Powerful PSA Shows How Film Industry Silences Diverse Talent, As Top Directors Launch Petition

Toronto agency Fuse Create launches diversity campaign as top Canadian directors call for greater freedom to cast a diverse range of actors in ads

That advertising has a diversity problem—both within the agencies that create ads and the representation of people in adverts themselves—has been widely reported, and the subject of recent efforts for much needed change.

That lack of diversity goes deep, reaching into every element of the advertising ecosystem. As well as a woeful lack of opportunities for BIPOC communities, people who have less wealth and less access to education are also less likely to break into the advertising industry.

To help address that, Toronto creative agency Fuse Create partners has created a campaign for non-profit Reel Start, which works with schools in Los Angeles and Toronto to provide industry mentorship for budding film makers, delivered by industry volunteers.

Reel Start was launched in 2016 by filmmaker Evan Goldberg (The Boys, Superbad, The Disaster Artist) and educator Adrienne Slover and is open to students from schools in under-represented areas.

Featuring real students, the campaign comprises three spots that address the lack of diversity among filmmakers with the message: “Give New Voices a Voice.” It aims to highlight what talent the world is potentially missing out on and direct’s people to the organization’s fundraiser page.

The most powerful is this 30 second spot below, which sees a young student, Gabriel, silenced.

In the second spot, Gabriel’s voice is heard. He talks to the camera about what filmmaking means to him, while a message across the final frame reads: “His film could change the world. But first he needs a voice.”

The final spot features several Reel Start students talking about the power of film, and the power of new voices.

Call to action on biased casting

Meanwhile, in a separate move to tackle inequality, commercial directors from across Canada have launched and signed an open letter and petition calling for change by removing racial descriptions from casting briefs.

Spearheaded by commercial and TV director Aleysa Young and commercial director Duane Crichton, the petition has been signed by a number of senior casting figures and takes aim at “offensive” and “carefully coded” racial demands on briefs—such as “ethnically ambiguous”, “exotic”, “urban”—which, has a “negative effect for the directors involved and on the quality of talent that makes it on screen.”

The call to action, which can be viewed here, states that while race is not always discussed explicitly, unless a specific race is mentioned on a brief in practice it implies that the cast should be white—with phrases such as “all ethnicities welcome” carrying a discriminatory weight, despite meaning to appear inclusive.

By removing racial descriptions, the directors say they will have greater freedom to give BIPOC actors the same opportunity as white actors to appear in commercials.

“We are confident that the work will be better for it and that we will create pathways for people of all races to come into the casting session with a sense of belonging,” said the directors in the call to action.

Campaign Title: “Give New Voices a Voice”
Agency: FUSE Create
Client: Reel Start
Executive Creative Director: Steve Miller
Creative Director: Patrice Pollack
Writer: Sam Rudykoff
Art Director: Chloe Kim
Producer: Alice Pinto
Account Director: Emily Merrigan
Account Supervisor: Giselle Basso
Strategy: Anastasia Tubanos, Lanny Geffen
Production Company: Feels Like Home
Executive Producer: Marni Luftspring-Belavin
Director: Tamir Moscovici
Line Producer: Matt Wiele
Director of Photography: Vishan Butt
Post Production Offline: Rooster Post Production
Producer: Alanna Humphreys
Editor: Paul Proulx
Assistant: Shane Preston
Transfer: Alter Ego
Producer: Spencer Butt
Colourist: Wade Odlum
Post Production Online: Fort York
Executive Producers: Erica Bourgault-Assaf, Sam McLaren
Flame Artist: Luke White
Audio House: Pirate
Producer: Lauren Davies
Director: Tom Eymundson
Engineer: Keith Ohman

@saramayspary sara.spary@adweek.com Sara Spary is a freelance journalist based in London. She's been a reporter for eight years, covering advertising and consumer brands.