BAFTA Awards (Courtesy of Nathan Strange/AP/REX/Shutterstock)
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) has unveiled the results of a historic seven-month diversity review, which includes the expansion of the outstanding British film category to 10 nominations; a key longlisting round across all categories that aims to level the playing field in acting and directing in particular; and the introduction of 1,000 new members from underrepresented groups.
The review, which has been independently verified, came in response to the lack of diversity in the 2020 Film Awards — which in January unveiled a much-criticized roster of all-white acting nominations — but its remit expanded to include other aspects of the org and its awards. All changes, which amount to 120 in total and span everything from voting to awards campaigning, have been approved unanimously by the BAFTA board.
Key changes are below (for a complete list, see end of article for a summary):
• Membership expanding to target 1,000 new members from under-represented groups over the next two years. This process will be overseen by a Future Membership group of current BAFTA members from a variety of backgrounds.
• Membership survey to be sent out later this month (and repeated on a regular basis in the future), and its completion will be a requirement for voting. Results, which will be posted by year’s end, will allow BAFTA to set targets to address areas of under-representation
• BAFTA is introducing a range of measures to address financial issues around membership fees for new and existing members
• Conscious voter training is being introduced for all voting members, including longlisting and nominating jury chairs and members. Training will be rolled out ahead of Round 1 voting for the 2021 Film Awards
EE British Academy Film Awards 2021
• A new longlisting round of voting in all categories to achieve greater diversity in nominations
• It is now compulsory for all voters, chapters and juries to watch all longlisted films before Round 2 voting, to level the playing field across all titles
• Major rule changes and increase in nominations (from five to six) in the acting and directing categories to address a continuing lack of diversity in the performance categories and a historic lack of female representation in the directing category
• An increase to 10 nominations in outstanding British film category to ensure a stronger focus on British film within the Film Awards and the ceremony itself
• Changes to campaigning aimed at ensuring a fairer consideration of all films regardless of marketing budget
• All entered films will be available on the new BAFTA View portal — with titles added over six months prior to the ceremony — to allow for better voter access to all entered films and wider viewership across all films
• BAFTA continues to endorse the BFI Diversity Standards and will continue to work with the BFI to expand the use of the BFI Diversity Standards as eligibility criteria across a wider range of categories
The review process was led by new BAFTA chair Krishnendu Majumdar, Film Committee chair Marc Samuelson and a specially formed steering group convened from all sectors of BAFTA as well as independent specialists in the creative industries, other industries and diversity and inclusion experts. Members include chair of BAFTA LA and head of TriStar Television Kathryn Busby, filmmaker and actor Noel Clarke, academic and co-founder of RizTest Sadia Habib, Film London’s Film & TV executive and founder of the Equal Access Network’s Nahrein Kemp, ITV Group director of diversity and inclusion Ade Rawcliffe, the BFI’s head of inclusion Jennifer Smith and thinkBIGGER!’s talent manager and disability specialist Samantha Tatlow.
The Steering Group scrutinized all areas of BAFTA, with a particular focus on its Film Awards for changes in the first year. They spoke with over 400 people, including members, senior industry figures, guilds, industry bodies, currently under-represented groups, press — including Variety’s international editor and international features editor — and other industry executive in the U.K., U.S. and globally.
Following the first phase of the review, the group will meet quarterly to monitor the rate of change. Other areas of focus in the months and years include genderized performance categories and supporting D/deaf and disabled practitioners in order to find long-term and meaningful solutions.
Changes to the BAFTA Television Awards are to be announced next month, while separate Games and Children’s Awards reviews are being conducted later this year.
Majumdar called the review results a “watershed moment” for BAFTA, has never opened itself up like this before.
“We feel this isn’t a kneejerk reaction to what’s happened in the world,” Majumdar told Variety. “This is also just phase one — it’s just the start of change. All 120 changes are interconnected and interlocking. One of the key messages is to level the playing field.”
Samuelson added: “It became very clear during the review how vital it is to level the playing field across all that we do as an organization, not just the awards. One of the key issues raised time and time again throughout the process was that too much deserving work was not being seen. The changes we are implementing are designed to ensure these films are seen and judged on merit alone. The ambition is for BAFTA to evolve into a more inclusive organization, one representing and celebrating the full breadth of talent in our industries.”
BAFTA CEO Amanda Berry said: “I am incredibly grateful to the vast number of people who have given their time and shared their wisdom and experiences throughout the Review to help us determine what we can do better as an organization. The ongoing passion and expertise of our members is the lifeblood of BAFTA and I am constantly inspired by their incredible contribution. The first phase of findings in our Review gives us a fantastic opportunity to build on BAFTA’s strong foundation, as we look to make substantial cultural and organisational change.”
• Key aim is to expand viewership of all entered films, ensuring members consider more films and create a level playing field for all entrants
• All Film Awards voting will consist of three rounds to allow members a longer period to watch all films, and allow for specialist chapter and jury voting. For a complete breakdown of voting click here.
• Round 1 Longlisting process: A new voting round across all categories to allow members a longer time period to watch all entered films. Members rank their top 15 films in this round.
• From this year members can begin viewing films on the BAFTA View, the new online portal, from late September. All films must be on the portal by the date Round 1 voting opens.
• At the start of voting, members will each be assigned a sample of 15 films as mandatory viewing for Round 1 voting. This will ensure all entered films are viewed by a minimum number of voters to level the playing field with films that have a higher profile or marketing budget.
• Round 2 (Nominations): Members will be required to watch all the longlisted films before voting. Members rank their top five films in this round (and juries will rank their top six in the acting and directing categories) to create the nominations.
• Round Three (Winners): All members vote to choose winner from the nominations and must view all nominated films.
In order to align the acting category to all other craft categories, voting in the four acting categories will now move to Chapter voting.
Round 1: The acting chapter will rank their top 15, with the top 12 longlisted. 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 on the acting longlists.
Round 2 (Voting): A nominating Jury for each acting category will consider the 15 longlisted and vote for six performances to be nominated (this is an increase from five from previous years). The increase from five to six has been implemented to allow for a broader representation in nominees.
Round 3 (Winners): All members vote to choose the winners from final nominations.
All acting entrants must now decide whether to submit for lead or supporting actor/actress categories, whereas previously, all acting entrants were entered in both categories. This is 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 calibre of the performance. In Round 1, actors cannot be longlisted more than once in one acting category, but can appear in separate categories for separate performances.
To redress the lack of female representation in the directing category as well as under-representation in all areas, two major changes are being implemented in the directing category: there will now be six nominations in this category, and Round 1 will produce a longlist of 20.
Round 1 (Longlisting): the directing chapter will rank the top 20. The top eight female and top eight male directors progress directly to the longlist. A specially convened longlisting jury will then select the final four directors — two female and two male (from the next 10 ranked respectively) — for a final longlist of 20.
Round 2 (Nominations): A nominating jury will then select the top six directors to be nominated.
Round Three (Winner): All members vote to choose the winner from a final six, and must view all films.
Outstanding British Film Category
To shine a spotlight on homegrown talent, this category will now increase the number of nominations from six to 10. The 10 nominated films will each be showcased during BAFTA’s annual Film Awards ceremony.
For 2021 BAFTA’s Film Committee has 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.
Round 3 voting in Outstanding British Film will now be an all-member vote to ensure the widest possible viewership for these films. (Previously an opt-in chapter selected the winner).
A recurring theme from Review discussions has been the lack of a level playing field in awards campaigning. Campaigns with larger budgets tend to dominate the conversation from very early in the season, which can negatively affect viewing of smaller and more diverse films. As a result, BAFTA is implementing several changes.
For the past three years, BAFTA has been developing BAFTA View, a unique and inclusive platform which is affordable for all filmmakers and studios to securely present their films online to voting members. BAFTA View will launch for the 2021 Awards season. All films for the Film Awards in 2021 will be available on the BAFTA View. DVD screeners will be discontinued by 2022.
Distributor communications related to film screenings, Q&As and other campaign events will now be further limited per title. This is to ensure smaller films are not left out of the conversation and have as much visibility with members as films with larger campaign budgets. Members will also be invited to opt-in to receive DVDs, be invited to attend distributors screenings, and to receive trade publications during awards season.
Variety's Manori Ravindran contributed to this post.