In my previous article, I talked about the Set of Principles that the BFI and other major UK film organisations have recently adopted for industry leaders to tackle bullying and harassment. I suggested how independent filmmakers can also help from below by setting a standard for people who are just starting out in the industry. Then the Oscars happened, and one of the most talked-about moments was Frances McDormand’s mysterious “inclusion rider” expression at the end of her acceptance speech. As many articles have now made clear, Stacy Smith first used the expression in a 2016 TED talk, in which she suggested A-list talent to include an “inclusion rider” clause in their contracts. This clause would stipulate that the minor speaking roles in the films that A-listers work on have to reflect the diverse world we live in, in terms of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disabilities. In her talk, Stacy Smith offers four solutions to address the problem of the lack of diverse representations in the films that we get to see, and the fourth one is directed to consumers and audiences. In this article, I’m going to expand on how, as a film enthusiast, you can add an inclusion rider clause within your film-viewing activities!
1) Go to independent film festivals and to independent cinemas instead of multiplexes
With the vast majority of multiplexes showing very similar programmes with limited options, you might sometimes realise that you don’t actually get to choose the films to watch. Next time you’re going to the movies, try to go to your local independent cinema instead. You’ll find a wider selection of films with a more limited theatrical release, made by a more diverse set of filmmakers who might be excluded from operating within a more mainstream context. To find an even more diverse selection, attend independent film festivals and show your support for the films even before they get distribution. For example, Raindance 2017 gave the Best Director award to a female co-director (Magdalena Zyzak for Maya Dardel), and Raindance is proud to feature an LGBT stream.
2) Look for diverse films online
If you don’t have easy access to independent cinemas and you live far away from a film festival, go look for films online. In our age of digital accessibility, a film can be rented, bought or streamed online even if it didn’t have a wide theatrical release. However, apart from some great exceptions (written by a female, black lesbian director, Mudbound is the first one that comes to mind), the truth is that most films you’ll see recommended on your Nextlix homepage aren’t too different from what is available at your local multiplex. Sometimes, you’ll just need to do some extra scrolling down on Netflix. For example, Netflix UK offers Raindance gems made by diverse directors such as Japanese Takeshi Fukunaga, who directed the American film Out of My Hands (2015), female-directed Taking Stock (Maeve Murphy, 2015), the transgender-rights themed Growing up Coy (Eric Juhola, 2016), and the female co-directed Wendy Wheelan: Restless Creature (Linda Saffire and Adam Schlesinger, 2016). Sometimes, you’ll just have to look at other platforms where to stream, rent or buy films. For example, Raindance LGBT themed Wasp (Philippe Audi-Dior, 2017) is available on iTunes, while Dealer (2014) directed by Congolese-French director Jean Luc Herbulot, is on PlayStation. Female-directed films who premiered at Raindance include The Ultimate Accessory (Valérie Lemercier, 2013), available on Amazon, Google Play and Talk Talk TV, Buttercup Bill (Remy Bennett and Émilie Richard-Froozan, 2014), on iTunes and Google Play, Greencard Warriors (Miriam Kruishoop, 2014), on Amazon and iTunes, Days of Hope (Ditte Haarløv Johnsen, 2014) on Amazon and Google Play, and Songs for Alexis (Elvira Lind, 2014) on Google Play. If you already know of a film directed by a diverse director but you have no idea how to watch it, head to justwatch.com to find out on which platforms it is available.
3) Take part in a film/festival crowdfunding
While trying to get funding for your first film isn’t easy for anyone, it is even more important to support diverse filmmakers from the start of their career, to make sure that those films actually get made. As an audience member, you can become an active supporter of a film production that you really care about. If you’re looking for inspiration, just head to the Film sections of Indiegogo and Kickstarter. You’ll also be able to find there crowdfunding campaigns supporting independent film festivals that focus or specifically include diverse filmmakers and stories in their programmes.
4) Make your voice heard
While everyone in the days after the event was sharing Frances McDormand’s speech on social media, you can make sure that the momentum doesn’t die down. Learn more about Stacy Smith’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative here, share her TED talk or quotes from it, as well as your thoughts about it. If you’ve supported a film project or a festival through a crowdfunding campaign, make sure to share it and tell as many people as you can about it. If you want to be even more direct, write, call and email companies that are making and distributing films, whether that’s just sharing Smith’s talk, or more personal reflections, or a call for action. While one e-mail will probably go unnoticed, hundreds of them can bring change.
5) Change your assumptions
This is perhaps the trickiest part. In her talk, Stacy Smith mentions how both male and female executives think “male” when they’re asked about directors, as “their perception of a director or a leader is inconsistent with the perception of a woman”. While it’s easy to criticise their behaviour, it can be more difficult to investigate your own assumptions. I sure have thought “male” when hearing “director” in the past, and the fact that all nouns are gendered in the Italian language and that the assumed gender is usually male isn’t an excuse! To start, here’s a great article about the assumptions we make when getting in contact with female-centred or female written narratives. By changing your assumptions, you will actually take diverse stories seriously and you will be more open to look out for them and to see them on the screen.
Are you looking to support a Film Festival that champions independent, diverse voices? Make sure to check out our very own Raindance Crowdfunding Campaign.