For an indication of how important the BAFTA film awardshave become, look no further than this year's campaign trail.

The scramble for BAFTAs started inearnest on August 31, when the UK'sacademy members were emailed with details of a screening of AngLee's Brokeback Mountain, followed by a Q&A withstar Jake Gyllenhaal and producer James Schamus. The invite came two days before the film made itsworld premiere at Venice on September2, four months before the film opened in the UK- and nearly six months before the BAFTA ceremony on February 19, 2006.

By the end of October, the lobbying was already at feverpitch. Scores of screenings have been set up and talent present for awards Q&As have included Keira Knightley and Joe Wright for Pride And Prejudice (another August 31 invite), AngLee for Brokeback Mountain, Cameron Crowe, Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom for Elizabethtown, Fernando Meirelles, RalphFiennes and Rachel Weisz for The Constant Gardener, Nick Cave, John Hillcoat, Guy Pearce and Danny Huston for The Proposition, DanisTanovic for Hell,Claire Danes and Anand Tucker for Shopgirl and Julian Fellowes and Tom Wilkinsonfor Separate Lies. And more willfollow.

There are myriad reasons for BAFTA'sincreasing international clout: the split of the film and TV awards in 1998, thegrowing importance of the international box office - and Londonas an international launch base - not to mention the shift of the BAFTAs to a pre-Oscar spot in 2001.

"It wasn't just the move," says BAFTA CEO AmandaBerry. "It was the fact we consulted the industry before we did it."

Communication with the industry is key.Academy principals have long been heading to Los Angelesto talk up the event with studios, managers and so on, and doing the same in London.This month, Berry, chairman ofcouncil Duncan Kenworthy and chair of the filmcommittee David Parfitt will be heading to Los Angeles. "In the early years of those trips it was,"here are these awards called the BAFTAs," says Parfitt. "Now it's not about that."

Penetration has certainlyrocketed. The ceremony is screened in 169 territories worldwide, compared withthe 194 territories for the Oscars. "Three or four years ago it went out in theUK only," says Berry. Last year's BAFTAscreated around 35,000 print articles in the UKalone.

The amount of stars working thered carpet at BAFTA can certainly rival the Oscars and the goodie bags for presenters andnominees are certainly glitzy: first class flights, cellphones,jewellery, free trips to exclusive desert island resorts.

But BAFTA is not an Oscar clone. When nominees take theirseats at London's Odeon Leicester Square on February 19, they won't bedigging in for an epic several-hour ceremony. The BAFTAsare more informal than their UScounterparts, shot through with host Stephen Fry's irreverent wit. (The miniaturebottles of champagne in the armrests also helps.)

"When people show up they just have a very good time," saysDavid Parfitt. "And word goes around the artists, thePRs and so on. We're holding our own against theOscars."

The BAFTAs also have their owncharacter (see sidebar). "Winning a BAFTA actually means something," says Kenworthy. "We've got a reputation for being serious andthoughtful about our choices. Awards ceremonies aren't just about glitz andglamour. From our point of view they're about motivation."

The academy introduced compulsory voting last year and thisyear launches a new award in conjunction with its headline sponsor Orange- the rising star award in honour of Mary Selway,which replaces the Orange film ofthe year. A BAFTA jury picks the nominees, which are then put to the publicvote.

With three months to go, until the end of third round votingthere is still no clear frontrunners. Many films are yet to be seen, andscreeners - so influential in awards campaigns - are yet to start hitting BAFTAs doormats.