Floyd Kane’s Sandi Ross Award acceptance speech

L to R: Floyd Kane, Theresa Tova, Ivan Fecan, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Samora Smallwood, Lisa-Michelle Cornelius (Sandi Ross Awards 2019. Photo by Cass Enright)

On September 10, 2019, ACTRA Toronto’s Diversity Committee presented one of its Sandi Ross awards to Floyd Kane, creator, executive producer and showrunner of Diggstown. The second recipient was Kim’s Convenience production company Thunderbird Entertainment. The Sandi Ross awards celebrate one individual and one company each year whose work demonstrates a commitment to inclusion on screen. What follows is the full text of Floyd Kane’s acceptance speech:

 “First, I’d like to thank ACTRA Toronto and its Diversity Committee for this incredible recognition. Second, I’d like to say Diggstown, and what we do in the making of Diggstown, is a group effort. So, on behalf of my producing partners, I’d like to thank you as well.

 

Wow, I never would have thought I’d get an award for doing what’s right. But, oh well, I’ll take it!

 

As a writer, producer and creator, I’ve had the opportunity to be part of the “production machine,” this weird, quasi-military operation that involves more than 100 people attempting to shoot five to nine (if you’re extremely lucky) pages of script per day.

 

Now, let’s be clear. When it comes to diversity of inclusion, the “production machine” is not your friend. Why? Because the production machine does not like anything that slows it down and the production machine wasn’t created for folks who are different. The lighting, wardrobe, hair, make-up, production design were all devised at a time when actors and actresses were pretty much exclusively white.

 

As the showrunner of a series with a black female lead, I cannot tell you how often my day starts with a hair conversation. Usually, it’s trying to explain to a fellow producer that Number One (on the call sheet) isn’t on the floor because she hasn’t been processed because we have one person doing black hair when we have five black actresses who need to be on the floor at the same time.

 

See the production machine doesn’t like anything that requires it to work outside of established norms. Whether it’s the time it takes to process the hair of black actors or the extra time it takes to make black and brown skin dazzle on camera or the extra thought that needs to go into designing a set where black, indigenous, bi-racial and various shades of white actors share the same space. Time is money; money is time.

 

My job, though, and I believe the job of every showrunner, is to disrupt the production machine. It’s not easy, though. Why? Because disrupting the system means you take the time and spend the money to scour North America looking for the best transgender Canadian actress for the story and not settling for less. It means when an actor reaches out to you and asks if they can self-tape because a casting director won’t see them, you just say, “Yes.”  They might be terrible, or they could end up booking the part. It means when wardrobe insists on putting plus-sized actors in unstructured and unflattering clothing, you tell them you want that actor to feel as beautiful in their clothes as everyone else. And, honestly, we don’t win every battle. This year, we wanted to cast a physically diverse actor as a lawyer. It didn’t happen. Sometimes the clock just runs out and the production machine wins. All I can do is try better next season.

 

This idea of disruption is not new, and it’s certainly not my idea. The reason we are here tonight — Ms. Sandi Ross — she was someone who spent several years of her career disrupting the system. She was someone who believed in making our business more inclusive and accountable when it came to diversity. And, she was doing it at a time when diversity and inclusion weren’t sexy buzzwords. Sandi Ross understood having an industry where we were all invited to thrive in the tent would make our industry as a whole strong.

 

In the name of the late Sandi Ross, I hope when you see the production machine trying to stall efforts to make our industry more diverse, more inclusive, you’ll speak up, push back, disrupt.

 

Once again, thank you to ACTRA Toronto for recognizing Diggstown and me in this manner. It’s a wonderful honour.”