Black stars back Brixton-based drive for film and TV diversity

line-up of Black female actors
Anni Domingo (IFT ambassador), Stephanie Yamson (IFT-supported writer), Lydia Agbobidi (IFT chair), Sarah Niles (IFT ambassador), Tolu Stedford (IFT head of creative development), Suzette Llewellyn (IFT ambassador)

Black stars from national TV soaps, dramas and classical theatre have joined a Brixton-based charity to launch a production company promoting diversity and inclusion in the UK film and TV industry.

The Independent Film Trust (IFT) helps marginalised communities and under-represented talent to engage with film and creative media. 

It has worked in Brixton on projects including helping young people create films for the Townscape Heritage Initiative and the Coldharbour Project virtual reality tour of Brixton

Based in International House, the trust also works to develop a more inclusive screen sector through training, mentoring, research and advocacy.

Its new production arm, IFT Studios, has released a slate of media projects and announced several ambassadors who will promote its work.

The production company will be “dedicated to creating life-affirming film, TV and immersive media productions that speak to global audiences”.

Its projects will explore “a diverse range of lived experiences” and enable producers, directors and writers to build meaningful media careers.

Representatives of Disney and Universal were among guests at a recent launch event.

Actor and director Anni Domingo – one of the new IFT ambassadors – said: “There is such a need for more Black representatives within our industry.

“As an ambassador for the Independent Film Trust, I fully support the organisation’s aim to amplify marginalised voices, champion varied production talents and support the use of audio-visual art to tell their diverse narratives.”

Tolu Stedford, the IFT’s head of creative development, wants to recruit British talent from in front and behind the camera as ambassadors to support the trust’s work.

 “We need inspirational leaders in the UK film and TV industry who understand the importance of getting diverse talent through the door and who personally understand the current barriers faced,” she said.

headshots montage
IFT ambassadors (l-r): Shobu Kapoor, Anni Domingo, Judith Jacob, Sarah Niles, Chizzy Akudolu, Martina Laird, Suzette Llewellyn, Sharon Duncan-Brewster

Already ambassadors are:

  • Martina Laird (Boxing Day 2021)
  • Sarah Niles (I May Destroy You, 2020)
  • Shobu Kapoor (We Are Lady Parts, 2021)
  • Anni Domingo (Three Sisters, National Theatre 2020)
  • Judith Jacob (Real McCoy)
  • Chizzy Akudolu (Casualty)
  • Suzette Llewellyn (Eastenders 2019)
  • Sharon Duncan-Brewster (The Swarm 2021) 
  • Vinta Morgan (Coronation Street 2021).

Shobu Kapoor said: “I’m honoured to be an ambassador. Diversity is the heartbeat of every country, community and organisation, and I’m thrilled to see that it’s the beating heart of the IFT.

“There are so many stories champing at the bit to be told – so many beautiful, heartening and heartrending tales of the human condition, a condition that is common to us all, no matter what clothes it wears or what languages it speaks.

“When diversity takes centre stage, all these stories blossom.”

Shobu Kapoor quoted the MP Jo Cox, who was murdered in 2016 by a white supremacist: “We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us.”

Tolu Stedford said the ambassadors and their recognisable faces “are the supportive figures who will act as inspirational leaders to empower our talent and push to open more opportunities and strengthen our work at IFT Studios.”

The launch of IFT Studios comes at a time when levels of representation in UK media are stagnant or falling.

Its debut project, Rebel Dykes (Riot Productions) was produced by IFT-supported Artist Siobhan Fahey and is being distributed by Bohemia Media.

IFT chief executive Charlotte Knowles acted as executive producer on the film which aired as part of an international festival run.

Leading the new production company alongside Charlotte Knowles is Soumya Singh.

She said setting up IFT Studios was “the next natural and exciting step” to provide individuals with a platform not only to showcase their work but also to use it to tackle issues of under-representation and diversity.

“Making high-quality content and fairer representation of talent both on-screen and off-screen have been our guiding principles right from the outset,” she said.

“On this long journey towards that end goal, we are proud to reach this milestone.”