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BAFTA’s British Categories highlight next gen of talent – CEO Amanda Berry finalizing preps for awards

(Left to right): French photographer and jury member Brigitte Lacombe, Polish film maker and jury member Malgorzata Szumowska, US actress and jury president Meryl Streep, British film critic and jury member Nick James, Italian actress and jury member Alba Rohrwacher and German actor and jury member Lars Eidinger pose on the red carpet ahead of the film ‘Hail, Caesar!’, screening as opening film of the 66th Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin on Feb 11. (AFP)
(Left to right): French photographer and jury member Brigitte Lacombe, Polish film maker and jury member Malgorzata Szumowska, US actress and jury president Meryl Streep, British film critic and jury member Nick James, Italian actress and jury member Alba Rohrwacher and German actor and jury member Lars Eidinger pose on the red carpet ahead of the film ‘Hail, Caesar!’, screening as opening film of the 66th Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin on Feb 11. (AFP)

LOS ANGELES, Feb 12, (RTRS): Despite the ever-increasing proximity between the Oscars and the British Academy of Film and Televison Arts awards, BAFTA still remains a terrific reminder of the British brand. But the love in this year’s noms has been given to a host of veterans: Ridley Scott, Maggie Smith, Kate Winslet, Julie Walters and Mark Rylance have already notched up a collective 33 BAFTA nominations. The British Academy Film Awards take place Feb 14 at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London.

That’s not to say the fresh blood isn’t there, but perhaps increasing overlap in Oscar and BAFTA conversations have limited the expectation for the Brit awards to serve as a platform for discovery.

“Since BAFTA has repositioned itself very deliberately and positively to overlap with the Oscar conversation, the consequence has been that the opportunity to profile exciting or emerging talents has been limited,” says British Film Institute Film Fund director Ben Roberts. “There’s a reason why there is rising star, outstanding debut (by a British writer, director or producer) and outstanding British film categories, which all seem to become the automatic home for anything new or uniquely British.

“But it does afford opportunity for range, which is good in the rest of the awards sections.”

Nominees for this year’s rising star BAFTA, which is voted by the public, include three Brits: Bel Powley, John Boyega and Taron Egerton. London-born Powley was the breakout star in the Sundance hit “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” was in Drake Doremus’ “Equals” and has been cast alongside Elle Fanning in upcoming Percy Shelley-Mary Shelley love affair story “A Storm in the Stars,” while Boyega most recently starred in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Egerton’s resume includes Matthew Vaughn’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and “Legend,” and is set to star with Emma Roberts and Kevin Spacey in “Billionaire Boys Club” and musical toon “Sing” with Scarlett Johansson and Matthew McConaughey, the latter of which is directed by Brit helmer Garth Jennings.

“Our actors are so exportable so that really helps the whole ecology of the independent market.”

Debut by a British writer, director or producer noms have been given to Alex Garland (“Ex Machina”), Debbie Tucker Green (“Second Coming”), Stephen Fingleton (“The Survivalist”), Naji Abu Nowar and Rupert Lloyd (“Theeb”), plus Sean McAllister and Elhum Shakerifar (“A Syrian Love Story”).

Quality

“We’re seeing that the quality of new filmmaking aspiration and ambition is really high in the UK because the bar is constantly being raised in terms of originality,” says Roberts, who points to helmers such as Ben Wheatley, Yann Demange and Scottish director Colm McCarthy. “Cast-wise, we’re fortunate enough to have a talent pool that is prepared to operate in a mixed economy and who are readily employable in the US but who will also mix that up with some more independent work. Our actors are so exportable so that really helps the whole ecology of the independent market.”

Thesps to keep an eye on include Manish Dayal (“The Hundred-Foot Journey”) of just wrapped BFI-backed “Viceroy’s House,” directed by Gurinder Chadha and starring Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon and Hugh Bonneville. There’s Ellie Bamber (“The Falling”), who has been cast in Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals” alongside Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams. Barry Keoghan, who featured in “’71,” will share the screen with Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson in “Tresspass Against Us,” while Joe Alwyn has in post Ang Lee’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” and “The Sense of an Ending” with Charlotte Rampling and Michelle Dockery.

Meanwhile, Amanda Berry, chief executive of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, is finalizing preparations for the BAFTA film awards on Feb 14. Hollywood stars are welcome; the typical British weather for this time of year less so.

What are the key ingredients for a successful awards ceremony?

Ultimately, what we are doing on the night is celebrating the very best work, and the nominations and nominees are key to that. I like to think we are uniquely British in our choices.

How do you make it a good show for TV viewers, who see an edited version?

We aim to produce an event that pays full and proper tribute to the amazing filmmakers in the room, and is still entertaining and accessible to the public at home. Being able to edit as we go — to tighten the whole event — does make it more viewer friendly.

See More:What BAFTA Nominations Really Mean for the Oscars

How do you lure Hollywood talent to the show?

Many take part in the 250 events we do every year, so it’s not that we just pop up once a year and ask people to attend. We start working on the next year’s film awards the day after that year’s film awards.

How would you counter any charge that the UK industry is neglected?

BAFTA has been international since the first ceremony in 1949. By recognizing everything that is available to see in the UK, when British films do come through and do well, the spotlight that is shone on them is a lot brighter. We also have six nominees in the British film category — as opposed to five elsewhere, and we changed the way that category was voted for to ensure we were representing the breadth of British filmmaking.

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