This week Claire Fennelow (EVCOM’s Executive Director) and myself, with shadow board member Sophie Evans (Performing Artistes), spoke at The Meetings Show as part of their education programme. We talked about the shadow board and our accompanying next gen initiatives, and the importance of investing in young people to take the industry forwards. You can find a writeup of our session below!

How it all began

Our membership is is made up of both event agencies and film agencies, as well as organisations that work across the two. Looking at both sectors, it had become increasingly obvious that they had a problem around diversity: very specifically around race and socio economic perspectives. Last year’s ‘Black in the Boardroom’ report highlighted the lack of senior representation of people of colour in Board rooms. Whilst EVCOM’s Board had a fair gender representation, that was as far as it went. So how do we move the dial?

Moving the dial

Two hurdles we struggled with were audience and a small budget. That’s when we got the best piece of advice we’ve ever received on diversity. Diversity Ally said, “Just start and do something.” We had to look at what we COULD do and how we would deliver it within the scope of our resources. We looked at the predominantly white senior and mid-level of our industries, and realised we needed to start at the beginning. We needed to encourage young diverse people to choose our sector, we needed to make it more accessible and we needed to create opportunities for them. From this, our Next gen initiatives were born.

First steps

The FOCUS Award was our first step. Founded in 2020, the FOCUS Award offers Black filmmakers and filmmakers of colour between the ages of 18-25 not already working in the film and/or TV industry, the chance to win mentorship at top corporate film companies from our membership by submitting a film they’ve made. In its inaugural year the winner and one of the shortlistees were both offered jobs by one of the mentor companies.

We opened applications for our inaugural shadow board about this time last year. The process was open to 18-25 year olds working in the corporate film and events industries, or aspiring to. Several of our Senior Board members helped us choose the final shadow board members from the candidates that applied. We hoped that the board would provide skills-based development to participants and filter the viewpoints of young people to changemakers within the film and events industries. The shadow board came to their first meeting armed with ideas, including a dedicated resource space, the need for more shadowing opportunities and greater use of social media platforms to build an audience of young people. So we got to work.

A year on

Since then we have created a dedicated Next Gen resource space on our website, packed with articles, interviews and top tips for people starting out in, or considering, our industries. We have set up a Video Hub space on our website in partnership with TwentyThree which makes our webinars and banks of award-winning work easily accessible.

We have worked with our members to offer 12 shadowing days a year to sixth form students. We have set up a membership for 18-25 year olds, through which young people can get access to resources and can connect with industry professionals to ask for advice.

We have set up a TikTok account and a second Instagram account aimed at young people. Both are in their early stages but we are excited to build our presence on these social media platforms in a way that is specific and engaging for the audience we are looking to reach.

Last year we set up The Realise Award, a sibling award to The FOCUS Award, offering mentorship to 18-25 year olds looking to work in the events industry. This year we introduced the FOCUS 15-18 Award for the first time, which asks 15-18 year old Black filmmakers and filmmakers of colour to send in a short film made on their phone to win work experience with top corporate film companies. We found that in the 18-25 year old category we were predominantly reaching people studying film at university and wanted to engage with people as they were first considering different careers.

Already the work we are doing has created two jobs for young filmmakers of colour, inspired sixth form students and given recent starters in the industry a voice. And we hope this is just the beginning.

Our shadow board have been instrumental in all of this, meeting regularly with us to share their ideas, feedback on our actions, to challenge and to inspire us as we plan ahead. They offer a completely  different perspective and approach – particularly around technology, working practices and well-being. We can’t stress enough how important it is for senior industry people to hear young voices and to understand where they think the industry is going and what they can bring to it.

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