In a day that was in turns hopeful, angry, determined and defiant, industry stakeholders set the stage Thursday in Berlin for a concerted, pan-European push to boost diversity, inclusion and representation in the continent’s screen industries.
The Equity and Inclusion Pathways Seminar, which took place Feb. 16 during the European Film Market, laid out an action plan that the day’s participants said would have a transformative impact on policy frameworks across Europe.
“I think there’s an awakening,” said Victoria Thomas, of the Anti-Racism Taskforce for European Film (ARTEF). “We don’t have to explain to people anymore. There’s a general consensus that something needs to be done.”
The seminar offered a vision of what a diverse, equitable and inclusive European film community might look like, given enough buy-in from those industry gatekeepers in a position to foster change.
At the end of the day-long event — a spirited, collaborative, radically inclusive session bringing together roughly 100 industry professionals and representatives of advocacy groups — participants voted on a series of resolutions that they’ll take back to their respective countries to begin the hard work of turning those ideas into “policies, actions, initiatives, studies, research, funding,” according to Faysal Omer, head of EFM Producers.
Among the resolutions voted forward were proposals to create specific funding mechanisms within the pan-European industry for women, non-binary, BIPOC and other often-marginalized groups; to push industry organizations to hire advisory groups of external experts to oversee their diversity and inclusion efforts and hold them accountable for their actions; and to improve the collection of data regarding the implementation of diversity, equity and inclusion measures across all sectors of the industry — from film sets and writers’ rooms to funding bodies and policy-shapers — to measure the accessibility of the creative sector to marginalized groups.
Co-financed by the European Union’s Creative Europe – MEDIA program, this year’s seminar was the first of three such annual events taking place during the European Film Market through 2025.
The day underscored some of the successful efforts already underway to mobilize European stakeholders to bring down barriers, offering a platform to organizations “that are doing pioneering work to strengthen the interests of marginalized film professionals,” according to Manu Guddait, head of EFM’s Strategic Development and Partnerships and head of program at the EFM Industry Sessions.
Among those taking the stage Thursday in Berlin were members of ARTEF, the taskforce that was launched in the summer of 2020 to dismantle racist structures and combat racism in the European film industry, as well as reps for France’s Collectif 50/50, which has united more than 1,500 French industry professionals in its mission to fight for equality, parity and diversity in the film and audiovisual industry.
Also sharing the stage were members of Ake Dikhea?, which advocates on behalf of the Roma people, who comprise Europe’s largest ethnic group, as well as the International Sámi Film Institute, whose groundbreaking work for over a decade has fostered a new wave of productions by Sámi film creatives. Lastly was the pioneering, pan-European New Dawn film fund, an inclusion and equality production fund backed by public funders from 10 European countries that aims to support under-represented groups in the world of film.
Earlier in the day, representatives of the Canada Media Fund, the Indigenous Screen Office and the Black Screen Office unpacked some of the groundbreaking work being done in the U.S.’s northern neighbor to create a more inclusive industry.
Participants throughout the day wrestled with questions of inclusion and accessibility in a European film industry that has seen both positive gains and frustrating setbacks, particularly amid ongoing calls in recent years to create a continent-wide industry that’s open to all.
The seminar, said Thomas, illustrated “just how complex the issue of diversity is.”
“We saw how many people felt unseen, underrepresented, and they wanted to be visible,” she said. “It’s not going to be easy going forward, but I think it was also a starting point, because it triggered a whole lot of ideas. You’re trying to dismantle centuries of infrastructure that clearly doesn’t work anymore. I think it’s baby steps.”
“We need equity,” agreed ARTEF’s Paula Vaccaro. “There’s so many inequitable situations that this is not going to be an easy task at all. And we know it. We’re all filmmakers. We’re all part of this industry, and we’ve decided to put our work into this, because it’s urgent. Time is super up.”
(Pictured, L-R: Themba Bhebhe, Faysal Omer, Manu Guddait)