12 Years A Slave filmmaker Steve McQueen has called out “blatant racism” in the UK’s film and TV industries.
Writing in an op-ed for newspaper The Observer, the Oscar winner said he was tired of listening to excuses and hoping for action. He stated that the UK is “far behind” the U.S. in representing black and ethnic minorities (BAME) in its screen sector workforce.
“Last year, I visited a TV-film set in London. It felt like I had walked out of one environment, the London I was surrounded by, into another, a place that was alien to me. I could not believe the whiteness of the set,” wrote McQueen. “I made three films in the States and it seems like nothing has really changed in the interim in Britain. The UK is so far behind in terms of representation, it’s shameful.”
Earlier this week, 700 BAME TV workers wrote to the UK Culture Secretary and the major broadcasters and streamers demanding action on racial equality.
In the piece, McQueen discusses his latest production Small Axe, a three-part BBC anthology series that has two of its feature-length episodes participating in the Cannes Film Festival selection next week.
“We tried very hard on Small Axe: we created our own training scheme with one trainee per department. But, in terms of heads of departments, it was just myself and a couple of other people who were black British,” he wrote. “The stark reality is that there is no infrastructure to support and hire BAME crew. And there is no infrastructure because there hasn’t been enough will or urgency to put it in place. We really need to do much, much better.”
McQueen said that training needs to improve and the industry has to address its culture. “It’s blatant racism,” he added.