Promonews - 18th June 2020

Free The Work has shared data which exposes the startling lack of black directing talent being represented by both US and UK commercial and music video production companies.

The organisation that grew out of Free The Bid, director Alma Har'el's initiative to increase the participation of female directors in commercial production, issued a statement on June 16th including data which reveals that only 4% of directors on the combined total of 100 US and UK production companies are black, with many production companies on both sides of the Atlantic representing no black directors at all on their published rosters.

The research found that 34 out of 60 US firms and 25 out of 45 UK companies have no black directors on their rosters. More broadly, out of the 1,204 directors in those 60 US shops, only 4 percent are Black, while out of the 1,075 directors across 45 UK rosters, only 3 percent are black.

We included analysis of music video rosters... as we have found that Black directors are often relegated exclusively to music video rosters.

According to Free the Work, its research focused on companies that were registered with the major indudstry production organisations - AICP in the US, and APA in the UK - as well as those awarded within the industry. FTW analyzed public-facing rosters that were available on production company websites. The organisation stated that the majority of black directors included in the study confirmed their ethnicity directly, while others who FTW was not able to contact were confirmed through bios or journalistic references.

FTW also state that they had been thorough in examining the music video rosters of these companies, and their figures include black directors who only appear on companies' music video rosters. "We included analysis of music video rosters, alongside commercial rosters, as we have found that Black directors are often relegated exclusively to music video rosters." 

Free The Work's statement with the released data reveals that the research was being conducted as part of its mission "to shed light on systemic barriers to opportunity faced by underrepresented creators."  Free The Work has evolved from Free The Bid's focus on female underrepresentation in directing to a broader group - people of colour, those with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ and those who identify as gender non-binary.

Free the Work was inspired to compile the data by two recent initiatives: the 15 Percent Pledge, from Aurora James, a Black creative director in Brooklyn who is asking retailers including Walmart, Target, Sephora and Whole Foods to devote 15 percent of their shelf-space to Black-owned businesses; as well as “600&Rising," the coalition of African-American industry professionals that recently called on agency leaders to take real action to tackle system racism in advertising.

Promonews - 18th June 2020

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