A conversation with S.O.U.L about film and diversity

With the ongoing conversation of diversity, there are many organisations out there, who are on a mission to be seen as the most diverse of them all in their industry. There is the fear that people are now being given opportunities just to meet diversity quotas rather than on merits. If it means the minorities are being given more opportunities, should we complain?  Every vocation has its barriers especially when you are trying to get your foot into the door. S.O.U.L Film UK celebrate and support the unique and creative film talents of Britain’s B.A.M.E (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) communities. We caught up with the founders of S.O.U.L Film UK, Lawrence Coke, Iyare Igiehon and Nuru Rimington-Mkali for a conversation about the diversity word and Screening Our Unseen Lives on to the big screen.

The tough fight of bringing the creative talents of the underrepresented community to the big screen and S.O.U.L’s plan of execution.

Iyare – I don’t see it as a particularly tough fight, there are plenty of examples of people doing exactly that. We had ‘The Intent’ by Femi Oyeniran and ‘The Weekend’ by Kojo, that’s just two from the top of my head. My feeling is that our communities are going to get themselves on to the big screen whatever it takes and our job is to support them in any way we can. So, our strategy is to facilitate the networking of talent, the sharing of knowledge and in the long term to get involved with the creation of new work ourselves.

Nuru – I think the real challenge lies in convincing these institutions that they have a truly vested interest in the intellectual diversity that results from a more varied array of backgrounds and experiences throughout the creative sectors. As long as increased diversity is seen as an obligation, as opposed to an opportunity, audiences will continue to be short changed. Diversity inclusion is so much more than just the fair thing to do, or a chance to unlock pots of money tied to racial or gender quotas; it is something big that can lead to new stories, told from new angles – for new audiences.

To me, S.O.U.L. exists for this very purpose. I feel our aim as a community should be to affect change with product, not protest – by channelling our creativity into untold stories for untapped audiences. They will only be able to remake Jurassic Park so many more times before things reach critical mass – and maybe Star Wars episode 27 will need to be in cinemas before the penny finally drops, but at some point, they will realise; it’s not that there’s a lack of ideas out there, it’s a lack of those ideas being heard, either by executives in boardrooms, or audiences in cinemas. It is in everybody’s best interests for that to change.

Lawrence – Audiences are tired of seeing stereotypical portrayals onscreen and are making it known they want to see a wider range of content which supports our cause.  Also, online platforms mean the notion of gatekeepers deciding who gets commissioned is thankfully becoming more redundant by the day because people can shoot it, upload it and engage directly with the audience and let them decide rather than some stuffed shirts sitting behind a desk who can’t relate.  Our overall plan has many parts to it, but personally speaking I believe it’s critical for SOUL to continue to provide a safe creative space for people to be able to screen work and connect with like-minded individuals, moving forward I’d like to see this encompass more direct assistance to creatives like distribution, producing etc.

Read the full conversation in our “Fashionable Culture” issue… 

The next S.O.U.L Celebrate:Connect screening is on 3rd March at BFI Southbank SE1 8XT London, from 3pm -9pm.