Transforming the structures and attitudes that perpetuate anti-Black racism in Canadian screen media

In 2020, the founders of the Black Screen Office— some of Canada’s most prominent Black film and television creators—saw an opportunity to activate a transformation in Canada’s screen industries. Communities across North America were in the midst of a racial reckoning. The anti-Black racism that underpins the systemic inequities in our society was finally being acknowledged. Even among those who benefit from the status quo, a proverbial crack had formed in the dam of social acceptance. This was our chance to generate real action in Canada’s film, television and digital media industries by holding a mirror to their own entrenched anti-Black racism and developing sustainable solutions to root it out.

Clear-eyed, strategic, and tenacious, our group willed the Black Screen Office (BSO) into existence, and financial support from Telefilm Canada got us off the ground. In the months since, we have collaborated with key players across the industry in our commitment to sustain this moment and keep Black issues at the forefront of discussions until that dam—the structures and attitudes that perpetuate anti-Black racism in Canadian screen media—is well and truly broken.

BSO has been the vanguard of advocacy and action to improve the representation of Black Canadians onscreen and behind the scenes. Our work to dismantle damaging structures, processes and norms has been a succession of firsts for Canada’s screen industries. In its report, Being Seen, BSO created ground-breaking directives to support screen industry professionals to create more authentic depictions of underrepresented communities. In Being Counted, BSO produced the first comprehensive audience survey of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour Canadians. This work allows producers and broadcasters to see these audiences for the first time and provides empirical data to support more inclusive content. Being Heard is the first comprehensive research in Canada’s Black film, television and digital media sectors. The report offers an evidence based for changes and recommendations to create a more inclusive and equitable Canadian screen industry. We have partnered with corporate, nonprofit and government entities to develop new paid opportunities for Black creatives and to seed a pipeline of Black talent across the industries.

In short, we have made a dramatic impact in just over two years And we have done all this while building an organizational foundation for growth.

We are grateful to the funders, partners and supporters who have contributed to our progress. While our work is far from done, we look forward to more collaborations that will prioritize and showcase Black talent and their projects within Canada and internationally. We will continue to identify the systemic roadblocks above and below the line that impede the progress of Black people and we plan to be at the forefront of creating sustainable solutions.

This is a pivotal moment for Black creators and screen industry workers. The Black Screen Office, supported by our collaborators, is not only opening doors that have been closed for too long, we are removing them and rebuilding the structure entirely to provide access, support and clearer pathways for generations of Black talent to come.

Written By

Joan Jenkinson

Inaugural Executive Director, Founder
Media Executive

Jennifer Holness

Inaugural Board Chair,