New BAFTA chair pushes charity, heritage

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LONDON -- The British Academy of Film and Television Arts recently issued an updated mission statement and has appointed a woman chairman for the first time in its 60-year history. High-flying, BAFTA-winning television producer Hilary Bevan Jones ("Cracker") aims to spearhead educational initiatives and wants a new-look restaurant at BAFTA headquarters in central London "to be humming every night."

Carrying clout with government -- Creative Industries Minister Shaun Woodward called her in soon after her appointment to push for a BAFTA-created seminar on the future of children's broadcasting -- Bevan Jones' credits include "State of Play," "All in the Game" and the Emmy Award-winning "The Girl in the Cafe." Bevan Jones talks to The Hollywood Reporter U.K. Bureau Chief Stuart Kemp about being the first woman in the chair at the British Academy and her ambitions during the next two years in the hot seat.


The Hollywood Reporter: What is your first challenge in taking on the role as BAFTA chairman?

Hilary Bevan Jones: I am taking over as chairman by following in the footsteps of Duncan Kenworthy, who has led the Academy through a massive strategic review involving big changes and a lot of good work. I think the most important thing is to make sure we (at BAFTA) embrace all the very positive changes that have happened (in Duncan's tenure as chairman) and to progress while looking back at (BAFTA's) rich heritage. The aims of our founders 60 years ago -- which includes David Lean, Michael Balcon and Alexander Korda -- to make sure we uphold them to support and celebrate excellence in British films. Last year we also embraced video games as a third pillar at the organization, and creating an awards show for those is a dynamic move forward for BAFTA and shows the organization is embracing the moving arts.


THR: What role should BAFTA be looking to play in the development of the British film industry?

Bevan Jones: We have just updated our mission statement. We are planning a really broad public outreach into the regions and further afield, outside London. We are also working closely with BAFTA LA to develop ideas and we're embracing such things as podcasts. We have excellent relationships with the screen agencies here. We have BAFTA Scotland and BAFTA CYMRU (Wales), and our archive presentation is getting more and more robust now.


THR: You mentioned a new mission statement at BAFTA. What is it?

Bevan Jones: "To support, develop and promote the art forms of the moving image by identifying and rewarding excellence, inspiring practitioners and benefiting the viewing public."


THR: As a longtime BAFTA stalwart, do you think your chairmanship of BAFTA will have a theme?

Bevan Jones: The main theme I am going to try and push on is our charitable remit and our responsibilities in education. We (at BAFTA) have just started a strategic review to work alongside existing charities that work in the same ballpark of education. I certainly don't want to mimic existing, well-established organizations working in the same area, such as Skillset, but we can collaborate (as an organization) and offer access to our membership. We have 6,500 members, all of whom have pedigree in their chosen field, and I am interested in using the skills and talent to put something back into education. I also want to ensure that it is international. By joining hands with other charities, we could set up a traveling cinema, for example, to go on the road to developing countries for people there to learn about filmmaking. I am very keen on the idea of master classes from some of our internationally renowned members that might be televised. I am also keen to take the plans across the country as well as abroad and want to ensure it is not London-centric.


THR: As the first woman appointed chairman of BAFTA, do you see that as an important element to your tenure?

Bevan Jones: I am very happy to be the first woman chairman. I am not focusing on the fact I am a woman. To be honest, I think it is kind of irrelevant. I just want to embrace the stewardship of the organization for the two years I am in the chair. I am a founding member of (promotional organization) Women in Film, so I have clearly always felt there is a place in the industry for women. Frankly, if I can turn the fact I am a woman to my advantage, then I will. But overall, now that BAFTA has appointed a woman and it has happened, it will not make much difference, I don't think.


THR: How are you going to balance what is considered to be a fairly onerous BAFTA workload with being an independent producer?

Bevan Jones: It is a big commitment and a huge learning curve. What I am doing is treating it as like having a couple of other productions on the go at the same time. As my mother always said, "If you want something done, ask a busy person." It is true I won't have much of a social life, but it is only for two years and it is so exciting meeting and working with all these different people. I schedule all BAFTA meetings for either the morning or the evening and manage the demands that way. The challenge of embracing all those skills is terrific.


THR: BAFTA traditionally alternates between a chairperson drawn from film and television. Do you think being a producer of high-quality television drama means you bring something different to the boardroom table?

Bevan Jones: I think it is a very useful thing having a producer in this role. Producers have an eye for detail while remaining focused on the bigger picture, which is an extremely useful skill. It is immensely satisfying listening to people who have such different and diverse skills who are all willing to contribute.


THR: Other ambitions while in the chair?

Bevan Jones: BAFTA can't have a political standpoint but we are able to create a platform for debate. The government, spearheaded by Creative Industries Minister Shaun Woodward, is very keen for us (at BAFTA) to create a seminar and invite people on to discuss and debate the future of children's broadcasting. On a lighter note, I also want the restaurant at our recently refurbished headquarters to be humming every night. We're going to revamp it a bit and make it a real destination for people to come and use the facility to make it hum.


THR: BAFTA's move to switch the dates for its film awards to a pre-Oscar slot has played a major role in its development as entertainment. Any plans to change it?

Bevan Jones: At this moment in time it is a good slot to be in, and so that won't change.


THR: BAFTA also dishes out highly respected television and craft awards that you were heavily involved in before taking up your current role. Any plans for those ceremonies while in the hot seat?

Bevan Jones: The television awards committee has just appointed (television stalwart) Peter Salmon to chair it and is working hard to tweak and revamp them. It is a very difficult line to tread between recognizing and rewarding people the public might not always know or recognize while creating a show the public might want to watch while treating everyone respectfully. The film awards this year will get a big injection of vitamin C, and with Channel Four stepping in at the last minute last year for the video awards, things are looking good. We hope Channel Four will be our regular broadcasting partner for the video game awards, and all the broadcasters here are really behind BAFTA.
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