Analysing ethnicity on-screen in UK feature films 2015 to 2018

Data analysis of UK films in 2015 to 2018, providing broad insights in ethnicity in on-screen roles and testing a methodology that can be utilised in the absence of self-declared data.

Building on the pioneering work of the BFI Black Star project published in 2016, this data analysis provides important and broad insights into the representation of ethnicity in UK film roles in 2015-2018. Carried out by the BFI National Archive, in the course of the data strand of National Lottery funded Heritage 2022 programme, it examines a selected sample of UK films, made up of titles which performed well at the UK box office during the period, including UK independent films and those financed by the major studios.

The report seeks to inform future research in this area by detailing a methodology which uses inference of ethnicity from reliable online sources, when self-declared data is not available. It also aims to share insights into how representation has varied across all ethnic backgrounds for a range of UK films that successfully engaged audiences.

Due to the sample size and the fact the report is published several years after the period of the films being analysed, it is not presented as an accurate summary of current representation of ethnicity in UK feature films and categorical conclusions about the industry should not be drawn from these findings. Instead, it should be seen as a useful check on assumptions for any researchers analysing representation over the period 2015-2018, and an important reference point for future research, especially with respect to methodology.