Canadian actors have settled an arbitration case to get makeup artists and hairstylists on predominantly white film sets trained in how to style hair or do makeup for performers of color, including those who are Black and Indigenous.
ACTRA, the country’s actors union, last year filed a grievance against the Canadian Media Producers Association, representing English-language indie producers, and the Association Québécoise de la Production Médiatique, their French-language counterparts.
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With mainly white casts, ACTRA argued BIPOC performers were long denied hair and makeup people who know what they’re doing when it comes to working with natural hair textures and darker skin tones. The case was heard over two days by arbitrator William Kaplan before a settlement was reached.
The settlement calls for recommended products and equipment so hair and makeup artists on film sets can make BIPOC castmembers look and feel the way they want before the cameras roll on their characters, better train hair stylists and makeup technicians in working with BIPOC performers and “address allegations of discrimination and harassment related to the provision of hair and makeup services expeditiously.”
“We stand by the members who have spent years shouldering the responsibility of speaking up and advocating for change in this area. The industry is finally listening. However, meaningful progress is going to require industry-wide cooperation, and ACTRA is pleased to be leading the way in coordinating these efforts to help create work environments that are free from harassment and discrimination for all performers,” Eleanor Noble, ACTRA national president, said in a statement on Thursday.
The arbitration ruling follows homegrown series like CBC’s Diggstown and indie movies like Charles Officer’s Akilla’s Escape and Clement Virgo’s Brother giving more work to actors from underrepresented communities.
The settlement over hair and makeup for BIPOC performers is the latest flare-up over race in a predominantly white Canadian film and TV industry. In 2021, Numeris, the Canadian TV industry’s stats-collector, came under fire for not measuring BIPOC media audiences when producing TV ratings, and an industry-wide initiative was launched to solve that issue.
And Telefilm Canada, the country’s biggest film financier, launched a drive to finance more projects by BIPOC creators for a greater diversity of local voices, including new talent from underrepresented communities. That followed persistent criticism that Black, Indigenous and people of color were struggling to find leadership roles in Canadian film and TV productions.
“The grievance was just one element within a multi-pronged approach by ACTRA in the fight for equitable hair and makeup for BIPOC performers. Our hope is that the entire industry will join us in doing their part to build a more inclusive industry — because it can’t be done alone,” said Jenn Paul, director of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at ACTRA National, in the wake of the arbitration case settlement.
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