As it further embeds in the U.K. ecosystem, Netflix is investing in a group of grassroots organizations to create more opportunities in the film and TV industries for youth from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds.
The streaming giant is investing £350,000 across three organizations: the Identity School of Acting, where “Small Axe” actor John Boyega trained; Million Youth Media, one of the U.K.’s top youth-oriented digital platforms; and Mama Youth, which operates an extensive network of training programs.
Netflix will support 30 full, year-long scholarships for students from the Identity School; double the number of youth in the Million Youth Media talent pool; and help Mama Youth expand its work in training more aspiring film and TV professionals.
The investment is part of the $5 million earmarked by Netflix in July to support Black creators and youth, propelled by the renewed Black Lives Matter movement in June. The streaming giant also launched a U.K. Documentary Talent Fund last month, which has been extremely well-received by the local industry. The program allows 10 filmmakers and their teams to make a short documentary film with a budget of between £20,000 ($27,000) and £40,000 ($54,000) each.
The initiative comes amidst a sea change in the U.K. industry that sees broadcast players beginning to invest meaningfully in diversity and representation across their staff and talent pools. Comcast-backed Sky on Thursday announced a goal for 20% of its U.K. and Ireland workforce to originate from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds by 2025, and at least 5% of this workforce to be Black.
Meanwhile, the BBC in June set out a ‘Creative Diversity Commitment’ that will see the corporation spend £100 million ($124 million) of its existing commissioning budget over three years on diverse and inclusive content.
In a column penned about Netflix’s latest investment round, Anne Mensah, VP of U.K. Original Series at Netflix, notes that she first met Mama Youth founder Bob Clarke — who self-funded the program in its early years and recruited the first participants himself — when she was at Sky. “He blew me away with the depth of his personal connection to its students and perseverance over many years to drive positive change at times when the wider industry took no notice and quite frankly didn’t care.”
“I have the same deep admiration for all the inspirational people who saw what needed to be done in the TV and film sector. For over a decade, Femi Oguns, Teddy Nygh, Rosa Powlowski, Nikki Bedi and Bob Clarke have worked tirelessly to develop opportunities for underrepresented talent,” continued Mensah.
“They understood the importance of diversity in storytelling before many others, relying on their own time and money to create three extraordinary organizations — Identity School of Acting, Million Youth Media and Mama Youth — to provide young Brits with skills and training as well as their first break in our industry.”
Netflix’s support of the organizations comes as the streaming giant expands aggressively in the U.K. and just a month after Mensah rolled out her first major slate of originals. With these latest investments, Netflix — which has raised eyebrows in the last year by snapping up some of the country’s most established talent in big overall deals — is making a clear statement that it also intends to invest in the landscape from the ground up, supporting and nurturing young and diverse talent.
Read Anne Mensah’s full column below:
Amplifying Diverse British Voices in Front of and Behind the Camera
Great stories help build empathy, connecting us to people and places we’d otherwise never know about or understand. But great stories are not enough if they only come through one lens, reflect one experience or embody one type of journey through life. At Netflix we believe in stories from everywhere for everyone and we are determined to help realise that ambition fully.
I believe the UK industry is changing. And although this change is slow, the wealth of young diverse British voices fighting their way to the top of the industry fills me with hope and excitement. Creators like Theresa Ikoko, Charlie Covell, and John Boyega resonate not just in the UK but across the world. But this is not enough. I believe we need to do more, not just to support the current generation of British talent, but also to develop a more inclusive pipeline of upcoming creatives across the entire production process.
I first met Bob Clarke, the founder and CEO of Mama Youth, when I was at Sky. He blew me away with the depth of his personal connection to its students and perseverance over many years to drive positive change at times when the wider industry took no notice and quite frankly didn’t care.
I have the same deep admiration for all the inspirational people who saw what needed to be done in the TV & Film sector .For over a decade Femi Oguns, Teddy Nygh, Rosa Powlowski, Nikki Bedi and Bob Clarke have worked tirelessly to develop opportunities for underrepresented talent. They understood the importance of diversity in storytelling before many others, relying on their own time and money to create three extraordinary organizations – Identity School of Acting, Million Youth Media and Mama Youth – to provide young Brits with skills and training as well as their first break in our industry.
Today, Netflix is investing £350,000 to:
• Support 30 full, year-long scholarships for students from Identity School of Acting;
• Double the number of young people Million Youth Media work with across the UK;
• Help Mama Youth expand its work and train more young people so they are better prepared for broadcast and media jobs.
This is part of the $5M Fund Netflix created in July 2020 to create opportunities for Black creators and youth, and follows the launch of our recently announced UK Documentary Talent Fund. These schemes are in addition to initiatives we already have in place with our production partners – for example the Top Boy directors shadow scheme with Cowboy Films, in which four up-and-coming directors shadowed the show’s director for eight weeks each. One of them, Nia DaCosta, has been tapped to direct Marvel’s sequel to Captain Marvel.
Our members come from all across the UK, and all around the world. We succeed when our series and films like Sex Education, His House, and Top Boy not only entertain people but also help them connect to new voices, cultures and perspectives. This is only the beginning.
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