New Canadian Black talent is facing numerous obstacles when it comes to making their mark in the film and TV industry. Some of these barriers may be hidden, while others are barely acknowledged. However, Julien Christian Lutz, also known as Director X, a music video-turned-film and TV director, believes that one barrier is plain to see and can be easily overcome – offering support and guidance to emerging Black talent so that they can navigate their way around Canadian film and TV sets.
Lutz, who is the co-founder and managing partner of indie production company Fela, acknowledges that the film and TV industry in Canada is predominantly white. He believes that in order to break down these barriers, training for Black talent is necessary both in front of and behind the camera. He argues that the talent pool has been neglected and hasn’t had the necessary experience or opportunities. It is now crucial to help them gain the skills and experience they naturally should have had if hiring had been based on talent alone. Lutz also emphasizes that although the Canadian industry made commitments to racial justice and inclusion after the murder of George Floyd, there is still a missing gap in training.
According to Lutz, real change will occur when young people from underrepresented communities are given opportunities on expansive sets where they can take on new roles and responsibilities without fear of failure. He believes that this middle ground is vital for honing one’s craft, especially on jobs where there may not be full attention or top priority for the company. These jobs are still important as they allow individuals to learn the game and make mistakes that won’t have significant repercussions.
Lutz notices a shift in Hollywood towards lower-budget movies made for emerging streaming platforms, which he believes provides a space for all young talent to learn. He argues that it’s time to go back to low-budget movies or contained TV shows because they aren’t made to be blockbuster viral hits. These kinds of projects offer a valuable learning experience for emerging talent.
As a director based in Toronto, Lutz has gained his experience through directing music videos for high-profile artists such as Rihanna, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Wiz Khalifa, Usher, and Justin Bieber. One of his notable music videos is Rihanna’s “Work” featuring Drake, released in 2016. He made his feature directorial debut with the 2018 Superfly remake and has also directed episodes of The Imperfects for Netflix. Furthermore, he is set to debut his Canadian indie TV drama Robyn Hood for Global Television on September 27. Robyn Hood is a one-hour action drama set in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, that offers a modern take on the Robin Hood legend. During the filming of Robyn Hood, Lutz encountered the need to provide extra training to veteran hair and makeup technicians so that they could work effectively with Black actors. He emphasizes the importance of understanding that hair and makeup are significant aspects of Black culture and should be treated as such on set.
Lutz believes that there is a need to bridge the gap in talent that can handle hair and makeup for Black talent, especially those coming from America who often work on Black movies and TV shows. By providing necessary training and education, the industry can ensure that Black talent feels supported and represented both in front of and behind the camera.
These issues and discussions are taking place within the context of the Toronto Film Festival, which will continue until September 17. The festival serves as a platform to showcase various films and TV shows, along with hosting panel discussions and conversations on diversity, equity, and inclusion within the industry.
In conclusion, Julien Christian Lutz, also known as Director X, believes that offering support and guidance to emerging Black talent is essential to overcoming the obstacles they face in the Canadian film and TV industry. He emphasizes the need for training across the industry, both in front of and behind the camera, in order to provide opportunities and experiences that have been lacking for Black talent. Lutz also highlights the importance of understanding and respecting Black culture on set, particularly in areas such as hair and makeup. By addressing these issues and providing necessary resources, the industry can empower rising voices and create a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment for all.