Many members of British Columbia’s film industry are anticipated to be donning Black Lives Matter apparel on Monday after an on-set controversy last week.
A local production company has since apologized after a lighting technician on the production Gone Mom was told to remove a BLM shirt because it was “too political.”
The incident proved a lightning rod, with other crew members showing up the next day in BLM clothing and some actors reportedly threatening to walk off the set.
Shamika Mitchell, an actress and one of the organizers of Vancouver’s Juneteenth march last summer, said she had high hopes for Monday’s planned show of support.
“It’s going to be beautiful,” she said.
Mitchell’s solidarity with the crew member was already spreading through the industry like wildfire last week.
“I was on set Friday and I had people that took tape and wrote BLM on all their attire, or took permanent marker, just to stand in solidarity right then and there, they didn’t wait for a T-Shirt,” she said.
Mitchell said the production company’s response was too slow and felt like it was a result of pressure from social and traditional media rather than a sincere apology.
She added that the incident threatened to undo significant progress on diversity and inclusion that’s been made in the B.C. film industry.
“People don’t understand how damaging it is and how hurtful it is to make a statement like that, that a BLM shirt … is a problem,” she said.
“We’re fighting for people’s lives. People died while sleeping. While walking to the store. While doing their daily run. You’re basically desecrating that grave, that memory, that life.”
While Mitchell doesn’t believe that the order to remove the shirt was a “misunderstanding” over policy, she said even if it was, the response should have gone beyond an apology.
She said concrete action would have involved education or training for management and crew to prevent similar incidents from happening again.
Daryl Litke, business manager for ACFC West Local 2020 Unifor —the union representing film technical workers — echoed that concern.
“We want to see some movement toward the companies looking at these issues in the way where these types of problems don’t occur again,” he said.
“So we’re talking about ensuring their policy and the education of their executive workers takes into account some things we need to look at in the industry to ensure all people, Black, Indigenous, people of colour, have an opportunity and so that the worksite doesn’t feel like a place where they don’t belong.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Slumber Productions told Global News employees are free to wear clothing supporting any cause they are passionate about and that a producer had misinterpreted guidelines for appropriate workplace clothing.
The lighting technician said they accepted the producers’ apology over the incident, though declined to return to the set.
They said they hope the incident sparks a discussion about racism and equality.