Sir Lenny Henry and Adrian Lester will hand deliver a letter signed by a string of stars to 10 Downing Street today, calling for tax breaks to increase the representation of women, BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) and disabled people working behind the camera.
They will be joined by a number of actors and senior figures working in the industry to hand over the document, whose signatories include Dame Emma Thompson, Jodie Whittaker, Thandie Newton, David Oyelowo and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
The letter calls for the immediate introduction of Representation Tax Relief to increase diversity in the industry.
It says: “True representation of the diversity of the UK isn’t just about what we see on our screens but also the people writing, directing, filming and working behind the camera.
“Over the years some of the most important British films and television have been written and directed by Britain’s talented women, BAME and disabled creatives including the award winning Amma Asante, Sally Wainwright, Gurinder Chadha, Abi Morgan, Steve McQueen, Sharon Horgan, and Michaela Coel.
“They enrich the creativity of the UK and add to our cultural heritage, but unfortunately they continue to be the exception rather than the rule.
“We believe the implementation of Representation Tax Relief is necessary because diversity in important sections of the UK film and television industry is in crisis.
The letter says the statistics for the representation of women and BAME and disabled people are “shocking” and cites a report by Directors UK, which found that only 2% of UK television is made by directors of BAME background.
It also cites a British Film Institute report which found only 3% of the UK film industry’s production and post-production workforce are from a BAME background.
It said: “Over the last decade women made up only 13.6% of working film directors in the UK despite the fact they make up the majority of film students.
“Only 0.3% of the total UK film workforce and just 4.5% of the television workforce are disabled, well short of the 18% in the population who consider themselves disabled.
“These numbers are shocking. Tax relief is a tried and tested mechanism to increase employment and activity in the UK film industry. We believe Representation Tax Relief would encourage investment in diverse film and television productions, and boost the growth of UK film and television productions directed, written and filmed by disabled people, women and BAME background people.
“It would also increase the level of diversity in the industry workforce.”
The letter says UK film and television productions should be eligible for tax relief if they meet three out of four possible criteria – that the director, writer and/or director of photography is a woman and/or disabled and/or from a BAME background; or if 50% of staff behind the camera are female, or 14% are BAME staff, or 18% disabled staff.
It added: “Complaints over the lack of diversity in the creative industries have seen things slowly begin to change, but the time has come for more substantive measures, and real change needs to be underwritten by law.
“The measures we are calling for are long overdue and will ensure the UK has the most diverse and vibrant film and television industries in the world.”
The group will deliver the letter to 10 Downing Street at 2pm.