August 01, 2023

Discussing Diversity at the ASC Summit – ‘We’re in A Unique Position to Create Access’

Recently returned from the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Annual Summit, where more than 30 countries were represented, and where he took part in the Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) panel, CSC board chair, Guy Godfree csc talks about the CSC’s priority to help build a more inclusive industry.

In 2020, when the CSC was designing its three-year strategic plan, it made diversifying the industry, especially camera arts, one of four strategic pillars.

“We have a unique position to create access to the camera arts through education and outreach,” Godfree says. “And the board felt it was our responsibility to help provide a means to rebalance the diverse voices in the Canadian cinema community.”

“Once the organization took a deep look at itself, it realized that work must be done to be inclusive and accessible to all Canadians,” Diversity Committee Co-Chair Rion Gonzales adds. “This is important to the growth and success of cinematography in Canada.”

The path to equity in the arts is long, according to Godfree, “and while we are already having important successes with our initiatives, we are far from being successful. The systemic obstacles are often not immediately obvious.”

The CSC’s outreach programming includes internship, mentorship and amplifying the voices of underrepresented members.

Notwithstanding the current labour disruption in the United States and the disturbance caused by the COVID pandemic, Canada’s vibrant film and television industry is on a growth trajectory. Yet, many communities –including Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, LGBTQ+ communities and women – continue to be underrepresented in the industry.

It is a perspective shared by the American Society of Cinematographers. “Each person should have the opportunity to be the best they can be,” John Simmonds ASC, co-chair of the ASC’s Vision Committee, says. “The film industry has for so long had a closed door to women, POC, and the underserved. It goes hand in hand with the history of our country. The ASC Vision Committee has taken responsibility to try its best to make a difference. We all have a point of view shaped by our experiences, and that point of view is important and makes us who we are.”

The ASC has mentoring and educational committees, as well as programs and panels throughout the year that incorporate the importance of inclusivity. “There isn’t an easy fix to DEI issues,” Cynthia Pusheck ASC, Simmonds’ fellow co-chair on the ASC Vision Committee, says. “So it was great to hear the reps from the different organizations share their DEI stories [at the panel]. We can all learn from each other, and that was on display…with a lively discussion about studies, outreach, internships, mentoring and education.”

“We were very impressed with Guy’s explanation of the CSC’s inclusion programs,” Simmonds says. “The situation here is very different because of the way our unions work…New programs and incentives by studios are beginning to make a difference but nothing like what Canada is doing.”

“US-based cinematographers who return from a show in Canada will talk about the Canadian internship program and wonder why we can’t have a program like that here in the US,” Pusheck adds. “It’s just not a simple matter to implement it here. But, hopefully, some of the obstacles are beginning to be removed.”

Pusheck says that while not everyone had success stories to share [at the DEI panel], there was still an overall shared sense of passion and hope for the change we want to see in our industry. “It was encouraging and inspirational to be part of the conversation and to know that we’re all trying to do our part to make our industry more equitable and diverse.”

“Diversity is hard,” Gonzales says. “We are beginning to make inroads as the internship and mentorship programs grow, and we can approach communities where there is very little opportunity to work in film and provide hands-on experiences, not just in cinematography positions, but in parts of the industry that support film production. Our plans are to grow these programs.”

“We recognize that we must be persistent with strategies on the ‘long game’ to really make change. Most importantly, creating true change means ground-up work, and helping to create entrances to the industry that are in, and of, themselves sustainable,” Godfree says.

“It can be common for those wishing to gain entrance to the industry to feel it is an impossible task. The CSC sees importance in dismantling obstacles and making pathways for everyone to take part. I can’t emphasize enough that new voices play a vital role in the future of cinema. With the advent of AI threatening to reference and recycle the existing arts, untold stories will be the future of true filmmaking,” he adds.

– By CSC Staff