"Changing the images in your head in a positive way" - Nataly Kudiabor and Katja Bäuerle in interview

Just talking is not enough! UFA producer Nataly Kudiabor and Diversity Circle patron Katja Bäuerle in an interview about the concrete steps resulting from UFA's self-commitment to more diversity:   

In a series of articles and interviews, the SERIENCAMP CONFERENCE team will address the topic of diversity in serial storytelling from different angles, each with a different focus. The aim: to provide a snapshot in 2020 and beyond, mapping the state of the debate: Where does Germany stand in this debate and in international comparison? How is diversity reflected in other parts of the increasingly globalized serial market? What impact does this have on the production landscapes and the material that emerges from them?

In view of the current situation, we start with a look at Germany - more precisely at the self-commitment of the UFA, which aims to make more diversity a reality in front of and behind the camera by 2024. One of the declared goals behind the self-commitment: to reflect the diversity of society in order to live inclusion and tolerance.

Gerhard Maier, Artistic Director of Seriencamp Conference and Festival talked to Katja Bäuerle, Creative Responsibility Manager of UFA and patron in the Diversity Circle and with UFA producer Nataly Kudiabor about the concrete measures of the self-commitment.

Two measures should very concretely lead to establishing more diversity in front of and behind the camera: Firstly, the Diversity Circle founded by UFA employees, which will bundle all activities to achieve the goals they have set themselves, initially on four topics: gender, LGBTIQ*, people of color and people with disabilities. How did the Diversity Circle come into being and what are its tasks?

Katja Bäuerle: We are colleagues who have been dealing with the topic of diversity - usually focused on one area - for a long time. I am a Corporate Responsibility Manager at UFA and have been dealing with the topic of gender and the representation of women in front of and behind the camera in that role for quite some time. In order to approach the topic of diversity in a more long-term and strategic way, we have founded a Diversity Circle. We - Naima Wachter, Markus Schroth, Jeannette Venzke and I - are the four sponsors dedicated to the four dimensions of diversity we want to deal with first. 

We have a budget available with which we can implement the measures, not explicitly for content, but for example for further training or for keynotes on a specific topic. We are then responsible for this budget in consultation with the management and coordinate these measures - either company-wide, if it is a broader topic, or coordinated with more specific sub-areas, such as diversity-sensitive communication for employees* in communication departments. 

For example, we have a leadership training exclusively for female participants, which the UFA launched in 2018  and where the first round is now over. That will continue next year. Elsewhere, we are heavily involved in networking - both internally and externally. There's also always the empowerment idea behind that: "You're not alone, there are other colleagues here to help you with challenges." This is also linked to a more general culture change: How to talk to each other, how to behave yourself without having to pretend to conform to a norm - which is, after all, often still male-dominated. 

But this is a situation in which UFA is comparatively well off; it's more difficult in other companies in other industries. We are an industry in which the management is traditionally more male - at all levels below that and in the creative area we are comparatively very well positioned. But we also put a lot of effort into that: like in big meetings, encouraging younger colleagues to use their talking time, to make sure they're not interrupted. This has helped many colleagues to appear more confident and to formulate their opinions. 

What effects does the Diversity Circle already have in concrete work?

Nataly Kudiabor: The Diversity Circle is not only something that is lived by the colleagues, but also enriches our own work immensely. For the series ALL YOU NEED [with a black homosexual main character], for example, I was able to bring many questions about LGBTQI*+ and PoC to the Circle and then draw on the knowledge and recommendations there.

It is important that someone is on board - whether as a co-writer or as a consultant or as a director - who brings this perspective of the respective community. In the last decades, a lot of material has been written in Germany, freely according to the motto "I imagine that it is or could be like this". In the process, clichéd narratives have been created or deepened. Often, what was repeated was what one knew only from television. If you can become more accurate here, then it has a much greater authenticity, which is appreciated by the audience. The exciting thing is to be able to positively change the images that people carry in their heads.

In order to change these images, charters, which are used as catalogues of questions in the development of material, are intended to raise awareness of outdated and obsolete stereotypes. How did these charters come about?

Katja Bäuerle: After the first MaLisa study came out, we already developed a guide on how we want to tell women. This guide was developed by women, was discussed a lot in all our steering groups where the creatives sit. It's made a lot of difference in understanding how we want to tell women's stories!

How do you work with the charter as a producer*?

You pick up on many of these points intuitively because you want to tell certain stories. But it is also important to sharpen your own view - it helps against the "unconscious bias" and to check unconscious assumptions you have and to reflect yourself.

The classic: If I talk about a "highly placed person in a bank", many would imagine a man in a suit - probably not a woman and even less a black woman. Charters are meant to help check these images. It's not meant to be coercive! But it's a good tool, another creative way to play with, to look at your history and the role understandings that come with it in a new light. 

What do the measures like self-commitment and charters mean for UFA programming?

Katja Bäuerle: The self-commitment, which we have now published, aims a lot at our program. That's why we also said that we want to deliver measurable results - without them we are a toothless tiger. However, we can only define quotas for the programme . Behind the camera, this is not possible for legal reasons of the principle of equal treatment. But it is clear to us that if we want to see change in front of the camera, it must also take place behind the camera. We can't set quotas, but we can change the culture and make UFA a place where everyone wants to work and can develop personally.

Do we have to change the way we look for, train and promote talent?

Katja Bäuerle: To achieve these changes, we also have to look at the issue of training, for example, how job advertisements are formulated and who might be discouraged from applying in advance. But this also has to do with where you look for employees. At the film schools - with which we are in close contact - the image of the students is already changing a lot. But we also have to go further here and consider where else creative talents can be found who wouldn't have the idea of applying to UFA. UFA Serial Drama's Storyliner training is a good example of this.

Mrs. Bäuerle, Mrs. Kudiabor, thank you very much for the interview!