The Association of Independent Commercial Producers has launched an Equity & Inclusion Committee “to help the industry cast a wider net for talent, create opportunities for mentorship and advancement for people of color, and establish hiring practices that more easily facilitate a means of entry to the industry.”
The committee is chaired by Tabitha Mason-Elliott, who is head of production and a partner at the Bark Bark commercial production company in Atlanta. She is also president of the AICP’s southeast chapter and a national board member of AICP, which says it represents producers of 85% of all domestic commercials aired nationally.
“This committee was born out of a need to make real, impactful and sustainable changes,” Mason-Elliott said. “We’ve known for years that the commercial industry was exclusionary, but our industry has often hidden behind the notion of talent being the only requirement for success. Frankly, we just haven’t done enough to address the barriers to entry, or pushed ourselves to institute any lasting changes at our companies. Over the years there have been polite inquiries about change, but we’re past that point of being polite – we need action. We can’t tiptoe around this anymore.”
The committee, she said, is taking a multifaceted approach to bringing about change. “We feel that the work we’re doing as a committee and an organization will have a major impact across the industry,” she said. “Our recommendations will change and adapt as we see where our successes and failures lie. We’re open to the idea that we won’t be perfect and that we’ll learn as we go, but our commitment to change has to start immediately. It also has to be change that lasts; the news cycles will continue on, moving this out of the public consciousness, but it’s our job to keep going and create solutions that facilitate real inclusion.”
“The AICP has had a history of organizing our members to help shape standards and practices in many varied areas that continue to make our industry better,” said AICP president and CEO Matt Miller. “I can think of no more important issue that we are all facing than equality and inclusion, and I’m gratified by the number of passionate and driven members who have come forward to ensure that this is a significantly successful approach to drive positive change.”
The committee said that its goal is “to deliver to AICP members, and to the benefit of the industry as a whole, a set of resources and tools that will help them address issues of ingrained bias and to remove barriers.” Mason-Elliot said that this extends to the ad agency side of the business as well. “We need our partners there to align with us so that we can help each other,” she said. “That’s why we’re holding these roundtable events. We want everyone involved in the awarding of jobs to play a role in addressing these problems.”
The committee issued a call to counterparts on the ad agency side of the business “to engage in candid discussions that will inform the writing of these best practice recommendations. To this end, it will hold a series of roundtable virtual discussions this fall, designed to spur an open dialogue about how the industry, collectively, can work together to champion diversity and provide opportunities to people of color.”
During its first meeting, the committee says it identified and structured itself to address areas of access, mentorship and hiring practices, and established subcommittees to examine each area, along with one to develop a set of Best Practices for Agencies. The Equity & Inclusion Committee and its subcommittees are also working to develop recommendations and tools for production and post-production companies.
The Equity & Inclusion committee’s full membership includes: Dee Allen and Zu Al Kadiri, The Mill; Emily Alexander-Wilmeth, AMD Films; Jackie Kelman Bisbee and Justin Pollack, Park Pictures; Ali Brown, Prettybird; Mishka Brown, Washington Square Films; Sally Campbell and Molly Griffin, Somesuch; Rich Carter, brother; Yvette Cobarrubias, Cosmo Street; Gloria Colangelo, MacGuffin Films; Andrew Colón, SMUGGLER; Tova Dann and Casey Wooden, Caviar; Rebecca Davis and Kate Oppenheim, m ss ng p eces; Carol Linda Dunn, Human; Sara Eolin, Rocket Film; Sophie Gold, Eleanor; Natalie Hill; Qadree Holmes, Quriosity Productions; Danielle Hinde, Doomsday; Megan Kelly, Honor Society; Mark Kovacs, Bodega; Ralph Laucella, O Positive; Kelly Martin, Partizan; Michaela McKee and Peter Repplier, 1stAveMachine; Lisa Mehling, Chelsea; Jessie Nagel, Hype; Gloria Pitagorsky, Heard City; Shelby Ross, Sibling Rivalry; Sila Soyer, Arcade Edit; Christa Thompson, Knucklehead; Brittney Walker, Imaginary Forces, and Robert Wherry, Fancy Content.