"The story has to be the nucleus" - Tyron Ricketts interview.

Where does real change start and how do you make it noticeable? Tyron Ricketts, CEO of the production company Panthertainment, in an interview about the state of the debate in Germany.

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

In light of recent events, we'll start by looking at Germany - more specifically, at UFA's self-commitment, which aims to make more diversity a reality in front of and behind the camera by 2024. One of the stated 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 Tyron Ricketts, CEO of the production company Panthertainment about the role and responsibility of the film industry and its storytellers: Why are fundamental structural changes so important? And where do they have to start? 

When you think about the news of the summer - the Black Lives Matter protests in the US and the resulting confrontation with racist structures: What is the relationship between the events there and the debate of the last months here in Germany? 

Tyron Ricketts : You can't see the developments in the US separately from what is happening here in Germany: Due to the global interconnectedness in the way and with whom we communicate, the effects of #metoo and #blacklivesmatter are also felt here: this builds up pressure and provides for discussions and changes in the consciousness of individuals. But also for changes in fundamental structural issues. 

Important - and new since this summer - is the understanding that you can also be racist and discriminatory in Germany without an intention behind it. In Germany, you were a racist if you voted for Nazis or if you made anti-Semitic remarks. If someone made fun of Asians or used the N-word, "...but didn't mean it," there was often outrage when someone said that was racist.

This change in thinking has also had an impact on the film industry - which in Germany is largely dominated by homogenous white educated middle-classes. That's why it's important to ensure more diversity in front of and behind the camera in order to get programmes that better reflect the diversity of society? 

Tyron Ricketts: Film and television has a key role to play here. Firstly on the basis of looking at the past, because certain stereotypes and clich├ęs have been repeated and underlined. On the other hand, in looking at the present, at the question of whether certain sections of society feel represented in terms of content and numbers - we are already much more diverse than the German film and television landscape represents. And lastly in looking to the future, to draw a guiding picture of how we can all live together peacefully.

Stories are the cornerstone of our reality: everything we believe in is a story. The better a story is told, the more people believe it. Historically based racist viewpoints, viewpoints discriminating against women and marginalized groups, are created by a story being told. The best way out of this situation is to change the stories that are told - also because times have changed!  

Studies also show, after all, that the programming of international streamers is more diverse than the programming of linear television - and also seems to resonate better with a young audience. Where might one need to start here?  

Tyron Ricketts : The streamers are - since they produce content that is supposed to find an audience all over the world - here much further in their understanding than classic television: If I want to address a more diverse audience, I also have to tell diverse stories.  

This also raises the question of how quality is measured in German television. The ratings capture system here seems outdated:  Until recently, that was 5,500 households where the main earner had to be a native German - meaning more likely to be an older white male - and where it was measured only on the main set. If the quotas so recorded are the currency for good programming, it should be clear that this is being created past the population. With 25 percent immigrant backgrounds in general, and up to 50 percent among younger people, the question then becomes one of under- and misrepresentation.

What are the starting points here to encourage a rethink? Do structural problems need to be tackled earlier - in schools, for example?

Tyron Ricketts: It doesn't help much to tell young people at school that they can become scriptwriters or actors if the market then has no demand for them. That used to be the case: many drama schools tended not to take people who were not from the mainstream. Or agencies saying "we already have a Turk". Therefore, there is no one place where you start and then everything will be better - the structural changes have to happen in all trades.

The story has to be the nucleus - if diverse stories run successfully in film and TV, that has a direct impact on perceptions. If it's commercially viable - and the numbers show that it is - suddenly space is made for screenwriters and actors with other cultural experiences. We need to see more stories where diversity is the norm. 

All forms of diversity need to take place throughout the value chain - not only in front of the camera, but also behind it. From writers to editors and production to camera and make-up. Only when the entire value chain reflects this diversity will the films and series that come out of it show the true diversity of our society.

 Thank you for the interview, Mr. Ricketts!