TAC Panel Spotlights How to Increase Equity & Diversity in Animation

An inspiring panel on how to achieve better equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in animation was part of the opening day events of Ottawa’s TAC (The Animation Conference) and Ottawa International Animation Festival today (Sept. 21).

Moderated by Diarra Konaté (socials & operations, Warner Bros. Discovery Access Canada), the informative discussion featured filmmaker Barry Bilinsky, writer/producer Desirée Green (Nelvana Talent Incubator), Wahid Ibn Reza (writer/director) and Erica Miles (animation director, Atomic Cartoons).

“I’d like to encourage producers to bring in indigenous artists and work with them and learn more about their cultures,” noted Bilinsky, a professional theater creator of Cree, Métis and Ukrainian heritage, who is working on a new project with Montreal-based animation studio E.D Films. “When working with indigenous content, we have to understand that a single voice doesn’t represent an entire nation. So now you’re looking at not collaborating with not just one creative, but potentially with groups of elders, ceremonial leaders, cultural leaders, etc. I want to make sure people are excited by the possibility of bringing on so many people, because there are so many opportunities. At first, it might seem that it’s going to be so much to work with all those individuals, but it’s a long game. By being more involved and building more trust within the community, more people will get involved and come forth and more stories will manifest from that.”

Green mentioned how much she was moved by watching the new Little Mermaid live-action trailer, featuring star Halle Bailey, and witnessing how so many Black girls watching were overcome with surprise and joy, and being overwhelmed with the feeling of being seen and being part of the industry. She added, “What has been great in the past couple of years is that we have these data reports that give people a realistic feel for what we are dealing with this industry. The challenge arises is that oftentimes what doesn’t often follow is actionable goals. We can make EDI representation intentional by having measurable goals and being transparent and accountable with those goals.”

“You have to ensure that diversity and inclusion are on the forefront,” Green added. “As Josanne Buchanan of Children’s Media Lab noted, ‘Diversity and inclusion need to be the ingredients to make the cake, not just the icing.’”

Discussing the issues and making the space for neuro-divergent talent is a move in the right direction, according to Miles, who has worked on shows such as Hilda and TrollsTopia and helped lead the team of WIA Vancouver’s ACE short Pivot. “It’s not always apparent when someone is neuro-divergent,” she pointed out. “We still live in a society when being neuro-divergent is stigmatized, so requiring someone to disclose that they’re neuro-divergent may not be the best thing, but being open to the fact that people’s brains work in different ways and supporting them in the workplace is very important.”

Bangladesh-born Ibn Reza noted that studios are constantly looking for production staff, but the main challenge for under-represented creatives is to know that these jobs exist. “Luckily, I sold a script to NFB [National Film Board of Canada]. and that opened new doors for me,” he said. He also mentioned how hard it was for him to land a job despite winning several awards, being an NBC Universal diversity fellow and working on the TV show Suits. “I sent out so many resumes and I wasn’t getting a single interview. Finally, I realized that producers don’t have the time to hire someone. When they get a resume and see that someone has international experience, they think they have to sponsor that person for a visa or work permit. My tip for all new grads is to make sure you put in all caps on your resumes, ‘Eligible to work in Canada!’ I did that and the first resume I sent out, I got a job at Bardel as a P.A. on Rick and Morty!”

The panelists also emphasized the important work that organizations such as Women in Animation Vancouver’s Animation Career EXCELerator (ACE) Program, The Black Screen Office, Writers Guild Canada and the Children’s Media Lab for helping underrepresented communities find meaningful work in the animation industry.

For more info about OIAF and TAC’s panels this week, visit animationfestival.ca.

 

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