Lights, Camera, Inclusion: Episode 1
Lights, Camera, Inclusion is the first video series by Now & Next, Canada Media Fund's editorial platform. It focuses on issues related to inclusion and representation on Quebec screens and the potential we see on the horizon.
Gaëlle Essoo, Lead Editor of Now & Next and Diego Briceño, Senior Manager, Diverse Community Content at the CMF, have gathered 20 key people from Quebec’s screen industry around five roundtables, with the goal of engaging in lengthy and fruitful conversations.
Throughout these episodes, we will address various issues and points of view in order to understand the particularities of Quebec’s situation, and together, imagine the future of a more inclusive and equitable industry, with future generations in mind.
Episode 1: Assessing the situation and defining an inclusive industry
This first episode assesses the current situation in terms of diversity and equity, and explores the definition of a truly inclusive screen industry in Quebec.
- Jean-François O'Bomsawin, Director of Marketing & Communications, Indigenous Screen Office
- Karine Dubois, producer and founder, Picbois productions
- Eric Idriss-Kanago, producer and founder, Yzanakio production company
- Mara Gourd-Mercado, General Director, Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, Quebec section
The “Key Takeaways” section is by Rime El Jadidi.
Diversity is not a niche
Karine Dubois observes how often, we contrast “diverse” audiences with the “general public.” “Instead of changing the narratives and characters in shows made for the general public, we’ll make a show on the side that’s only with racialized people, that only speaks about issues relating to diversity, and we’ll leave the rest as-is,” she explains.
According to her, nothing will change as long as we continue considering diversity as a niche that only appeals to certain predetermined groups.
Mara Gourd-Mercado adds that we tend to talk about the general public like some “shapeless mass,” and to make assumptions about its tastes. “If we don’t offer the general public things that are different than they’ve seen until now, they won’t necessarily ask for it.” She offers the example of Scandinavian countries – markets comparable to Quebec, where so-called “niche” content can be found in mainstream TV and appeals to those audiences.
The urgency of addressing the renewal of audiences
“Every year, we say, ‘Oh my god, kids today don't watch Quebec TV,’” adds Karine Dubois. “As if it was a decision, that the youth are villains only interested in English. But they don't recognize themselves in their TV. They don't find content that pleases or represents them.”
Beyond the ideological aspect, a more diverse and inclusive industry is an economic issue. According to Eric Idriss-Kanago, “In business terms, it’s simply a catastrophe. We’re losing an audience and we risk losing it over several generations.” The issue is even more important considering that the content consumed by audiences who have deserted Quebec screens is not in French.
Preserving the French language, as well as Indigenous languages, is also a way of preserving cultures. For Jean-François O’Bomsawin, “A language that we see on TV is a language we wish to learn. We must be able to have it in shows for youth, shows for adults, documentary, variety shows.” He notes that efforts have been made on this subject, but estimates that there’s “always a certain limit due to constraints often related to money.”
The need for a Political will
Promoting language and culture is accomplished by “creating a collective imagination where people will recognize themselves,” explains Mara Gourd-Mercado.
“It’s not through Bill 96 that we’ll achieve this love of the language,” she adds. “The more we receive with open arms, the more welcome people will feel and they’ll identify with and connect to this culture and language.”
Eric Idriss-Kanago reminds us that, “If there was no political will in Quebec to have a star system, we’d be inundated with the American star system, and right now, perhaps we’d all be speaking English. It’s truly a political will to want to preserve something. We only wish that this same will would exist for under-represented stories.”
Developing tolerance for error
All participants agree that if there’s a shortage of qualified talent from under-represented communities, we must simply train them, and also, extend to members of these communities the same tolerance to error that is already granted to white people. Often, when an Indigenous or racialized person fails, they are not given a second chance, and an entire community risks being stigmatized.
Training the workforce is as important as opening access to positions of power. Jean-François O’Bomsawin explains, “When there are Indigenous leaders in governing structures, and in production structures, there’s a positive influence on the way of working.”
For Mara Gourd-Mercado, allies must also accept that they might make mistakes when trying to help, and these people shouldn’t stop themselves from doing things on the pretext of not knowing exactly how to proceed. “We all make mistakes, we'll always make mistakes, we’re human, it's normal [...] I think if we were less afraid to get it wrong or make mistakes, or of being called out, we would make quicker progress.”