The concept of business as usual seems entirely alien to the organisers of the annual BAFTA Awards.
Having successfully reinvented the event as an evening of global industry importance BAFTA could have been forgiven for resting on its laurels. Instead, the ceremony on February 11, 2007 will have an additional award for Best Animated Feature, a new presenter with the unenviable tasking of following Stephen Fry and a completely new venue in Covent Garden ‘s Royal Opera House.
‘The presentation will have much more flexibility this year,’ claims David Parfitt, chairman of the BAFTA Film Committee.
‘We will be able to seat more people in more comfort. There is a fantastic amount of space for the press, for pre-show receptions and a much longer red carpet area as we are closing a large chunk of Bow Street to create a pleasant approach to the venue. We also plan to show the awards live on a big screen outside in the piazza.’
Parfitt admits that although the Odeon Leicester Square was a fantastic cinema it did present logistical problems. ‘I don’t think people realised that presenters and winners were having to exit the stage via a fire escape because there was no backstage.’
Just like Christmas, the BAFTA campaigning season seems to start earlier each year.
In August, voters were invited to a screening of Volverattended by Pedro Almodovar and Penelope Cruz. The battle for hearts and minds had begun.
Recent weeks have seen London Q&A screenings with Ben Affleck (Hollywoodland), Dustin Hoffman (Stranger Than Fiction), Emilio Estevez (Bobby) and Kate Winslet (Little Children).
The campaigning has also moved out of the capital with Tartan Films taking Black Book director Paul Verhoeven and actress Carice van Houten to Glasgow for a BAFTA screening and the Leeds Film Festival has also welcomed BAFTA members to screenings of Roger Michell’s Venus and Anthony Minghella’s Breaking And Entering.
BAFTA has been keen to ensure its presence is felt throughout the UK and is unveiling another initiative to attract public interest in the awards.
Sponsored by Orange and promoted by the BBC, Sixty Seconds Of Fame is a short film competition open to anyone over 16. Entrants must submit a sixty second film that can be made on anything from their mobile phone to 70mm.
Finalists from regional heats will then make their way to the awards in February
Given that few clear front runners and favourites have yet to emerge in this year’s awards season, campaigning for the BAFTAs could be fiercer than ever.
A strong British contingent will compete for home advantage, but there are a number of BAFTA regulars and previous winners in the field ranging from Martin Scorsese (The Departed) to Clint Eastwood (Flags Of Our Fathers), the frequently-nominated Renee Zellweger (Mrs Potter) and the oft rewarded Pedro Almodovar.
It seems inconceivable that Volver will not figure in BAFTA nominations this year but an early screening was one way of establishing its position as a title not to be forgotten.
It seems as if BAFTA has now reached a new level where it can legitimately claim to be important in its own right rather than just another glittering stepping stone on the road to the Oscars.
‘I do think the BAFTA Awards are very distinctive,’ asserts Parfitt. ‘The decisions are often quite different; the nominees may be the same but the winners are different. I do think we have our very own style. I’d hate to say quirkiness but it’s hard to think of another word. I think we will maintain and perhaps even improve our distinctive identity in future years.’