The murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement have highlighted the depth of individual and systematic racism that still confronts Black and minority ethnic people globally, and that racism and race bias continues to be an issue within the UK and in the film and television industry.
At the NFTS we develop some of Britain’s and the world’s top creative talent. We nurture and guide the industry of tomorrow; we take that honour and responsibility very seriously. Recent events have prompted important and frank discussions among staff and students about their experiences of discrimination, and how we could do more to use our position as the leading film and television school in the UK, and as one of the top film schools in the world, to effect meaningful and lasting change. We want to ensure that the NFTS reflects the full diversity of our country and that our students and graduates are seen, heard and represented across all areas of the industry in which they work and shape.
Both staff and students want to be a key part of the solution, not part of the problem. We have therefore worked together over the last few weeks to explore how the School can make several significant changes, and thus embody the change which we want to see in the industry and wider society.
The dialogue we have started with our staff and students has enabled us to develop together a plan to try to address the inequalities and disadvantages which many Black and minority ethnic members of our community have told us they regularly experience. We remain committed to continuing to remove the barriers that aspiring Black and minority ethnic film, TV and games students face, to ensure we embrace our Black staff and students with care and love and to decolonise the curriculum. We also recognise that any long-term solution must not only tackle the discrimination and prejudice people face but also address the difference in power dynamics between different groups so people feel they have agency and control over their lives.
We believe we are entering a new era where we all must look inwards with honesty, reflect on what we can do better, and set clear goals backed by specific actions.
Therefore, we start today by specifically committing to do the following:
Double the number of ethnically diverse teachers and
increase the diversity of staff with an immediate
focus on the black community
- Ensure that the diversity of Staff and Visiting Tutors keeps pace with the increasing diversity of the student body. Currently 8% of our Visiting Tutors are ethnically diverse. We will double the number of ethnically diverse and also specifically Black tutors within a year. We will measure this goal not only through headcount but through seniority level and by proportion of salary spend as well.
- Review how and where we recruit. We want to ensure our students benefit from a wide spectrum of voices and can identify with those who teach them. We will ensure our existing succession planning strategy works with black talent in the film, television and games industry.
See student diversity targets as a minimum not a maximum
- Whilst we are proud of the increasing diversity of our student body with 1 in 4 NFTS recent graduates being ethnically diverse compared to only 3% in the industry overall, and with 7.25% of our students being Black, we will continue to work hard to improve on this. These numbers will be the floor not the ceiling for future student enrolment and we will seek to drive this figure up.
- We will work hard to ensure that students from diverse backgrounds feel welcomed, encouraged and supported during their application, interview and enrolment stage. In addition, our current students have committed to introducing a student-led mentoring scheme for ethnically diverse applicants.
Increase access through Outreach
- We will ensure our AccessNFTS outreach programme and our work with the Ghetto Film School and BFI Film Academy continue to create viable entry routes into the School for Black students. If a Black and minority ethnic person applies and needs financial assistance, we will ensure we match them with a scholarship donor to help make it affordable to join the NFTS.
- The NFTS awards £900,000 of scholarships annually and we will work ever harder to reach those who will most benefit from them. Our Toledo Scholarship Scheme has supported two ethnically diverse scholars a year since 2005 and we must encourage industry partners and donors to help us increase the financial help available to ethnically diverse students. No one should be prevented by financial circumstances from reaching their full potential.
- We will review our application and outreach systems so as to increase the number of applicants for courses which traditionally have been under-represented by ethnically diverse individuals. More diversity on more courses equals a broader range of perspectives and viewpoints across the industry.
- We will hold recruitment events, host tailored sessions and provide mentoring and support to ‘upskill’ young people from disadvantaged and under-represented backgrounds, to help them develop the tools needed to fulfil their potential at all stages of their NFTS journey.
Decolonise the curriculum
- Increase the representation of film, television and games practitioners and scholars in all areas of film development, teaching and learning to ensure films screened, texts studied etc better highlight diverse stories and storytellers.
Setting the tone
- In the last 12 months key staff have received Active Bystander and Unconscious Bias training. We will continue and expand annual diversity training for all staff and students, and we will make sure that our training remains current and meaningful.
Analysing and addressing power inequalities
- We recognise that racism is defined by more than discriminatory actions, and includes acts exercised with a differential in power between people. For this reason, we will re-examine how power exists and is exercised at the School, including aspects such as financial spend and curriculum setting, to try to ensure that people feel they are equally represented throughout the School and have agency over their lives.
Creating a safe space for student voices
- We will reinforce our policies and procedures so that any reports of discrimination and other forms of unacceptable behaviour can be made with increased confidence. Additionally, we will ensure via our complaints process, through our mediation service and in partnership with the Student Union that we take appropriate action against all forms of discriminatory and racist behaviour.
Supporting our graduates
- We recognise that the industry which our students are graduating into is not yet a welcoming place for many Black and minority ethnic people. We will offer personalised support to graduating students to help them find industry allies and partners to enable them to achieve their full potential.
We know we need to do more. We are determined to ensure the NFTS strives for lasting and systemic change, resulting in a long overdue, more multi-racial UK film, television and games industry for generations to come. We are dedicated to the on-going process of re-shaping the industry, and will continuously review our commitments and the progress we are making alongside those already set out in our Equality Objectives, which you can read on our Diversity page.
We are listening and learning and are determined to be a driver for sustainable change.