From Words to Actions
In June of 2020, The ACTRA Toronto Council and Diversity and Inclusion Committee worked together to develop an Anti-Black Racism work plan, committed to working within our union and across the industry to bring about real and lasting change.
On November 30, 2020, Jenn Paul was hired as ACTRA Toronto’s Industry Relations Specialist for Anti-Black Racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. View the press release here.
In the past seven months, Jenn has led and participated in several initiatives with the objective of creating a more equitable workplace for our diverse performers. Here is an update on the past year of progress as we continue to work towards lasting change:
Educate our Union
- Anti-Oppression training for council and senior staff was completed in 2020
- The Respect on Set course was reviewed from an anti-oppression lens, and updated accordingly.
- A “Guide for Acting Coaches & Educators working with Performers” was published, and the Association for Acting Coaches & Educators (AACE) was formed to encourage a respectful and harassment-free learning environment for teachers, coaches, students and clients.
- Organized by BIPOC TV & Film and working with other union DEI leads, to plan and discuss the potential of a joint industry-wide Anti-Oppression training initiative.
- Additional training options are currently being explored, including By-Stander Intervention
- We will create and share accessible anti-racism resources throughout the year.
- We will continue to encourage new members to take the Respect on Set and will encourage existing members to take the course as a refresher as well.
Improve resources and supports
- Reviewed existing ACTRA resources and identified gaps where there was room to improve supports for BIPOC members.
- Re-branding of HAVEN to emphasize that the helpline can also be used to report incidents of racism and discrimination (Harassment, Anti-Racism, Violence Emergency Network)
- D&I Committee newsletter: Created and implemented a monthly newsletter, distributed to 250+ committee members on a regular basis, with news regarding current and upcoming opportunities
- Pronouns in staff signatures: Worked with IT to allow for personal pronouns to be optionally added to ACTRA Toronto staff’s auto-generated ACTRA email signatures.
- Currently working on consultations through the various ACTRA Toronto committees to consult on challenges performers face in the casting and audition process. The end result will be a guide of Best Practices that can be used by Casting Directors, Agents, Directors and Producers, as well as several suggestions for policy improvements that can be implemented in the next round of collective bargaining negotiations.
- We will create a webpage dedicated to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging resources, aimed to assist Producers who are engaging ACTRA performers.
Create and develop work opportunities
- ACTRA Toronto Diversity Showcase: Created diversityshowcase.ca to highlight diverse performers within the ACTRA Toronto membership, starting with a focus on Black Performers.
- Demo Reel Initiative: Produced “A Different Lens”: a series of 7 short film scenes with 13 diverse performers from ACTRA Toronto’s D&I committee to be used in their Demo Reels, and held an online Watch Party and discussion in partnership with Access Reelworld
- Held multiple workshops for BIPOC Performers in partnership with the Voice Committee, including “Diversity in Voice: Commercial VO & Vocal Health Workshop” and the “Diversity in Voice: Animation Workshop”
- Held additional editions of “Working the Scene in Colour”, to connect BIPOC performers with writers and promote new talent through the live script reading event.
- The outACTRAto committee held the first “Working the Scene in Rainbow”, inspired by “Working the Scene in Colour”.
- Additional Showcases for various communities to be highlighted on diversityshowcase.ca are currently in the planning stages, including the Latinx community, Asian community, Queer community, Performers living with disabilities, and more.
- We will encourage diverse performers to update and upload their profile to diversity.ACTRAonline.ca.
- Created an opportunity for Black performers to participate in an African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) workshop with renowned dialect coach, Amani Dorn, to provide ACTRA Toronto performers with the tools necessary to compete and be cast in parts where it might be required to sound as though they are from Atlanta, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Chicago, or New York.
- Work with Post-Secondary Institutions and other industry partners to sustain and expand the A Different Lens: Demo Reel Initiative
- Optimize and better populate the ACTRA Online Databases
- Conversations have begun to execute a strategy to increase diversity across performer categories
Support and celebrate BIPOC creators and content
- We continue to highlight industry professionals and production companies who have demonstrated a commitment to diversity and inclusion through the Sandi Ross Awards and ACTRA Spotlight. This year, we produced the first online Sandi Ross Awards, which has garnered over 500 views.
- We will continue to develop and grow partnerships with community and cultural film festivals including ReelWorld, imagineNATIVE, ReelAsian and the Regent Park Film Festival.
- outACTRAto had their first online Industry Social Mixer “The Rainbow Zoom” to celebrate Pride month with an inclusive and intersectional lens
- 2021 Sandi Ross Awards
- Ongoing Partnerships with community and cultural Film Festivals
- Ongoing highlighting of diverse performers and projects on social media
Advocate for a more fair and just industry and society
- Passed with unanimous support by the ACTRA Toronto Council, ACTRA Toronto has published a letter in support of defunding the police through reallocating a portion of the Toronto Police Service budget to mental health and community services. Read more in Performers Magazine.
- Leading a mapping exercise with leaders from across the industry through the Canadian Creative Industries Coalition to map DEI initiatives and priorities from throughout the industry, and how we may move forward towards common goals on a united front. The result will be a crowd-sourced database that lists what all the CCIC organizations are doing to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in our industry.
- Working with ACTRA National on a follow-up to ACTRA Ontario’s 2017 Census with a nation-wide census of our membership, to help identify challenges and wage gaps, while tracking progress from our last census.
- HMU Equity Initiative: raising awareness, educating industry partners, and creating a safe space for BIPOC Performers to report inequities in the hair and makeup department on-set and help provide the information required to optionally file a grievance through ACTRA.