London360 Feature: Screen Nation

Founded by Charles Thompson MBE, Screen Nation hosted its 11th annual Film and television Awards. The ceremony honours and showcases the achievements of black professionals within the film and television industry. The aim of Screen Nation is to encourage, celebrate, reward, support and promote professionals and talents of African diaspora heritage to continue building a diverse path for future careers.

Stars arrived and graced the red carpet and then were treated to a three course meal before the main ceremony and celebrations.

Beverley Knight explained that ”in the absence of diversity in mainstream ceremonies across the board in all mediums, it’s important that Screen Nation Awards has come along and filled a huge gap that there has been with all the others. Screen Nation are saying ‘this is what diversity looks like”

The media’s representation and recognition of black stars still has a lot of progress to be made and we have seen this more and more.  #OscarsSoWhite and #BritsSoWhite are two great examples of a global outcry at the lack of diversity.

Even more outrageous, is when the media make mistakes when reporting famous stars. In 2013 after the passing of former South African President Nelson Mandela, a public tribute sign in New Deli India showed a picture of actor Morgan Freeman in error. Leading to many R.I.P. messages being sent to the American actor. In 2014 Samuel L Jackson was mistaken for Laurence Fishburne by KTLA’s reporter Sam Rubin on live television in America. Most recently and closer to home, in 2015 ITV used a photograph of Ainsley Harriott when reporting about Lenny Henry’s Knighthood.

On the note of Diversity in Britain Ainsley Harriott said ““People say it’s getting better, we want it to be better, but there is still a lot that needs to be done” Music Artist Sinitta, whose mother Miquel Brown was one of the first black women in British Theatre, also had a similar message “Times have changed but we still need more change.”

As well as helping to promote the inequalities, social media can be a gift and a hindrance to those in the media world. With the increase of social media trolling – a form of online bullying in some cases – it’s not always pleasant for stars, especially when their comments are misunderstood. This was the case when John Boyega’s (Actor, ‘Star Wars VII’ 2015) comments during his acceptance speech were reported and misunderstood after the awards. He stated “To complain about what is going on is not going to benefit us, be the change you want to be, and continue and focus.”

It was unfortunate that he had to clarify what he meant. For many of the stars and guests of the awards it’s important to make a change yourself and make a difference to help move forward, but this does not mean that anyone is ignoring or undermining the campaigns for the lack of diversity.

Joivan Wade (Actor, ‘Eastenders’ BBC) said “We need more stories, without the stories you can’t play a character you’re not supposed to play. People of influence need to be diverse. Until that happens it will be difficult.” This was echoed by Cherrelle Skeete (Actor, ‘Danny and the Human Zoo’ BBC) “We need to be making our own work. If it’s not out there go out there and create it. The roles that I really want, I’m going to have to create it myself.”

Former ‘Desmond’s’ (Ch4) actor Geff Francis (‘Ashes to Ashes’ (BBC) ‘The Aliens’ (Ch4)) suggested that we need to “have show business catch up with the real world. People are smarter now, we have a different generation that grew up in a different way. Now we can put black people on the screen and it doesn’t offend anyone.” Although diversity is a hot topic, Eleanor Fanyinka (Actress, Holby City) highlighted that “years ago we hadprogrammeslike the Desmond’s, we don’t have that anymore, and we’re less represented than we’ve ever been.”

Kascion Franklin (Actor, ‘Danny and The Human Zoo’ (BBC) explained that he never felt accurately represented on screen “It was either some urban thug, that wasn’t me, or someone that had a scholarship to do football or some kind of sport, that wasn’t me. People need to have a sense of identity to be able to relate to themselves on screen” The roles that black characters get is often based on a stereotype, Osy Ikhile (Actor, ‘Mission: Impossible Rouge Nation’ 2015) believes that if the role isn’t “gang related or a stereotypical role, then there isn’t a lot of depth to it.” Another reason why we need more diverse people as writers, producers and directors.

Brenda Emmanus celebrated that British Black stars have “a community that is thriving, a legacy of amazing people that came before us. This is an opportunity to showcase what has been done, what’s being done now, and look forward to the future and not waiting for permission to be great”

Javone Prince (Comedian & Actor, ‘The Javone Prince Show’ (BBC)) believes that we need to “work together to put stuff out there. And if we do come together we can move forward. You can’t do something on your own you need a team.”

One clear message from the night is that many artists are no longer relying solely on traditional media to be heard. Shirley B. Eniang (online blogger) described how “social media has created a great platform for everyone that wants to share something or find out more information from people just like themselves.” Actor and director Oris Erhuero also commented on how Social Media has helped his nomination for the Screen Nation Awards, as “we’re not necessarily the actors and producers that have been around, Social media has had a big impact for those of us that don’t have that powerful media attention behind us.”

On its 11th anniversary, in a year that is full of many diversity arguments, from gender to race, the Screen Nation Awards had a lot celebrate. Simon Webb highlighted that “Screen Nation celebrates cultural diversity, it’s not just about black people it’s about people and we all have to fit together.”

In his acceptance speech actor Malachi Kirby (‘Jekyll & Hyde’ (ITV))summarisedthe meaning and the importance of diversity:  “Progress will be made when this is no longer a black awards ceremony and the same faces are still here.”

Winners of Screen Nation Awards 2016:

Award Winner
UK Screen Awards Rising Star Malachi Kirby – Jekyll &Hyde(ITV), Dough
Favourite Female TV Personality Alison Hammond – Strictly Come Dancing (BBC)
Favourite Male TV Personality Charles Venn – Casualty (BBC)
Female Performance in Film Nathalie Emmanuel – Fast & Furious 7 (2015), Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015)
Male Performance in Film John Boyega – Star Wars (2015)
Female Performance in TV Cecilia Noble – Danny and the Human Zoo (BBC)
Male Performance in TV Kascion Franklin – Danny and the Human Zoo (BBC)
UK Screencraft Achievement Awards Diversity in Factual Production Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners – BBC
Diversity in Drama Production The Interceptor – BBC
Independent Spirit Film Production Looking for Love – Menelik Shabbaz
Achievement in Film Production The Hard Stop – George Amponsah/Dionne Walker
Favourite International (made by or featuring British talent) Beasts of No Nation – Idris Elba, AmaK Abebrese, Jude Akuwudike
Favourite African UK Movie (made by or featuring significantly British talent) The Cursed Ones – Nana Obiri-Yeboah & Maximilian Claussen
Favourite Comedy Production Chewing Gum – E4
Favourite Grime Music promo Lady Leshurr – Queens Speech 4
People’s Choice W. African International Screen Awards Favourite Film Beasts of No Nation
Favourite Male Screen Personality Oris Erhuero
Favourite Female Screen Personality Gayle Ngozi Thompson-Igwebike

##BritsSoWhite##OscarsSoWhite#Ainsley Harriott#Film#John Boyega#Movies#Music#Screen Nation#Star Wars#Television

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