Aardman Diversity & Inclusion update

Aardman is committed to being open and transparent about the work we are doing to improve representation throughout our workforce, and to increase the level of on-screen diversity in our future productions. This is the second in a series of regular updates documenting our progress. Please see the first here.

In the past six months, we have:

  • Rolled out unconscious bias training to all employees, to create more awareness of the impact of unconscious bias, for example on the recruitment process. This training has been completed by 50% of employees, with the remaining employees due to complete the course by the end of September. All producers and line managers have also received additional training from diversity and inclusion consultant Dr Mena Fombo to coincide with the rollout of our Diversity & Inclusion Charter.
  • Developed a new jobs portal for the Aardman website. This jobs hub will enable us to engage with candidates more efficiently throughout their application process, collect data on the diversity of applicants to our advertised roles to assess our progress, and evaluate the effectiveness of our candidate reach and experience. It will launch next month, September 2021.
  • Built on our recruitment partnerships to attract more diverse talent with a focus on reaching underrepresented groups. Over the past six months we have worked with a wide variety of organisations to recruit for new roles, from Creative Access to Bristol-based social enterprise Babbasa to Women in Games. Job Centre Plus is sharing all our vacancies and we are looking into new places to advertise all the time – from local to national – to ensure ‘early career’ opportunities in particular reach the broadest possible group of applicants.
  • Began assessing all major projects currently in production or development against the BFI Diversity Standards, and developing our own Aardman Diversity Standards to sit alongside our Diversity and Inclusion Charter. These Standards will be largely based on the BFI’s but will be tailored to our business and regularly reviewed so that we continue to challenge ourselves in the areas in which we need to be challenged. Examples of how we are meeting specific criteria within the BFI Diversity Standards on major projects currently in development or production include:
    • On Lloyd of the Flies, our first ever CGI series to be produced entirely from our Bristol headquarters, we’ve been able to create a whole range of trainee roles and junior positions in fields ranging from CG modelling and animation to production co-ordination, to help people take their first steps in animation or explore a career in the industry.  And in June, we were pleased to announce an incredibly talented, exciting and diverse voice cast, production team and writing team.
    • In The Very Small Creatures, our new pre-school series about five genderless, toddler-like clay creatures who explore a children’s play area when no one’s around, we’ve ensured that the objects that the Very Small Creatures interact with are inclusive. For example, the Very Small Creatures come across and interact with a pair of children’s glasses with an amblyopic patch and a braille picture book that a parent might use to read to their child. We’re also incorporating inclusive themes running through the show with a focus on celebrating difference, supporting one another, and depicting a diverse group of individuals. The Very Small Creatures’ dialogue will be collected from recording sessions with toddlers from different backgrounds – the production team encouraged a wide variety of families to take part in the casting process by proactively reaching out to an extensive network of contacts, platforms and agencies in and around Bristol and removing any potential barriers to participation, for example by offering translation services and travel expenses to the studio as required.

    • On the Chicken Run sequel, we have launched our Female Animation Director Training Programme: a unique opportunity to work under the guidance of the core creative team on this highly anticipated movie. The objectives of the Female Animation Director Training Programme are to help address the fact that there is an industry-wide gender gap particularly at director level and to nurture talent within the company. It is a hands-on opportunity which will help the Director Mentee gain greater insight into the director’s role and offer a solid understanding of the wider production process. Over the two-year programme, the Director Mentee will shadow the director and co-director in all aspects of the process, from design to final build, voice recording, art, testing and shooting on the floor. We have appointed Suzy Parr to the role of Director Mentee, following an internal recruitment process that included a written submission and a conversation with the creative team on the production. Suzy started on the programme in April.
  • Supported our new trainees and the bursary students on our first ever Aardman Academy Industry Training: Stop Motion 1 course, to ensure they had the best possible experiences. Newly created trainee roles include two new trainee riggers in CG and two new VFX trainees, one of whom will work on The Very Small Creatures and the other of whom will work in the CG Department. We have recruited women to fill these four roles, all of which are in fields traditionally dominated by men, as part of our efforts to have more women in tech and production roles across the business.  We have also created two new apprenticeships to support the Marketing and Business functions. One of these apprentices sits within the licensing team and the other in the marketing team. And as our Stop Motion 1 course received such positive feedback, we have decided to run the course at least twice more and are offering two further bursaries per course, working with Creative Access to allocate the places.
  • Worked with our partners to identify and secure funding for opportunities for nurturing talent from underrepresented communities on all major projects in production or development. This is an area in which we have made significant progress and we are excited to be announcing a major new initiative, together with one of our key partners, very soon.

In the coming six months, we’ll be developing and progressing all the initiatives and measures put in place so far, as well as aiming to achieve the following by early 2022:

  • Reporting on the findings of our next employee survey. This will be rolled out in September 2021, one year after our initial survey, so that we can measure the progress made so far.
  • Creating a new work experience framework for next year, with a focus on equal opportunities and inclusivity.
  • Reporting on our progress towards finalising Aardman’s own Diversity Standards, using the BFI Diversity Standards as a starting point.
  • Announcing a major new diversity and inclusion initiative – which will include elements of outreach, training, skills development and bursaries – in collaboration with one of our key partners.

If you would like to know more about our diversity and inclusion work, or are a partner who would like to support one of our initiatives, please contact Claire Brindley, Senior HR Advisor and member of Aardman’s Diversity & Inclusion Taskforce, at Claire.Brindley@aardman.com.

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