Movie companies have been told they must meet new targets for ethnic minority, gay and female characters on screen to be eligible for future funding from the British Film Institute.
The BFI, Britain’s largest public film fund, announced a “Three Ticks” scheme to ensure diversity in films and behind the scenes as it set out new rules for funding.
The new rules will compel filmmakers to place “diverse” actors and subjects at the forefront of their projects, as well as ensuring minority workers are represented on set and in the crew.
On screen, at least one lead character must be “positively reflecting diversity”, with the story more likely to receive funding if it “explicitly and predominantly explores issues of identity relating to ethnicity or national origins, a specific focus on women, people with disabilities, sexual identity, age and people from a socially disadvantaged background”.
Among the films the BFI has praised for content include Suffragette, the story of the battle for women to gain the vote, and Pride, about gay activists supporting the miners’ strike. It will ask filmmakers to ensure that at least 30 per cent of supporting and non-speaking characters are also “diverse”.
Off-screen, at least two heads of department must be from diverse backgrounds, as well as a range of “key creatives” including the director, screenwriter, composer and cinematographer.
The third category requires companies to offer paid internships and jobs to “new entrants from diverse backgrounds” and to help them progress.
“Three Ticks” is likely to raise fears about compromising scripts’ authenticity, with period dramas less likely to naturally represent “diverse backgrounds”.
A spokesman for the BFI insisted all films would have the opportunity to meet the criteria, with even those not fulfilling them onscreen able to “tick” the other two sections.
Ed Vaizey, the culture minister, praised the initiative as helping to “raise the bar”, adding that he would like to see all television, film and performing arts companies following the BFI’s example.
Amanda Nevill, the CEO of the BFI, said it was “vital” to reflect British society in order to stay relevant and said the announcement “is just the beginning”.
Last month, the BBC announced it would ensure one in seven actors and presenters will be either black, Asian or ethnic minority in the next three years.
At the time, critics including Philip Davies, the Conservative MP, called it “absolutely ridiculous” political correctness, saying that all recruitment “should be done on ability”.