BAFTA joins BFI’s diversity drive

Films that don’t display a strong presence of diverse talent will no longer be eligible for two of the top BAFTA film awards, under new proposals to improve diversity in the British film industry.

From 2019, only films that meet the BFI’s “three ticks” diversity standards, that came into effect in 2014, will be considered for the categories of Outstanding British Film and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.

Previous Outstanding British Film winners such, as Skyfall, would be unlikely to qualify in future

The regulations mean that to be eligible for the awards, productions will need to be able to demonstrate their efforts to increase the number of women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities or residents of underprivileged communities, either on screen or behind the scenes. This would mean that these groups should be better represented in four areas: characters or themes; key crew members, industry access and opportunities; opportunities for diversity in audience development.

Under the new rules, recent winners of the Outstanding British Film prize, such as  Skyfall and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, might not have been eligible for consideration. Others, such as Gravity or The Theory of Everything might qualify, not because of the quality of the film-making but because the lead character of the former was a woman, while the protagonist of the latter had a disability.

BAFTA is also making efforts to ensure that its own make-up better reflects audiences, as its American equivalent has been trying to do. BAFTA will now take a more proactive role in looking for new members from diverse communities, while prospective new members won’t have to be nominated or seconded be existing members, the suggestion being that there’s a tendency that existing members might recommend successors in their own image.

In a statement, BAFTA said, “This widens the pool of potential members and ensures that it’s only talent, and not also who you know, that enables BAFTA membership.”

To give an indication of the need for change within BAFTA itself, the Academy issued an anonymous questionnaire in January, to get an insight into its demographics. Of the 45% of recipients who responded, 41% were women and 13% came from minority ethnic groups. The most recent census, in 2011, found that in the wider community in the UK, the proportion of British people from minority ethnic groups was 13%.