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BAFTA’s boutique

East Coast branch aims to become a primary source on Brit pix, TV in U.S

As the youngest of BAFTA’s overseas affiliates, BAFTA East Coast is what you might call the boutique of the organization. Its main function is to host screenings of award-worthy films for its 500-strong membership — a mix of Brits and Americans with significant ties to U.K. filmmaking — as well as provide social and networking opportunities.

Chairman Christina Thomas, a Brit whose background is in TV production and distribution, would like to see the organization grow into much more, though a recent membership cap bestowed by BAFTA in London has halted the organization’s recruitment of voting members. In light of that, BAFTA East Coast is focusing on expanding its professional, student and associate membership-divisions that aren’t eligible to vote for the BAFTAs.

“I’d like us to be the primary source of information on British film and TV in the U.S.,” says Thomas, noting that unlike L.A., New York does not have a British film commission. Budgetary constraints, however, have so far prevented the organization from achieving that goal. Unlike its L.A. counterpart, BAFTA East Coast doesn’t have an operating budget to speak of. It has no board, directors, publicity or administrative staff other than what’s volunteered by its members.

Thomas herself is a volunteer; she’s been chairman of BAFTA East Coast since it formed in 1996.

“We’d like to have a BAFTA Tea Party like BAFTA/LA and our own awards,” she says. She envisages the awards as slightly different to BAFTA/LA’s Britannia Awards, with a less celebrity-driven approach. “We are currently discussing whether we should have an awards show or take a different route and focus on working with young British filmmakers in trying to create a festival for them here.”

Most BAFTA East Coast members work in New York, others in Boston, Washington, Atlanta and Miami. “The composition of our membership is different to BAFTA/LA,” says Thomas. “The independent film world is here and that gives us a whole different thrust.” The two affiliates operate pretty much independently, though members are welcome to attend each other’s events when they’re on the opposite coast.

To celebrate the February 12 BAFTA awards, BAFTA East Coast will host its Fifth Annual Orange British Film Awards party at the Millennium Hotel on Broadway. The event is expected to draw around 300 members, guests and friends of BAFTA East Coast. BBC America is providing a satellite feed for live coverage of the awards.

“It’s a great networking event and opportunity to see friends,” says Thomas.

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