“Our mission as a nonprofit initiative has always been dedicated to identifying systemic inequalities in hiring in film, television, advertising and media, and finding actionable solutions to expand access for underrepresented creators,” FTW says.
Free the Work was inspired to compile the data by two recent initiatives: the 15 Percent Pledge, from Aurora James, a Black creative director in Brooklyn who is asking retailers including Walmart, Target, Sephora and Whole Foods to devote 15 percent of their shelf-space to Black-owned businesses; as well as “600&Rising," the coalition of African-American industry professionals that recently called on agency leaders to take real action to tackle system racism in advertising.
With the new findings, Free the Work hopes “to draw attention to a major issue in the supply chain, one which production companies hold the responsibility for gatekeeping,” the organization says. “Once this data is made public, we hope that this becomes a time of reckoning and fresh commitment from production companies on an internal level.”
Since founding, Free the Work has long relied on the support of brand partners to further its cause. Today, those include Amazon Studios, AT&T, Facebook, Ford, P&G and Verizon, all of whom have been key to fostering agency engagement. “Just as agencies and brands need to take more responsibility for D&I, production companies need to take responsibility for nurturing more black talent,” Free the Work says.
The Free the Work platform currently features the reels of 2,387 vetted creators across production and more than 300 of those have self-identified as BIPOC. That said, the organization says that self-identification is up to each member. “We're aware that there are sensitivities associated with creators providing information on their identities—both within the context of our site and in general, to avoid tokenization in the world at large,” the organization says. “As we expand our network and continue the conversation with our creators, we've seen more and more creators providing this information, understanding the possibilities that it will be able to unlock and helping us better advocate for their talent.”
See the full statement from Free the Work below.