USC student Asligul Armagan had attended BAFTA Los Angeles events as the plus-one of a friend, so when the organization opened its Newcomers Program to non-Brits, she welcomed the chance to join.
“It was a shot in the dark, and I was over the moon to hear I was accepted,” Armagan says. The events have opened up a world to the global media and communications student at USC Annenberg.
The Newcomers Program is one of several outreach plans that BAFTA LA started to help British talent find their footing in Hollywood. Those in the program are paired with mentors, network with veterans and attend the org’s screenings and other social events so they can navigate in Hollywood.
“We are hoping to import British talent before the camera and behind, and we always want to be there to support,” Rickards says. “The quality of what BAFTA adds to a person’s career is incredibly important.”
Armagan and some other beneficiaries of BAFTA LA’s outreach will get the opportunity to meet and greet with people in the industry when they attend the Britannia Awards on Oct. 26 at the Beverly Hilton.
For Armagan, who has aspirations of becoming a screenwriter, the opportunities have been tremendous. “You have the BAFTA name hovering over you as an endorsement,” she says.
Lucia Bulgheroni also has felt the benefits of BAFTA LA since she won the jury film award at July’s Student Film Awards; her “Inanimate” is an eight-minute toon with “bits of live action,” she says. Bulgheroni, a student at the U.K.’s National Film and Television School, was flown to Southern California for the awards ceremony.
“The visit to Los Angeles was amazing. They organized for us to meet with agents and managers,” she says. BAFTA LA kept in touch afterward. “I’m still in touch with them. I talk to them, tell them what my plan is. They are very keen, I hope to keep future contact with them.”
Animation is not a major player in her native Italy, something she would like to remedy even as she learns more. Bulgheroni says she would like to intertwine live-action with animation in her future projects.
The awards, originally meant for British students, were expanded to include American entries and then submissions from around the globe.
BAFTA has a vested interest in supporting young artists too. The BAFTA name is spread across the globe and the org has outposts not only in Los Angeles, but in New York and Shanghai. Rickhards says a BAFTA delegation went to China with Prince William in 2015 and that helped spark the connection.
Matthew Wiseman, BAFTA LA chief operating officer, sees the advantages of increasing opportunities for co-production in TV, film and games. “The stories are based on collaboration,” he says.
“We are hoping to import British talent before the camera and behind, and we always want to be there to support.”
Armagan enjoys hanging out with like-minded creatives. “I have scripts with other newcomers and advanced BAFTA members.”
“What we are trying to do is make sure we are creating a diverse opportunity, or opportunities for diversity, that transcends ethnicity, religion, financial backgrounds,” Rickards says. “And that diversity sets in at the earliest possible age.”
The BAFTA LA scholarship program is another way to achieve that aim. Their financial aid to those studying in the U.S. reached a record high this year, Wiseman says. In all $113,000 was disbursed among 20 students at New York and Los Angeles’ institutions.
Besides the five Pigott BAFTA scholarships, supported by revenue from an investment by businessman Mark Pigott, this year BAFTA LA added the Hunter Scholarships, whose benefactor is artist Tom Hunter. Producer Nigel Lythgoe, meanwhile is the donor of a scholarship for TV production. And the sale of artist Lincoln Townley’s portraits of honorees benefits the org’s scholarships and community outreach work.
There are other scholarships, including those endowed by HBO, the BBC and King Features.
Rachel Main earned one and getting a full scholarship was what convinced her family to let her leave Scotland to study dramatic writing NYU. Her mother has been disabled since Main was 12 and is unable to work.
When she heard about the scholarship, Main wrote about how important it was for her to watch narratives from a working-class point of view.
“I’ve dreamed of living in New York since I was a little girl,” says Main. “This was my one shot, otherwise I was going into academia.”
Armagan says: “BAFTA has given me the confidence to say I am a writer. I should have said it before. Having that kind of recognition, even though not I’m not prolific or in the industry, has changed my life.”