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BAFTA Introduces Casting Award, Will Continue to Allow Netflix and Amazon to Compete

BAFTA is introducing a casting category for both its film and TV awards for the first time. The British Academy also said Wednesday that it would stick to its guns on the eligibility criteria for films, which allow streamers such as Netflix and Amazon to compete, to the annoyance of some exhibitors.

Other changes to the 2020 Film Awards include a longer window of four weeks for non-English-language films. The Original Music category will also be renamed Original Score, allowing those who have contributed at least 20% of a film’s score to be eligible.

BAFTA said that, after extensive industry consultation, it had decided to leave eligibility criteria unchanged as they pertain to theatrical releases of films. Earlier this year, exhibition chains Vue and Cineworld made clear their unhappiness about the rules, which effectively allow the streamers to submit works for the film awards. After Netflix’s “Roma” won a haul of trophies in February, Cineworld withdrew its support for the BAFTAs.

The rules require films to have been theatrically exhibited publicly to a paying audience on at least 10 commercial screens in the U.K. for at least seven days in aggregate.

Emma Baehr, director of awards and membership at BAFTA, said that, although the rules will not change, the British academy plans to apply closer scrutiny to ensure films that have had a proper release.

“We want to make sure that entrants are reaching out to as wide an audience as possible,” Baehr said. “This means in practice that we will be looking at release patterns. We want to make sure there’s a wide geographical release; we want to to make sure that cinema times are sensible. It’s not in anyone’s interest or benefit to have films playing to empty cinemas. We will encourage people to share box-office figures. The film committee [is] not going to tolerate a token release to qualify.”

The addition of a Casting award marks the first time BAFTA has added a new category since 1999. It will be given out at the main BAFTA ceremony. The Casting award in TV will be part of the standalone Television Craft Awards. It is the first time BAFTA has introduced a new category for both film and TV.

The longlist for the casting awards will be determined by a new chapter at BAFTA before a second round, where a jury of experts votes. “What we realized was it it’s the only head of department to be listed in opening titles of film that doesn’t have its own category, so we believe now is the right time to recognize this craft.”

“I am delighted that a Casting award will be introduced at both the Film and Television Craft Awards this year,” said “Maleficent” casting director Lucy Bevan. “It is a great honor for our industry to be recognized by BAFTA, and I look forward to seeing many deserving, talented casting professionals receive the award in the years to come.”

Speaking about the tweak to the music category, BAFTA-nominated composer David Arnold (“Quantum of Solace,” “Independence Day”), said that “BAFTA is about recognizing and rewarding excellence in the craft of filmmaking with the hope that it will inspire future generations to pursue these skills to the highest standards.”

Voting for BAFTA members opens at start of Dec. and closes at the end of the month. Nominations are unveiled on Jan. 7. The Film Awards take place on Feb. 2, a week before the Oscars. The ceremony will return to the Royal Albert Hall for a fourth year.

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