboy), as well as some of the UK’s leading rappers including Scorcher, Krept and Konan and Fekky, the film hit nationwide cinema screens on July 29th and is accompanied by an equally thrilling soundtrack loaded with songs from Ghetts, Fekky, Ms Banks, Tanika and many more.
Working closely with Femi and Nicky, whom also star in the film, we created a campaign designed to generate a buzz around independent filmmaking and engage the film’s core target audience.
With an intense publicity drive, we secured 27 reviews of the film across national, film and mainstream consumer press.
“It’s a pulsating south London crime thriller that has confidence, energy and style”
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
We also arranged a number of interviews for the directors and cast with national, radio, TV, regional, print and online press, including BBC 1Xtra, BBC Radio West Midlands, London Live, Sky News, Evening Standard and NME. This all helped lead to The Intent selling out in cinema screens the day of release and reaching #3 on the iTunes film charts a couple of days later.
The success of the film signified an important game-change for the UK film industry as two young, talented BAME producers and directors achieved mainstream success without the support of a distributor, but through talent, focus and determination (and a robust publicity campaign).
Love Island stars Olivia Buckland and Alex Bowen at The Intent premiere in London
To complement the campaign, we also secured a number of competitions and giveaways with the likes of Sky Cinema and HMV.
We also held a private press screening at the BFI and helped to organise a glitzy central London premiere before the film officially hit cinema screens, securing the attendance of key influencers and celebs in the urban music, TV and comedy scene. The night was a huge success and a testament to the entire team’s hard work.
It’s both an honour and pleasure for us to be part of such an amazing project, and to promote the great talent we have in the UK film industry.
We look forward to seeing what’s next on the horizon for all those involved, so watch this space. In the meantime check out the film via www.theintentfilm.co.uk
By Anoushka Awad, Senior Account Manager at Franklin Rae
Sophie Okonedo and Adrian Lester in the BBC’s Undercover
This week we are launching our Frankly Speaking series – a collaborative forum, which will address some of the most topical issues, trends and developments in the creative industries.
The inaugural Frankly Speaking session will be a roundtable on the topic of diversity and will take place this Thursday in association with our partners MeWe – a charitable organisation focused on providing funding, mentoring, networking opportunities and central London hub space for creatives and entrepreneurs from BAME communities.
The topic of diversity has rocked the media industry over the past two years. With Lenny Henry launching his lobbying campaign at Ed Vaizey to back TV diversity and change the law on ethnic minority workers, and the #OscarsSoWhite boycott, there has been lots of buzz and backlash about the lack of BAME representation on and off screen. There have also been on-going discussions amongst the Public Service Broadcasters and TV networks about targets, quotas and promises, in an attempt to tackle the lack of diversity head on.
Our roundtable will take the temperature of the state of the nation, as we discuss the diversity deficit affecting the UK’s talent and production output.
We will hear from an esteemed cohort of talent and execs including:
- Isaac Densu, Chief Creative Officer at SBTV
- Derren Lawford, Creative Director at Woodcut Media
- Minnie Crowe, Actress and COO at the TriForce Network
- Fraser Ayres, Actor, Managing Director and Co-Founder of the TriForce Network
- Femi Oyeniran, Actor and Creative Director at Purple Geko
- Dawn Beresford, Board Member of Creative Access, Talent Executive at Arrow Media and CPL Productions
We also have the brilliant Tara Conlan who writes for the Media Guardian, Observer and RTS attending to moderate the discussion.
Stay tuned for more info! #diversity
By Shereene Witter, Account Director at Franklin Rae