BAFTA Film Awards 2020: Casting Category Added; Status Quo For Theatrical Release Requirements


BAFTA today has issued updated rules for next year’s EE British Academy Film Awards, along with a fixed timeline for the upcoming season (see schedule below). Among the major tweaks, BAFTA will introduce a Casting Award to “recognize achievements in the craft of casting and its importance in filmmaking.” There will be no changes, however, to existing rules regarding theatrical releases required for eligibility, a hot-button issue in the past year, and one BAFTA intends to be “rigorous” about.

These rule shifts — or lack thereof — come following what BAFTA says was extensive consultation across the industry. Earlier this year, there was backlash from exhibitors after Netflix’s big wins with Roma on BAFTA night 2019. Major chains Vue and Cineworld felt Roma had not had sufficient theatrical play to qualify for awards recognition.

But Emma Baehr, BAFTA’s Director of Awards & Membership, says that “after hearing from everyone,” the org is “confident the current rules are fit-for-purpose.” The rules as they stand are that films need to be released for paying audiences on at least 10 commercial screens in the UK for at least seven days in aggregate.

Baehr tells me today that the org “will not tolerate token releases for qualification.” The Film Committee, Baehr adds, will be “rigorous” and look very closely to ensure that movies releases are spread out “widely” across the UK. Four-walling will not be accepted, and all distributors will be “encouraged to share box office” results.

While the latter is not being enforced as yet, Baehr says, “We will be asking everyone for it and wanting release patterns shared with us. We need to review again next year… It’s important for us to continue to support the theatrical experience, we need to have a balance.”

Regarding the Casting Award, its timing is purely coincidental with news that AMPAS on Tuesday elected David Rubin as its new president, a first for a casting director. It also follows the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts handing out its inaugural Best Casting prize last December. (BAFTA will further introduce a casting trophy at its TV Craft Awards next year.)

While the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in the U.S. has long recognized casting directors at the Emmys, neither AMPAS nor BAFTA have previously had a slot for the profession. AMPAS officially recognized the group with its own branch in 2013, but the main domestic casting kudos are handed out by the Casting Society of America via its Artios Awards. In the UK, the Casting Directors Guild will start its own awards this year.

For BAFTA, the casting category is the first new field added since Outstanding Debut was presented in 1999. Says Baehr, “With every discussion about introducing new categories, it’s a very long process. We need to be careful they don’t come in one year and go out the next.” The judging process for the Casting Award will consist of a longlist of 10 titles in Round One, voted on by the casting chapter. In Round Two, a jury of experts will vote for the nominees and the winners. On the film side, the category is open to international casting directors. On the TV side it will be only for eligible scripted programs.

“The British Academy of Film and Television Arts’ addition of a casting category at the Television Craft Awards and the Film Awards represents a well-deserved step forward in the recognition of the art of casting in movies and TV in the UK,” said Russell Boast, President of the Casting Society of America. “This accomplishment reinforces all of the work that the CSA, its members and partners do to educate and elevate our craft around the world. We congratulate and thank BAFTA’s film and television committees, and everyone who contributed to this achievement.”

BAFTA also announced today that the Original Music category is to be renamed Original Score, underlining a focus on composer and score. An eligibility requirement has also shifted: Previously, if the primary composer had done less than 50% of the score, then additional composers would be recognized. Now, the additional composers are required to have composed more than 20% of the total.

As in previous years, all nominated films must have a theatrical release by the Friday prior to the Film Awards (Friday January 31 in 2020’s case). However, an extended eligibility window will be trialed for foreign-language titles which must be released by Friday February 28 in 2020, allowing distributors and exhibitors additional time to find a release window the films deserve and therefore giving the public more opportunity to see them.

Here are the key dates for the 2020 Film Awards:

Monday, September 2: Deadline for Outstanding Debut titles

Tuesday, October 22: Deadline for submission of Stage One entry forms

Thursday, November 21: Deadline for Stage Two entry submission

Friday, November 29: Draft Entered Films list to be made available to voters and entrants

Friday, December 6: Deadline for requests to changes to the Draft Entered Films list and SVFX Statements

Wednesday, December 11: Films released in the UK after 1 January 2020 must be screened to BAFTA voters by this date to qualify

Thursday, December 12: Round One voting opens at 10:00

Monday, December 30: Round One voting closes at 18:00; Deadline for SVFX reels

Tuesday, January 7: Nominations announcement; Round Two voting opens

Wednesday, January 29: Round Two voting closes at 18:00

Friday, January 31: All entered films to have been screened to the public by this date (except for Films Not in the English Language titles, which must be screened to the public by Friday February 28)

Sunday, February 2: EE British Academy Film Awards

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