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A year on from its seismic review that saw more than 120 wide-ranging changes to its voting, membership and campaigning process, the British Academy has unveiled a number of considerably smaller tweaks to its BAFTA film awards voting rules, while also extending and amending eligibility criteria put in place during the pandemic.
Barring a few exceptions, the eligibility period for the 2022 film awards — which will take place March 13 — runs Jan. 1, 2021 to March 11, 2022.
Films released between Jan. 1 and July 1, 2021 are eligible should they meet the relaxed COVID-friendly criteria, essentially meaning they still qualify if they were released on an approved U.K. VOD platform because their original cinema release was disrupted due to the pandemic. However, with lockdowns having lifted the U.K. and cinemas reopened, films released after July 1, 2021 will require a theatrical run, and are only eligible if they exhibited publicly to a paying audience on at least 10 commercial screens in the U.K. for at least seven days in aggregate (exclusive of festivals).
Among the voting tweaks, in the director category, which earlier this year ended male dominance, with female filmmakers making up four of the six nominees, the first round will now see the top seven male and female directors as voted for by the directing chapter — rather than eight as previously — automatically longlisted. The remaining three male and three female directors will be selected by the longlisting jury.
Across the four performances categories, the top two performances voted for by the acting chapter in round one will now be automatically nominated. Another — perhaps more noticeable change — will see headshots of all the performers now published on the BAFTA View voting platform for the first time.
“This way, for those actors and performers who aren’t necessarily big household names, you can start to recognize them and pin a name to the face, and then when you go through to vote, you’ll be able to se all of those names and understand who’s who,” said Anna Higgs, chair of the BAFTA Film Committee, adding that it was all — like much of the entire review process in general — about “levelling the playing field.”
For documentaries, after the first round of voting to decide the 15-strong longlist, a specialist jury will be introduced for round two, with the top two films from the first round joining the three selected by this new panel to make up the five nominees.
According to Emma Baehr, BAFTA’s executive director of awards and content, the academy had seen a “much higher volume of entry” from documentaries. “So we want to make sure that our members can see as many films as widely as possible,” she said.
The documentary and film not in the English language categories will also continue to have a lower qualifying threshold and an extended eligibility period for the awards. These films can be entered into all categories if they have been exhibited publicly on at least one commercial screen in the U.K. for no fewer than seven days in aggregate (not including festival screenings), with the eligibility period for the 2022 awards running until March 31 2022.
Elsewhere, outstanding debut eligibility continues to use the lower qualifying threshold (films shown on at least one commercial U.K. screen for at least seven days in aggregate), but for the first time films may also qualify by screening at festivals on a newly-created debut qualifying festival list.
“What we’re doing is trying to ensure that the first film made made by a filmmaker is eligible, rather than the first of their films that gets a U.K. theatrical release,” said Higgs. “We wanted to recognize that sometimes people might get really incredible festival exposure but not an actual release.”
Following 2021’s major overhaul, BAFTA committed to constantly reviewing its processes, making annual updates and finessing its rules where necessary.
“The review isn’t something that we just did and that’s it,” said Baehr. “It’s all about levelling the playing field, and that’s work that we need to work harder at it’s something we need to continue to do. So everything we’re doing from now on is about building on that.”
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