BAFTA Adding Casting Category to 2020 Film, TV Awards

BAFTA Award - Getty - H 2017
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The British Academy event becomes the first major film awards ceremony to honor the casting community.

The British Academy is adding a casting category to its BAFTA film awards in 2020, organizers unveiled Wednesday. 

The award — the first new BAFTA film category since it introduced the outstanding debut honor in 1999 — comes after renewed campaigning from the industry to honor the casting community. BAFTA will become the first of all the major film ceremonies to do so. (The Australian Academy recently announced it was adding casting as a category to its awards).

"BAFTA’s Awards exist to recognize excellence across the industry and we are delighted this year to be including the highly skilled work of casting directors for the first time," said BAFTA chair Pippa Harris. "Casting is essential to the screen industries, and vital in terms of promoting diversity and inclusion onscreen. We hope this Award will also help to promote an understanding of casting and look forward to seeing who will be the first winner in February."

The new casting award will also be added to the BAFTA TV Craft awards, marking the first time BAFTA has simultaneously introduced a category across its film and TV honors. 

“I am delighted that a casting award will be introduced at both the Film and Television Craft Awards this year — it is a great honor for our industry to be recognized by BAFTA and I look forward to seeing many deserving, talented casting professionals receive the award in the years to come," said casting director Lucy Bevan (Cats, Maleficent). "I would like to thank BAFTA on behalf of casting directors across the world, it is terrific news for our profession."

Meanwhile, BAFTA is also renaming the original music category to original score to underline a focus on composers and scores, and "acknowledging the integral part they play in contributing to the narrative, atmosphere and emotional landscape of the film."

Another tweak being made is for "Films Not in the English Language." For the first time, distributors will be able to release their submitted film in this category for four weeks after the awards ceremony, thus avoiding the usual bottleneck and giving the titles a better chance at being seen by the public.

Amid ongoing debate about Netflix and theatrical windows, BAFTA has also said there would be no change to existing eligibility rules regarding the theatrical release required for a film to qualify for the film awards. Films for the 2020 awards must have been been theatrically exhibited publicly to a paying audience on at least 10 commercial screens in the U.K. for at least seven days in aggregate.

However, the British Academy did assert that films are entered "within the spirit of the rules and not purely to qualify for the awards," and said that its Film Committee, as final arbiter on what films qualify, would work towards ensuring that entrants "respect industry norms." These include such factors as films releasing more broadly and across a wide geographical area getting scheduled at conventional cinema times and not being four-walled, while they would also encourage that admission figures are shared.

“BAFTA is committed to ensuring that the British public has the opportunity to see the widest possible range of films in cinema," said BAFTA CEO Amanda Berry. "In 2016, BAFTA increased the minimum requirements for theatrical release and following a robust consultation period this year we are confident that our rules remain fit for purpose and continue to allow for the breadth of films from mainstream to indies to be eligible."

The 2020 BAFTAs are set to take place Feb. 2, just one week ahead of the Oscars, which moved forward to the date of Feb. 9. However, the new date is only temporary, with both shifting back to their usual spots later in the month in 2021. 

The BAFTA film nominations are set to be announced Jan. 7.