By Carlo Dusi, EVP Acquisitions & Content Investment, Red Arrow Studios International
Last week I had the honour of representing Red Arrow Studios International as the headline partner at the unveiling of this year’s Brit List – the second for TV drama. The event was gratifying in more ways than one: not only did I and the Red Arrow team get to spend the evening with an incredibly talented bunch of creatives, we also saw first-hand evidence of how our industry is evolving in a very positive way.
The Brit List – much like its US equivalent the Black List – aims to represent the best unproduced screenplays in the UK market, based on hundreds of recommendations made by a broad spectrum of industry executives. This year’s list was compiled from 232 recommended scripts, of which 24 projects from 25 writers made the cut, each with four or more recommendations.
Looking at the list in more detail, it’s inspiring to note that close to half the scripts are written by women, and a quarter by BAME writers. By way of comparison, only 18 months ago the first Brit List to focus on TV drama featured 20 scripts out of a total of 101 recommended projects – and, of the 25 selected writers, only a quarter were women and none were from a BAME background. At long last, a more diverse range of voices and stories are being heard.
Initiatives like The Brit List are more important than ever to help measure and improve on the range of voices we hear from, especially given the phenomenal talent pool here in the UK.
I believe the new economics of this ‘Peak TV’ era, particularly in the world of drama –underpinned by the increased demand for content from global streaming platforms – is bringing about a democratisation in the pool of writing talent being engaged and heard.
This is especially true when you consider that more established writers are increasingly booked for years in advance and signing exclusive deals with the leading global players. This means that the hunger for content – and the struggle to secure the talent to develop that content – is opening up new opportunities for our emerging writers, and bringing a greater diversity of stories and talent both in front and behind the camera.
At Red Arrow Studios, we are very aware that fostering diversity and a plurality of voices across our scripted slate is not just an ambition but a true business imperative, and the results of the Brit List have encouraged us to carry out our own review of the submissions we receive and the development commitments we make. We found that around one third of the projects we receive are written by women, and that we are progressing towards an equal gender split in the projects we board for development. However, we know that we must continue to strive for more, particularly when it comes to bringing more BAME talent through development and onto screen, and which is currently a small percentage of our overall projects. Our involvement in the Brit List has provided us with added inspiration to keep focusing firmly on these issues as we go into our scripted plans for 2020 and beyond.
Ultimately, the biggest winners are of course the viewers, who will increasingly benefit from the production of a more varied range of content from all over the world. Cultural barriers are, if not breaking down, at least starting to crack – and from our end, long may this process continue.