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Earlier this year—like many of us—Jason Mackay suddenly found himself with a lot of time to think. He’d spent 15 years as a partner at Pink Buffalo Films, and had 15 years’ worth of connections to talented local casts and crews. But those connections were really lacking in the diversity department. “I would always push for more culturally diverse people in the roles that we would cast for our projects, but a lot of the time that’s up to the brand or the agency,” says Mackay.
Mackay himself is mixed race, and including all kinds of people in film has always been important to him. “But in running a business with employees, I had a lot of other things that I had to tackle,” he says. The pandemic gave him a moment to think about what really mattered—and to him, that was visibility (and work) for Vancouver’s diverse film community.
After leaving Pink Buffalo and selling his shares, Mackay looked at initiatives like HireBIPOC, a Toronto-based roster of film and TV creatives that has recently been supported by Bell, Rogers, CBC and Chorus. He then searched for the same thing on the west coast. “I was really surprised to find nothing, zip, not even a Facebook page,” says Mackay. “So I thought, this is it. This is my new mission.”
With a little DIY SquareSpace-ing and some graphic design help from his wife, he launched Collective Bunch, a Vancouver-focused roster of screen-based artists. “One person led me to another person who led me to another person,” says Mackay, who has met with every Collective Bunch member himself, in-person, before including them on the site. “Everybody, hands down, asks what they can do to help, and who they can introduce me to—it’s very love and support-based.”
Mackay says that although he’s seen some shifts in terms of talent in front of the camera, diversity behind the camera is still really lacking. The Collective Bunch isn’t just for actors: it’s for anyone who does screen-based, creative work. Production companies both in the U.S. and locally are starting to really commit to representation—the B.C. film commissioner told Mackay that one of his main goals in 2021 is to manage expectations around talent (the subtext, one gathers, being more diversity on set). “There is a big movement down south happening, and those waves have been crashing up on our shores, and everybody that I’m meeting with understands that now is the time,” says Mackay. The aims of the site are to get Vancouver BIPOC creatives hired, to share knowledge, to build relationships and to change perceptions.
“We should always keep an open and questioning mind to make sure the content we’re making and the people making it reflect the ever-evolving audience,” says Mackay. “Canada’s got to step up.”
You can find more info about Collective Bunch at collectivebunch.com.