3 March 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
IFTA Dynamic | Diverse returns to the Lighthouse Cinema for second edition
26 Oct 2023 : Luke Shanahan
Actors Sade Malone and Clinton Liberty.
The second edition of IFTA Screen: Dynamic | Diverse took place in the Lighthouse Cinema yesterday, October 25th. The event is supported by Coimisiún na Meán.

IFTA Screen: Dynamic | Diverse is an annual forum of discussions and engagement that encourages artistic development across diverse communities within the screen industries, exploring visibility and representation, and looking to Best International Practice in this area.

This second edition of the forum brought together inspiring talent, key decision makers and influential thought leaders from across diverse communities within Film and TV, to champion and showcase diversity and inclusion across a broad spectrum of disciplines within the Media and Screen industries. 

Welcoming the Panellists and guests, IFTA CEO Áine Moriarty said: “This is our second year of Dynamic Diverse. We have a number of smaller versions of this event coming up that we will be doing every two to three months, aiming to encourage diversity within the creative side of our industry here in Ireland. It's a huge pleasure for us to have these panels here today. We'll come away from today having an even better understanding of the ways we can all help encourage diversity, inclusion, and best international practice in the screen industry.”

Moriarty went on to introduce each of the panellists and their respective areas of expertise within the screen industry, then handed over the mic to the first moderator of the evening, Dil Wickremasinghe. Wednesday’s event saw two panel discussions followed by a networking event.

Social entrepreneur, activist, psychotherapist, broadcaster and journalist Wickremasinghe led the first panel, which featured Clinton Liberty, Sade Malone, Zainab Boladale, and Dumebi Anozie.

Clinton Liberty is an actor, best known for his role as Kiernan in the IFTA-winning drama Normal People. Other credits include Smother, Handsome Devil, Red Election, Touchdown and the leading role of Linus in the TV adaptation of Graham Norton's novel Holding

Liberty spoke about how dancing was his entry into acting. Back in secondary school Liberty was in a dancing school called Fit Kids Fit Teens that performed in competitions all over Ireland and even represented Ireland in a dancing competition in Las Vegas. Through this, he was cast by Louise Kiely as a dancer in Handsome Devil, it was there he discovered his love for acting.

“It's so important to see people doing the thing you want to do,” Liberty said. “It's so so important. So I remember being on set, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, these are professional actors, this is their day job’. And I didn't think that was possible until I was on set for the first time.”

He continued: “I remember asking Andrew Scott ‘Is there anywhere I could train or learn this?’, and he told me to go to the Lir Academy, which is where I auditioned for, and luckily I got in. So that was my ‘in’ into the industry. Then after the Lir, Normal People was my first job.”

The panel discussion then continued with Sade Malone, an actress based in Leeds, who was recently cast in the titular role of John B. Keane's Sive in an upcoming Gaiety Theatre production. She has appeared in Irish and UK film and TV projects including Frank of Ireland, Tin Star and Danny Boyle's Pistol. She stars in Marian Quinn's upcoming feature film Twig, which she spoke about at the panel discussion.

Moderator Wickremasinghe described her as a “ripple effect” in terms of the casting of Twig, and Malone explained that the auditions were open casting, so when she was cast, her character’s siblings were cast with black actors.

“It's funny because I remember speaking to some of the cast who were people of colour, I said ‘Even though I was cast as the lead, I still pictured the sisters as being, you know, people not of colour’ and they were like ‘Oh my god, me too!’” Malone explained.

“So it ended up sort of being a black film, but it wasn't written as a black story, it just so happened to have black people in it. And therefore it could be more about what the film is, a Greek tragedy set today in inner city Dublin, instead of the colour being the thing.”

Liberty then spoke to a similar point, in relation to his audition for Normal People: “I remember reading the book and I'm like ‘There's no black people in this book’. Who am I going to audition for this? I don't even see myself in the book, let alone a TV show. But it didn't help me to think that way.”

“What really helped me was ‘How can I best represent this character in the room in front of Lenny Abramson?’,” he elaborated. “That was my job. My job was not ‘I don't see myself’ because it's not your job to see yourself. It's the director's job. It's the casting director's job. The work is always the first thing: How can I represent this character best in this audition?”

The panel continued with Dumebi Anozie, an IFTA-nominated hair and makeup artist, specialising in working with afro hair and with people of colour. Her work includes projects such as Frank Berry's Aisha, Greta Gerwig's Barbie, Kenneth Branagh's Death on the Nile, and the upcoming blockbuster Wonka.

Anozie spoke about her first film industry jobs, working on Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella as one of two people of colour on a team of 280 makeup artists. She says it felt like a privilege to be there, and learned so much from the experience.  Anozie later went on to design the hair and makeup styles for Aisha, where she was Letitia Wright’s hair and makeup artist. Anozie spoke about first working with Wright on the film Urban Hymn, a story which illuminated the importance of hair and makeup artists being trained to work on afro hair and dark skin:

“Back in 2014 I worked with her on a film. Letitia was like ‘Dumebi you're the first person that I've had that's looked after me’, and then she asked me to work with her on future projects, and I was like ‘Definitely, definitely!’”.

Later when answering a question from the audience about whether diversity behind the camera reflects improved diversity on screen, Anozie answered: "Moving forward, they should teach [makeup artists] how to deal with black skin. Even on pale skin, I would never use one shade of foundation and hope for the best. There are many colour tones."

Journalist, TV presenter and public speaker Zainab Boladale rounded out the first panel. She was born in Nigeria and raised in Ennis, Co.Clare. As host of news2day, she became known as the first Afro-Irish woman on Irish TV news. She works on the long-standing RTÉ programme Nationwide, and wrote and directed the short film Worthy which recently screened at GAZE International Film Festival.

Drawing from her own experience of the media industry, Wickremasinghe asked Boladale about breaking the “triple glass ceiling” of being a queer woman of colour in media and journalism. Zainab Boladale studied journalism in DCU, while working for her local newspaper in order to gain experience and build up a portfolio. This, along with pitching stories to larger publications like the Irish Independent and the Irish Times, working for the college newspaper, and putting together a radio show with her friends, paid off when she auditioned for news2day after college:

“One of the things that really stood out to me at the time was the editors of that programme came back to me and said, Zainab, you were one of the few people who had the foundational skills of a journalist already.”

Boladale had actually applied for the position at the end of her first year in college, at which point she was asked if they could keep her CV on file. She cites this as an example of why she’s “a great believer in going for things even when you're not ready”, much like what Liberty spoke about in regards to not imposing limitations on where he can see himself.

After a short break, producer-director-writer and Head of Department of Film + Media at the National Film School, IADT, Vanessa Gildea moderated the second panel of the event. This panel featured Mary McDonagh, Derek Ugochukwu, Aisha Bolaji, and Diana Cheung.

The panel began with Diana Cheung, an emerging filmmaker with experience in writing, producing and directing. She was born and raised in Derry to Chinese immigrants from HK. 

"My parents are from Hong Kong but they moved to Derry in the 70s during the Troubles,” said Cheung. “There was a huge wave of immigration in the 70s because it's a British colony. There's a whole generation of us who look like this, but have this accent. It's an untold story".

She has produced and directed short documentaries for BBC and worked in research on BBC and RTE projects. She is also a podcast producer and host of Being Chirish, and is currently in development for her first feature film, Chinese Takeaway Kids, inspired by her own upbringing.

Derek Ugochukwu is an IFTA-nominated writer/director named one of the 2023 Screen International Rising Stars of Ireland. His short film You're Not Home was IFTA nominated, while his previous film To All My Darlings was shortlisted for the 2021 BAFTA Student Awards and won the Audience Award at the 2021 Dublin International Film Festival.

Speaking of the latter film, Ugochukwu said "We got All My Darlings made right before lockdown. I did my bit as a writer, and then the director and producer took over and I was very happy with how it turned out."

Ugochukwu spoke of not having your career planned out from the get go, and allowing yourself to discover what you enjoy as your career progresses. First entering the film industry through acting, Ugochukwu's interests developed into writing and more recently directing: "I didn't start early. I was already in my late 20s when I was admitted into IADT and didn't even know how to pay for the course, but I booked a commercial that helped pay for it".

Aisha Bolaji is a Nigerian-Irish director, screenwriter and visual artist. They are the co-founder of The GALPAL Collective, dedicated to tackling underrepresentation and exclusion in the arts/media sectors.

Bolaji said, in regards to the GALPAL Collective Writers Room and their open for all approach, to foster intersectionality within storytelling.

An IADT grad, Bolaji directed and produced films screened at this year’s National Film School Class of 2023 showcase. Outside of filmmaking and arts activism, they have 6 years of experience as a film curator, and is currently a shorts programmer at Dublin International Film Festival and programme assistant for Catalyst.

Concluding this panel was Mary McDonagh, who works to promote the involvement of Travellers in the arts industry through film, community and acting workshops. She has also produced music events to connect Travellers and non-Travellers. She aims to open the first theatre in the world for Travellers, as well as a school of performing arts for Travellers.

In the same vein of uplifting the voices of marginalised people as many of the panellists touched upon throughout the event, McDonagh spoke about the important role storytelling plays in Traveller communities, and while there have already been some films made in Ireland by filmmakers from this community, she hopes to see more soon:

"There is incredible talent in the Traveller community, I think because of the tradition of storytelling. However, there aren't a lot of Traveller filmmakers telling stories. There's a lot of great stuff happening, but it's slow."

The event was followed by a Networking event where the audience and panellists engaged in further discussion.

Click here for more information about IFTA and Dynamic | Diverse.

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