Isabelle du Plessis, Director of Communications at The Mill and Technicolor Creative Studios, outlines some of the key organizations that facilitate diversity hiring practices and creativity in the advertising industry.
“It’s so important that we talk about it.” If you’ve been in any space seeking to bring about some type of incremental change, then you’ve probably heard this phrase. Companies around the world are making announcements about their commitment to DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) principles and promising to review their current leadership models and hiring practices.
Perhaps you yourself attended a corporate forum to discuss current affairs and stand in the way of those whose voices have historically been silenced, or perhaps you attached a pressing slogan of social justice to your email signature to support those leading the way to a more compassionate future. In the age of the internet, virtual words and ads carry a lot of weight, and it can be nice to sit back and watch what you’ve shared, posted, saved, liked, or otherwise typed. But that begs the question, what’s next? How do we hold our CEOs, directors, managers and partners to their words? At The Mill, we’ve done our best to translate conversation into action, partnering with a range of leading industry groups that are actively integrating diverse talent into the creative industries.
It is imperative that we work together at every stage of the creative process to create an industry that respects, embraces and encourages the uniqueness of individuals and their talent. Here are some key organizations that creative studios in advertising and entertainment can partner with in order to access and provide opportunities to the world’s rich and diverse talent pool.
To take action, Changing the Goal first requires industries to commit to taking concrete steps to achieve racial diversity in their fields. In their own words, Changing the Lens is “a commitment to ensure that the representation of black filmmakers within the commercial film and music video industry reflects the general population,” and it asks creatives to sign the ‘production company’ commitment – a commitment to achieve at least 15% black directors on the company’s slate.
They also have pledges for directors, producers, department heads, and talent agencies. Changing the goal asks you to (1) recognize current diversity, (2) create a goal and plan for achievement, and (3) evaluate progress towards the goal with all course correction measures. Change the Lens was founded by Savanah Leaf, Alli Maxwell, Rohan Blair-Mangat and Jason Harper. You can read more about Change the Lens on their website or follow them on Instagram @changethelens.
Film school for black girls
To continue its efforts to reshape industry practices, Black Girl Film School (BGFS) aims to shape the next generation. BGFS is a collection of media experts, filmmakers, screenwriters, cinematographers, producers, directors, teachers, instructional designers and below the line teams – all with a common goal to increase the number of black women working in the industry above and below the line.
BGFS seeks to “improve the academic performance of middle-aged girls”, which, in turn, “increases the number of black women working and leading in the film, television and media industries”. The Mill has helped create engaging and colorful graphic packages for the organization to help enhance their messaging and hopefully help educate the next generation of creative Mill recruits.
“I’ve worked on many amazing projects during my time with The Mill LA, but this is a rare opportunity to be able to facilitate something that you hope has real change within your community and culture. from your own workplace,” commented one of The Mill’s senior producers. To access The Mill’s work with Black Girl Film School and learn more about the collaboration process, read The Mill’s featured article. To learn more about BGFS programming or to donate, you can visit their website.
Of course, while it is essential to invest in future talent, it is essential to invest in current talent. Enter ACCESS:VFX. ACCESS:VFX is a global, industry-led, not-for-profit organization comprised of 40 leading companies, industry organizations and educational institutions in the visual effects, animation and games industries. It focuses on the active pursuit and encouragement of inclusion, diversity, awareness and opportunity under its four pillars of inspiration, education, mentorship and recruitment.
As part of an ongoing relationship with the organization, The Mill often works with ACCESS:VFX to participate in discussions about career paths in the digital creator space. The talks, whether in person or virtual, are open to everyone and provided key insights on how to get into the field, regardless of their background. These conversations emphasize that no matter where you are in your career or education, there is a place for you in the visual effects industry. Listen to The Mill’s latest podcast discussion with ACCESS:VFX here and visit the ACCESS:VFX homepage to get involved.
D&AD: New Blood Change
Accessible education is key to shaping industry diversity. D&AD New Blood Shift is a free night school, revealing raw, untrained talent. Shift gives its new creatives some serious industry, compelling them to do their life’s creative work. Workshops and conferences are delivered directly by professionals at the top of their game, with learning supported by a real client brief. D&AD Shift NYC is a free 12-week workshop for budding creatives in New York.
This year they are offering a program with Google in London. During the evening school, participants cover key skills useful for a creative career in the world of advertising and design, such as design, copywriting, art direction, strategy and production, for n to name a few. In NYC’s 2019 program, 74% of shifters secured internships after graduating from the program in January, including at companies such as AKQA, Iris and Design Bridge.
D&AD has partnered with industry leaders for years and they often present their innovation and visual effects courses in partnership with The Mill, globally. To learn more about D&AD or to register for their course, visit their website. To see The Mill’s creative work with D&AD, you can visit The Mill’s archives.
The Disability Confident Action Plan was set up by the UK government to help organizations improve how they attract, recruit and retain workers with disabilities in order to enhance inclusion in the workplace. By signing up, an employer has publicly declared that they are committed to doing better in this space.
Companies like The Mill have worked closely with leading Disability Confident consultants, such as Graeme Whippy MBE, to support them on their journey to becoming a Disability Confident employer. All employers join the scheme at level 1 (confident handicap engaged) and progress from one level to the next as their confidence increases. The program is voluntary and access to advice, best practices and resources is completely free.
The Mill’s chief executive, Misha Harris, said: “Surprisingly, almost 50% of the disabled population in the UK is unemployed. We want to do better by recruiting a diverse range of able-bodied and disabled talent to bring new ways of thinking to the studio. It’s about creating a barrier-free work environment for everyone.
You can read more about the Disability Confident plan here and about Graeme Whippy here.
Albert Kennedy Foundation
The Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT) is an organization that supports young LGBT+ people aged 16-25 in the UK who face homelessness or live in a hostile environment. They work to help young people access safe homes and jobs, education or training, and a welcoming and open environment that celebrates LGBT+ identities.
In the UK, 24% of young homeless people identify as LGBT+, and 77% of young people AKT works with believe that coming out has been a factor in their homelessness. By partnering with AKT, organizations can help marginalized young people find safety and give them access to creative opportunities.
The Mill have created a campaign video for AKT as part of their two-day festival with the aim of bringing together LGBT+ music, comedy and drag from across the UK, as well as panel discussions with members of their community. You can read more about AKT here or on their Instagram @aktcharity. You can see The Mill’s campaign film, “We Are Family” here.
Our work as an industry is still in its infancy, so it’s up to all of us to ensure that our efforts don’t stagnate and that we continue to learn and grow. Partnering with organizations that are actively seeking to change the landscape allows us to take the first steps. Partnerships, mentoring, employment opportunities: all of this creates vital pathways to diversify the workforce and open up space for people who don’t see themselves represented in the career of their choice.
If you would like to learn more about these organizations or explore recruitment opportunities at The Mill, visit The Mill’s People and Culture page or contact one of the ten global offices.