BAFTA Sets Wide-Ranging Rule Changes To Boost Diversity In Film Awards; Directing & Acting Categories Tweaked, Membership To Expand


BAFTA today revealed more than120 changes to its voting, membership and campaigning processes as it published the findings of an in-depth seven-month Awards Review. The British org began the review to address diversity standards after controversy erupted earlier this year over its 2020 BAFTA Film Awards nominations, which featured zero non-white acting contenders and an all-male directing field.

Some of the major tweaks announced Thursday involve increasing the number of nominees in the directing and acting categories, including a directing longlist to be made up equally of men and women. The membership is also due to greatly expand over the next few years and a new voting round has been added.

BAFTA Chair Krishnendu Majumdar calls this “a watershed moment for BAFTA. The Academy has never opened itself up like this before. The sessions with contributors were tough, chastening, captivating and very moving… This is a reappraisal of our values and the culture of BAFTA. We want long term and sustainable change throughout the industry.”

BAFTA initially adopted diversity standards drawn up by the British Film Institute back in 2018 — in some ways similar to what AMPAS recently announced.

Read the full report here.

Chief among the changes presented today are new rules surrounding the Directing category which aims to redress the lack of female representation. With immediate effect, there will now be a field of six nominees, rather than five. A longlist of 20 will be determined by the directing chapter, selecting the top eight female filmmakers and the top eight male filmmakers.

A special jury will then select four other helmers, two female and two male, to create the longlist. This is kind of like the special committee that the Oscars has traditionally used for the International Feature Film (Foreign Language Film) award in order to make sure there are no glaring omissions. A nominating jury will then select the top six directors to be nominated and all members will vote on the winner. Chair of the Film Committee, Marc Samuelson, tells Deadline that there will be no quota on the nominations, solely the longlist. “We talked to a large number of people, and it was very clear that very few people wanted Best Female Director as an award.”

Adds Majumdar, “We put it on the table, about having three of the nominations reserved for women. We really very thoroughly discussed these things, but the vast majority of people didn’t want that. They want their work to be seen, so we’re making an intervention at an earlier stage. As long as the work is seen and is judged on merit, there’s a greater opportunity that there will be diversity. But there’s no guarantee, it could be six male directors nominated.” Still, “As long as the longlists have some diversity there’s a greater chance,” he says.

In the acting categories, in order to align them to all other craft categories, voting in Lead and Supporting will move to Chapter voting. In the new Round One voting (see more on this below), the acting chapter will rank its top 15, with the top 12 longlisted. As with Directing, a specially convened longlisting jury will select the final three based on the performances placed 13-22 of the chapter vote to ensure intersectional diversity. In Round Two, a nominating jury for each acting category will consider the 15 longlisted and vote for six performances to be nominated (also an increase from five in previous years). Again, all members vote for the winners.

All acting entrants must now decide whether to submit for lead or supporting to allow for a broader range of performances to be considered and to provide greater clarity for voting members so they can focus solely on the caliber of the performance, BAFTA said. In Round One, actors cannot be longlisted more than once in one acting category, but can appear in separate categories for separate performances. Majumdar says the org will be looking to extend changes to the craft categories in order to “shine a spotlight on diverse voices and encourage that.” Adds Samuelson, “We are at pains to say the steering groups are going to remain indefinitely. We’e going to review progress all the time and see what we need to do — this is just the first phase of change.”

Among other key shifts is the extra longlisting round of voting. In the case of Best Film, all members will rank their Top 15 movies during Round One. The aim is to allow them a longer period to watch the submitted films. Beginning in late September, films will be available on the BAFTA View platform. Members will also each be assigned a sample of 15 titles as mandatory viewing for Round One. This will ensure all entered films are seen by a minimum number of voters to level the playing field with films that have a higher profile or marketing budget, BAFTA said.

In Round Two, members will be required to watch all of the longlisted films before voting on nominations. And in Round Three, all members vote to choose the winner and must have seen all of the nominated titles.

Outstanding British Film has also been expanded from six to 10 nominations. The org says this is to “shine a spotlight on homegrown talent, and continue our support of the British film industry.” The BAFTA review highlighted the need for more championing of “the vast pool of multicultural British talent in its awards ceremonies.”

In order to strengthen and diversify its ranks, BAFTA will also be adding at least 1,000 new voting members over the next two years. There will be a strong focus on recruiting from under-represented groups. To this end, a Future Membership Group will be established – to be comprised of current BAFTA members from a variety of backgrounds.

All members will also now be required to respond to a survey to allow BAFTA further to address all areas of current under-representation. The survey will be sent to members later this month and BAFTA will publish results and proposed targets later this year. Targets will be introduced and published based on the survey findings and the org is introducing a range of measures to address financial issues surrounding membership fees for both new applicants and existing members. Changes will further be made to enable members with disabilities greater access and ability to attend screenings and events.

For 2021 BAFTA’s Film Committee approved the introduction of Standard C of the BFI Diversity Standards as compulsory to qualify for Outstanding British and Outstanding Debut. Standard C is the BFI standard about training and opportunity.

Another new aspect of BAFTA’s rules in the introduction of “conscious voter training,” which is required for all voting members. This is designed to help voters navigate and recognize the wider societal influences that can impact the voting process. The program will be rolled out in advance of Round One voting for the 2021 Film Awards.

As regards campaigning, distributor communications related to film screenings, Q&As and other events will now be further limited per title to ensure smaller films are not left out of the conversation. All filmmakers and studios will be able to securely present their movies to voting members on BAFTA View, and this year all films will be available. DVD screeners will be discontinued by 2022.

BAFTA earlier this year designated tweaks to the eligibility process given the impact of COVID-19 on theatrical releases. For example, films that were released on VOD instead of their intended theatrical run will be eligible. Today, Samuelson said, “We’re watching it at the moment and we will keep adjusting, bearing in mind what the circumstances are, to be as helpful as possible to the industry and as sensible as possible. So, in terms of what kind of release will qualify and the dates and so on… we’ll keep looking at that because it’s moving so fast.”

Asked how the org is monitoring the situation going forward and what might happen if the awards ceremony cannot be held with a live audience, Samuelson said, “We have a contingency of about 12 different scenarios right now.”

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