As if the world needed yet another awards show, the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) is going ahead and giving it one. In association with its TV offshoot the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA), the national critics group will be honoring top achievements in Documentary Features and non-fiction television with a ceremony taking place at BRIC in Brooklyn, New York on Thursday November 3 to be produced by Bob Bain Productions.
There are already similar categories on both the BFCA and BTJA ‘s joint awards show, the Critics’ Choice Awards (airing on A&E networks), but the new show will be devoted to the growing importance of the docu world with several categories and prizes to be handed out, including Best Documentary Feature Film (Theatrical Premiere), Docu Feature (Television Premiere), Director, First Docu Feature, Music and Sports Docus, and my favorite, Most Compelling Living Subject of a Documentary. Could Anthony Weiner be a contender for that one? On the TV side, categories include Limited Documentary Series, Ongoing Docu Series and Unstructured Reality Series. There will also be categories for Song in a Docu, Innovative Docu, Investigative Journalist and others – or so the organization promises.
Awards will be determined by “qualified” members of BFCA and BTJA. Full disclosure: I am a member of BFCA and have been asked to participate in the selections. Nominations will be revealed on Monday, October 10. BFCA/BTJA President Joey Berlin cites a need for this type of awards celebration. “To be able to shine a light on some of the most outstanding documentaries and non-fiction television programs is something we are really proud of. There is so much great work being done in these fields, but it is often difficult to introduce them to audiences,” he said in a release announcing the show. “We believe the time has come to focus attention on these important, informative and entertaining productions at an event dedicated solely to celebrating the positive effects these works have towards educating, inspiring and triggering social change amongst audiences.” As of now there is no TV deal to broadcast the show, but that could be a possibility if it becomes successful.
In recent years there has been a fine line between what is a feature documentary and what is really a thinly disguised docu for television, thanks especially to outlets like HBO, Netflix, Amazon, ESPN and others that qualify their TV docus for the Oscars by meeting theatrical exhibition requirements of the Academy. As an example, the multi-part ESPN O.J. Made In America has qualified for Oscar consideration despite essentially being a broadcast creation. This show will likely draw a more distinct line between what is genuinely a theatrical documentary, and what is meant for television. Many docus are now VOD, with limited theatrical release. Some work successfully both ways such as Weiner which has managed to co-exist in both mediums. It will be interesting to see how the BFCA/BTJA divides it all up, and what kind of cooperation the new show gets.