Lights, Camera, Inclusion – Episode 3
Lights, Camera, Inclusion is the first video series by Now & Next, the editorial platform of the Canada Media Fund (CMF). 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 united about 20 key people from Quebec’s screen industry around five round tables, 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 demystify the particularities of Quebec’s situation, and together, imagine the future of a more inclusive and equitable industry, with future generations in mind.
Episode 3: How can we support creatives in building a more inclusive industry?
In this third episode, we address the importance of supporting creative youth from all horizons, and of breaking established frameworks to instill new ways of doing, creating, and representing diversity on our screens.
· Julie O'Bomsawin, producer, co-founder and President of Kassiwi Média
· Khoa Lê, filmmaker and creative director
· Marie Ka, director and screenwriter
· Will Prosper, director and activist
The “Key Takeaways” section is by Édith Vallières
Encouraging and supporting creative youth of all origins
Enriched by his work with racialized youth, Will Prosper explains that, even today, these young people find it hard to believe that they ”could be an artwork or even create one.” Khoa Lê agrees. “For every community, there are, unfortunately, stereotypes and archetypes. So this is the only world in which they can see themselves.”
To broaden their horizons, young people should be able to see a larger number of positive role models on screen. Furthermore, these creative youth must be encouraged by their parents and teachers. “When not even one teacher sees the potential, you can’t believe that you could exist in certain universes. So, you take the easy road and choose the path you’ve always seen your communities taking,” Will Prosper explains.
According to Julie O’Bomsawin, training for work in the audiovisual industry should be given earlier rather than later, due to “serious shortages in an up-and-coming workforce that could be able to ensure the multiplication of Indigenous voices,” for example. To avoid inequity, it’s also important to ensure that youth living in more remote communities have the same access as others.
Making changes at the heart of organizations
Khoa Lê is outraged that we still create, “collectively, for a group of individuals who are, in majority, white men. Everything is formatted for this group of people.”
To allow a larger number of projects from Indigenous and racialized creators to see the light of day, organizations must disrupt their usual reflexes within the multiple systems that make up the dominant system. “Differences have to be made in new programs, in new solutions, in obligations,” says Julie O’Bomsawin.
More concretely, selection committee juries must be composed of racialized people so they can analyze projects under the right lens. Generally, when a person has an idea, only rarely will they get the right contact person, according to Marie Ka. “So right away, there’s an obstacle because there’s a process of interpretation [...] and evaluating what they wrote is done through a lens that is simply inadequate, because there are cultural differences.”
For their part, organizations must accept that it’s more expensive to produce different projects from diverse creators, because of a multitude of factors: establishing protocols, training the upcoming workforce despite distance challenges, linguistic barriers, etc… According to Julie O’Bomsawin, this takes political courage, flexibility, and understanding realities faced by groups who are different from the privileged group.
And for broadcasters to be able to show new onscreen content, they must trust ideas and projects of diverse creators. As Julie O’Bomsawin explains: “We have to stop thinking of a project as the goal. We must also acknowledge everything it creates in the spirit of the next wave of talent, and everything it can create for the public; to change things.”
Offering new distribution avenues on the web, international markets, and streaming platforms
The round table’s participants agree that television is becoming more and more obsolete, because decision-makers, who are of a white majority, are still stuck in their same universe. “They’re ensuring that racialized people no longer recognize themselves in what is made here in Quebec,” notes Will Prosper.
Consequently, audiences (and more specifically, young audiences) are heading towards other platforms such as Crave and Netflix, who show super-diversified content in diverse forms. “Why would I pay nine dollars or fifteen dollars [for ICI Tou.tv] when I can get much more diversity and choice elsewhere,” Khoa Lê asks. Will Prosper admits that he watches what is made outside Quebec, as he’s not inspired by what’s made here.
To compete with big foreign players, Khoa Lê feels we must inject different visions into the system and surround ourselves with people from different milieus. Marie Ka believes this might be the undeniable key to success: “Studies show that racialized and Indigenous people and diverse content not only resonate within the country, but also travel a lot. Which, by the way, we see on streaming platforms […] I think we have to do some soul searching to truly realize what we have to overcome, and how we can find solutions.”
If no action is taken in this sense, the participants believe, Quebec culture is dangerously at risk of losing audiences across several generations.
Giving Indigenous, racialized, and other diverse creators the opportunity to create
Another alarming issue, according to the round table’s participants, is that Indigenous, racialized, and other diverse creators are not able to focus entirely on their creative projects, because they’re constantly defending themselves on multiple levels.
In front of organizations, they must regularly explain historical context, and justify why their story is important to tell.
In media, they are invited to discuss political and social issues (racial profiling, discrimination) which are often not connected to their artistic sides, whereas white artists can speak freely about their work. “How many times would I have just liked to talk about my art, but people see me as the militant, and that’s how I’m categorized,'' says Will Prosper. Khoa Lê adds: “It’s also a stress [to do things right] because you know, ‘I’m also representing communities.’”
As a result, many creators, such as Julie O’Bomsawin, feel exhausted. “I don’t know about you, but I work an astronomical number of hours a week. It’s gotten a bit wild! There are projects; production; development; the next generation; participating in events like this [round table] to which we say yes, because it’s important that this voice be represented…”
Khoa Lê therefore believes we have to change the system that’s in place. “It’s a systemic problem, which is in fact the problem; there are humans, rules, politics. We have to stir all that up.” In parallel, we should “add actors and players into the game so this responsibility is shared,” he adds.