Saturday night saw a raft of singers, actors, comedians, presenters, producers, directors and journalists come together under one roof for the 2016 Screen Nation Awards, to celebrate the fantastic BAME talent in our industry.

IMG_0071Following the recent #Oscarssowhite debate and the on-going conversation surrounding diversity in the industry, I had a feeling that diversity was going to be a hot topic throughout the night. As it happened Star Wars star, John Boyega made a fantastic speech after he claimed the ‘Best Male Performance in Film’ award. The actor made a few observations around the lack of roles for ethnically diverse actors on screen and said “to complain about what is going on is not going to benefit us, be the change you want to be”. He then went on to say “be the change and continue and focus.” His wise words (which went on to receive quite a bit of backlash in the press) were then followed by an emotional tribute to his manager Femi Oguns who has changed his life. The budding actor has gone from sitting in his house in Peckham to becoming a Stormtrooper! How amazing is that? So it was a beautiful moment in which everyone in the room stood to applause the Star Wars star.

It was also great to see Malachi Kirby, the actor who plays Kunta Kinte in the remake of Roots win the ‘Young Rising Star’ award. I was also rooting for Idris Elba to win an award for Mandela, My Dad & Me, which we helped to launch, but he and his team of producers won the ‘Favourite International Movie’ award instead for Beasts of No Nation, one of the best films I’ve seen for a long IMG_0074time to be honest.

Oris Erhuero picked up two awards on the night and made yet another emotional speech after collecting his award for ‘Favourite Male on Screen Personality’ for his latest film The Cursed Ones. He too touched on his life story of being born in London, then moving to New York to focus on his career. Determination at its finest. It was also great to see BBC doc, Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners receive the recognition it deserves and win the ‘Diversity in Factual Production’ award. It definitely is a must watch.

Overall it was an inspiring event, not just for the great BAME talent who are doing great things on and off screen, but also the next generation of young talent who are looking to follow suit and break in to the industry. There is so much more to be done when it comes to celebrating BAME talent on and off screen, and more importantly encouraging them to flourish and providing more opportunities to do so. But we must give Screen Nation the credit they are due for shining a light on some of the best talent in the industry.

“Screen Nation Awards” – Jonny Yapi, Junior Account Executive at Franklin Rae