L.A.’s the place for ex-pats

Many BAFTA noms also Oscar contenders

To celebrate the Golden Globes nominations, the British Academy’s Los Angeles affiliate invited its members and guests to sip tea and nibble on scones in the civilized setting of the Park Hyatt in Century City. It was an important soiree in the runup to Oscars, since many of the guests were also BAFTA nominees and in the running for the Academy Awards.

BAFTA nominees Leonardo DiCaprio, Imelda Staunton, Cate Blanchett and composer Howard Shore, all who went on to receive Oscar noms, enjoyed the low-key party.

But the branch plays an important role for members during awards season.

The organization hosts some 70 screenings around town each year for its voting members, many of whom are also members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The series includes lesser-known British films as well as high-profile Brit pics, to which invites are often extended to voters for other awards events.

“We started inviting the Hollywood Foreign Press several years ago to see our British films with a British audience, and we work closely with the Writers Guild on screenings and the Directors Guild,” says BAFTA/LA exec director Don Haber.

Talent from the movies participate in post-screening Q&As and, in the case of recent co-presentations with the Visual Effects Society, roundtable discussions with post-production craftspeople.

BAFTA/L.A. was founded in 1987 with the aim of promoting and advancing original work in film, TV and interactive media and to serve as a bridge between the Hollywood and British entertainment communities. Its membership stands at 1,200 — a number that will remain static for the foreseeable future following an organizationwide cap on membership.

Haber sees the cap as a positive move. “It allows us to take a deep breath, look at the members we have, and do an analysis of the various crafts in the industry to see where we’re well represented and where we should reach out to a particular guild,” he says. He wants to encourage people other than writers, actors, producers and studio execs (sectors that are already well-represented) to become members of BAFTA/L.A.

On Feb. 12, BAFTA/L.A. will host its annual brunch with live telecast of the BAFTAs from the Odeon Leicester Square in London. It’s the highlight of the org’s social calendar, says Haber.

At the semi-formal shindig, presentations are made to any winners unable to make the trip over the Pond, and members watch avidly for a nod from Blighty.

“My favorite moment of last year’s awards,” says Haber, “was when Martin Samuels won for hair and makeup (for “Pirates of the Caribbean”) and in his acceptance speech thanked BAFTA/L.A. from London.”