The movement for equality is at a critical junction with social politics dividing people, resulting in continued discrimination and acts of senseless violence. The gap in understanding and tolerance is widening as sensationalist headlines and social media undermine our ability to compromise and work together. ACTRA Manitoba acknowledges that the systemic, systematic, conscious, and unconscious biases that infect our communities is a broad societal crisis, one which the film and television industry has contributed to. However, this industry also has the power to inspire change. The messages that film and television convey to audiences can help shape and define our values as a society. Collectively, we are writing this statement to outline our stance and how we can move forward. Even though there has been gradual improvement, representation of socially valued roles, jobs, and titles are still underrepresented by the Indigenous and Black population, as well as other marginalized groups.
This mission statement speaks to the need to diversify film and television production further and more accurately in Manitoba. What the industry portrays to the world should be a direct reflection of the communities we live in, a montage of ethnicities, belief systems, and backgrounds. ACTRA, DGC and IATSE have a massive responsibility to be an example of change for the motion picture industry. ACTRA National has recently passed a motion to allow for initiatives and staffing to address anti-Black racism within the screen-based media production sector. We ask that the stakeholders involved: producers, writers, directors, casting directors and background casting directors embody the values of equal representation and inclusion.
ACTRA MB’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee advocates for social and political change, education for stakeholders, and to provide oversight for equal opportunity in casting. We will embark on the mission of educating stakeholders about Unconscious Bias. The goal is to challenge stereotypes that lead to the lack of representation and erasure of marginalized communities. With Manitoba’s growth in production, we want to establish this training to occur on a regular basis.
In addition to fostering local acting talent from diverse backgrounds, ACTRA Manitoba has also been successful in supporting actors to be creators. For example, the initiation of the MIP Diversity Award, which grants additional funding to a member filmmaker in a juried competition. Last year’s winner was Jonathan Lawrence, a gay, Metis actor and writer/director. His short film “Alter Boys” was recently selected as one of Telefilm’s “Talent to Watch” program recipients, as well as one of the concepts to be supported by this year’s CFC/Netflix Project Development Accelerator. This is the type of career trajectory that we are proud to support and will continue to do so.
ACTRA Manitoba pledges to work with our National organization, to offer solutions addressing accountability. Initiatives such as industry-wide reporting on casting equity will assist in providing us with the data needed to advocate for regulatory and collective agreement changes to the audition and casting process. The advancement of these initiatives will only succeed when those in positions of authority are held to their commitments. This involves data collection and policing, in which ACTRA will play a vital role.
We believe that we can, and must, implement systems that will ensure that all people, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, and ability, are better represented. To our white, CIS-gender and able-bodied colleagues, we are happy to take the lead in this movement but need you to stand by us and fill the supporting roles. Thank you for your allyship and desire for positive change. At the end of the day, this movement will contribute to a healthier industry, society, and future for ALL of us.