'Could you hire someone female or from an ethnic minority?': Being both: Black, Asian and other minority women working in British film production

Natalie Wreyford, Shelley Cobb

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The nominations for the 2020 British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) film awards once again proved so disappointing in terms of diversity that the #BaftasSoWhite hashtag was soon trending on Twitter. The absence of women and people from black, Asian and other minority ethnic (BAME) communities getting recognition has in recent years become one of the main talking points for awards’ season, especially since the first iteration of #OscarSoWhite in 2016. It is also the time when data reports are published on Hollywood’s gender equality and diversity of representation on screen and behind the camera. And while the data always shows that women and BAME individuals are severely underrepresented in film production and on screen, the BAME women at the intersection of these categories are often side lined in the data and media reporting, even as they number much fewer than white women and BAME men (Cobb, 2019). It is these women that we focus on – both their exclusion from and their work in the British film industry.

This chapter draws on the quantitative and qualitative research produced by the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project Calling the Shots: women and contemporary film culture in the UK, 2000-2015 that counted the numbers of women working in six key roles on British films between 2003 and 2015.1 The most recent data for 2015 is stark but also emblematic of what all our reports found: thirteen per cent of directors were women, twenty per cent of screenwriters, seventeen per cent of editors, just seven per cent of cinematographers, twenty seven per cent of producers and only eighteen per cent of executive producers were women (Cobb et al., 2016). These statistics are shocking and have been received as such by some of those working in the British film industry (Roberts 2016). However, for each one of those roles BAME women counted for less than 2% of the entire workforce in 2015 and not one was a cinematographer. This chapter uses the data gathered through Calling the Shots to analyse and describe patterns of employment and collaboration along race and gender lines, and when and how these identity markers appear most significant in securing work for BAME women. By analysing that data in conversation with Calling the Shots interviews, we aim to highlight the intersectional identities and experiences of these women (Crenshaw, 1992: 1244) in an industry that favours whiteness and masculinity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBlack Film British Cinema II
EditorsClive Nwonka, Anamik Saha
PublisherGoldsmiths Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9781912685639
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Film
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Inequalities
  • cinema


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