Filmmaking is latest chapter in contenders' careers

Neither youth nor unfamiliarity are the defining characteristics of this year’s nominees for outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer.

Chris Morris, Banksy and Clio Barnard are big established names in their fields — TV comedy, graffiti art and video art, respectively. Gareth Edwards is a BAFTA-winning vfx designer, while Nick Whitfield is an actor-turned-writer/director with many years of one-man shows behind him.

Banksy and Barnard are both nominated alongside their producers, Jaimie D’Cruz and Tracy O’Riordan. D’Cruz edited the underground music magazine Touch, which also covered street art, and was approached by Banksy to help mount his film.

O’Riordan was part of the production team for “Song of Songs” and “The Queen” and oversaw development for Liverpool’s Digital Departure microbudget scheme, which produced three films including the Terence Davies doc “Of Time and the City.”

The nominees:

“The Arbor”
Directed by Clio Barnard, produced by Tracy O’Riordan
Blurring documentary and drama, the film is a portrait of playwright Andrea Dunbar, whose work (“The Arbor,” “Rita, Sue and Bob Too”) reflected life on the working-class Bradford estate where she lived. Dunbar, a heavy drinker with three children by different men, died at 29. The film uses actors to lip-sync real interviews with her children and neighbors, intercut with an outdoor performance of “The Arbor” in her old neighborhood. Barnard won the Sutherland trophy for most original feature debut at the London Film Festival.

“Exit Through the Gift Shop”
Directed by Banksy, produced by

Jaimie D’Cruz
Another film pushing the boundaries of fact, “Exit” is about filmmaker Thierry Guetta trying to make a documentary about graffiti artist Banksy, who takes over the film to document Guetta’s own efforts to become a street artist.

“Four Lions”
Directed and co-written by Chris Morris
Like an Ealing comedy for the 21st century, “Four Lions” is a farcical satire about a hapless gang of British Muslim suicide bombers, whose foolish innocence is matched only by their deadly intent. Morris, who won a BAFTA for his debut short, is notorious for topical and angry TV comedy that challenges the boundaries of taste, yet “Four Lions” is surprisingly touching, as well as uncomfortably hilarious.

“Monsters”
Directed and written by Gareth Edwards
Digital effects expert Edwards traveled through Mexico and the southern U.S. with his two actors for six weeks to improvise this microbudget sci-fi road movie. It’s the story of a journalist charged with escorting his boss’ daughter home through a quarantine zone infested with aliens. Edwards used his f/x skills to add military hardware and monsters, giving cinematic scale to a meditative low-key romance.

“Skeletons”
Directed and written by Nick Whitfield
Surreal comedy about an odd couple of traveling salesmen who perform exorcisms to literally remove skeletons from closets and reveal embarrassing secrets. Pic won best British film at the Edinburgh Intl. Film Festival.

More from the BAFTA Awards:
Will ‘King’s Speech’ have last word at BAFTA? | ‘Speech’ tries to break ground at BAFTA | BAFTA debut nominees come with full resumes

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