At Pact, we’re committed to improving diversity within the media industry and throughout August we’re highlighting some of the content we have available on the Pact Diversity site which you can use to help inspire change within your own organisations, as well as asking Pact members to share their own experiences.
In this piece, we get the low down on Idris Elba’s BBC Three Takeover from Green Door Pictures Executive Producer Francis Baker.
“Upcoming filmmakers don’t always access traditional platforms, so we actively went looking for talent.”
Green Door Pictures is Idris Elba’s production outfit. Founded in 2013 and based in London, the company’s mission is to nurture fresh talent and champion diversity and opportunity. Earlier this year the Idris Takeover of BBC Three provided the perfect platform for the company to put those aims into practice, by commissioning and producing a block of original short form content for the exclusively online channel.
Pact: How did the Idris Takeover come about?
Francis Baker: In 2016, Idris championed diversity of thought in a speech to MPs and (BBC Three Controller) Damian Kavanagh essentially asked us to put that speech into practice. The result was a season inviting writers, filmmakers and contributors to tell the stories they wanted to tell whilst ensuring the offering was made by diverse and emerging talent.
Pact: Knowing you wanted to use the opportunity to work with new and diverse talent, how did you find that talent and bring them on board?
FB: Upcoming filmmakers don’t always access traditional platforms, so we actively went looking for talent, mainly on a wide variety of online platforms - such as Vice, Nowness and Vimeo - but also through industry contacts and screenings. It was important to us to be aware of who was out there making their own films and showing a real commitment. We were looking for filmmakers who had something to say and their own unique voice.
"The industry has to be engaged in a 'stepping stone' approach. If you commission five minutes you should then be able to commission 15 minutes, then 30 minutes and so on."
Pact: Green Door acted as the commissioner as well as the producer of the content, what was that experience like?
FB: That was the approach for the non-scripted content, which was scary at times because choosing emerging talent involves risk; they are by definition not fully formed filmmakers. But Damian Kavanagh and (Deputy Editor of BBC Three) Nasfim Haque encouraged us to be bold and offer new opportunities, and they fully supported us in those decisions. The approach paid off; one of our films (Seventeen, directed by Millie Mills) has been shortlisted for this year’s Grierson Best Documentary Short award.
Pact: One of the advantages of publishing content on digital platforms is the data you can gather. What were you able to understand about how people were engaging with the content and what worked particularly well?
FB: It was interesting how films that the 16-34 BBC Three demographic could identify with really did well. So Seventeen, a type of coming of age film rated well, as did the drama Five by Five - and not necessarily Idris' episode! It was also surprising how a film’s success varied widely depending on which platform it went out on, e.g. iPlayer, Facebook, YouTube. For example, Moses: Strongman did amazingly well on iPlayer, whilst Seventeen and Shogun really resonated well on Facebook.
Pact: Short form content feels like a natural space in which to give opportunities to new talent, but how do you feel the industry can engage and work together to ensure the opportunities are there beyond that first step?
FB: The industry has to be engaged in a 'stepping stone' approach. If you commission five minutes you should then be able to commission 15 minutes, then 30 minutes and so on. Allow that new talent to build up their expertise and progress their storytelling skills.
Pact: What plans do you have to continue to work with and develop the new diverse talent you worked with for the Takeover into the future?
FB: We are already involved with some of those on- and off-screen talents in developing new projects - so the season has been a great talent incubator for both scripted and non-scripted.
Interested in finding diverse new talent?
Take a look at the Pact Diversity website 'Finding Diverse Talent' page for links to organisations and groups where you can find both entry and mid/senior level on- and off-screen talent.
Stills courtesy of Green Door Pictures.