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Shortflix diversity initiative to continue

Creative England, the body that supports the country’s creative industries, and satcaster Sky have announced they will continue a programme aimed at uncovering filmmaking talent from diverse backgrounds.

Shortflix is an initiative run in association with the National Youth Theatre and Sky Arts that gives 18-25s not in full-time employment the opportunity to make their first short film and tell a story about their community, heritage and identity. Applications for the second round of the initiative are due to open this autumn.

A panel of industry experts will select a longlist of projects for development from initial idea to script or outline stage. Five original short films will then be chosen for production and broadcast to UK audiences on the Sky Arts channel.

The short films will be introduced on air by talent including actors Riz Ahmed and Ellie Kendrick.

During the process, successful applicants will receive training and mentorship from industry professionals to ensure they gain the practical skills and experience as they take their first steps in the business.

The programme aims to address the issue of equal opportunities within the creative industries, which has come under intense scrutiny recently.

The initial findings of a report on representation in the UK TV industry by monitoring group The Creative Diversity Network showed that less than 10% of those from a BAME background work behind the camera, despite accounting for 13% of the workforce.

Females, despite making up 51% of the population, were represented by just over 48% of those on-screen, while the off-screen workforce was 55% female, against a labour workforce figure of 47%.

At the beginning of September, Sharon White, CEO of regulator Ofcom, slammed UK broadcasters for “woeful progress” at improving the diversity of employees at their organisations.

In its own report Diversity and Equal Opportunities in Television, Ofcom found that data on ethnicity was not available for just under 20% of industry workers.

It also found that ethnic minority employees were under-represented in the nation’s five top broadcasters, the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky and Channel 5. They made up 12% of staff, compared with the UK population average of 14%.

The winners of Shortflix’s first round of entries included Batty Boy, an uncompromising look at black gay culture in London from Dior Clarke and Blain Ho-Sing; Abena Taylor-Smith’s film Ladies Day, about a young black woman coming out against the backdrop of an Afro-Caribbean shop in Sheffield; and Losing It by Ben Robins, a pitch-black sex comedy.

“The sheer force of talent and engagement we have seen so far on Shortflix has absolutely confirmed our belief that the talent is out there in unusual places, looking for the chance to realise what they know they have in them,” said Paul Ashton, head of film at Creative England.

“We strive to provide opportunities to those who otherwise may not have access to the industry, and with our partners we can’t wait to see the next wave of the unheard voices from across the UK wash over us.”

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