The awards season hoopla is in full swing. At the weekend the Hollywood Foreign Press Association divvied out its praise in the form of a series of golden globes, in the awards aptly called The Golden Globes. Soon The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will bestow its good golden graces on actors, directors, films and more judged worthy of their awards, the Oscars. And this very day, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, or BAFTA, as it is known, have announced who will duke it out for their prestigious gongs on 12th February. Whenever that magical word “BAFTA” is uttered, it inevitably makes us cast our minds back to our own brushes with the British Academy. And to pay tribute to that noble body, we thought we would tell you about them in this very blog post. With no long thank you speeches, you will be pleased to note.
First things first, to set the record straight, we here at Studio 279 have regrettably not been nominated for a BAFTA proper. Wait, come back! Whilst the golden mask itself has yet to cast its single eye upon us (all in good time, my pretties…) we have on two occasions come into the rosy glow of that institution. Permit us, dear reader, to elaborate. Many years ago, five in fact, BAFTA was celebrating its 60th anniversary with a freshly minted competition entitled 60 Seconds Of Fame. The object of the contest was to devise, shoot and enter a minute long film based around the theme of Celebration. Being eager young bucks, and coming off the back of winning £250 of James Bond DVDs in a similar internet video competition, we decided to give it a bash. We soon settled on the idea of a film noir. We love film noir, as you may have gathered, being particularly obsessed with films such as The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon and The Third Man, as well as non-noir-but-still-golden-age-crackers such as Casablanca. As such, we came up with a brilliant idea; a Private Detective, Sam Marlowe (like Hammett’s Spade and Chandler’s Philip, geddit?) who returned back to his apartment to hear people moving around inside, only for, SURPRISE! It’s a surprise party for the sleuth’s birthday. We thought it was pretty slick…then, disaster! On the BAFTA website someone had already beaten us to the punch with the surprise party gag. Admittedly, that film wasn’t very good (it was, shudder! a mockney Guy Ritchie-esque gangster tale) but it rocked us on our heels.
What were we to do? After some careful thought, we reconfigured the whole shebang. Now, Marlowe had allowed the villanous thief Sydney Greenstreak (named after legendary star of Falcon and Casablanca, complete with fez) to escape from his clutches, disappearing into thin air. The grizzled gumshoe, nearing retirement, wanders the streets feeling sorry for himself, until he gets a lucky break… It turns out this was a much better idea; it was a more novel response to the theme, and, without spoiling it, allowed us to work in an old style newsreel to document the shindig. We entered it into the contest, sat, as you do and waited. Some time later we received a phone call. This in itself was unusual, doubly so as at this time, one did not possess a mobile phone. So it was a call on my brother’s cellular device that informed us of the news; the panel had selected the film for the next stage! That stage was a regional public vote; five films had been selected from each region and the one with the most votes would go to the ceremony itself in London to compete for the ultimate prize. We were chosen along with four others in our region, the West Midlands, in throwing ourselves on the public’s mercy. We brow beat our friends, encouraged our family, informed our school all to cast their votes for us, and we even got part of it shown on the BBC’s regional news programme Midlands Today. Alas, it was all in vain, as another film was acclaimed by the folks in the world at large that took them to Old London Town. But at the risk of sounding corny we had already won our award; this recognition came at the crucial time of deciding whether to pursue film as a career option, to go to university and follow our dream, or treat it as an interesting hobby and nothing more, playing it safe and going for a “real job.” So the film, and the 60 Seconds of Fame Competition, holds a special place in our hearts as it was one of those shining moments where you know you are on the right track.
For those of you who haven’t seen The Last Hurrah, you can either visit it on our films page, or, you know, watch it right here. If you have sampled its delights, read on for our second brush with BAFTA…
Our second encounter with the British Academy was comparatively more recent. As our legend goes, in 2008 we won the BBC Blast Comedy Bursary for our short film Sensitivity. That, in turn, granted us a £3000 bursary from the BBC to write and direct a new short film, which would become The Interviewee. Ably assisted by our mentor, comedy producer extraordinaire Micheal Jacob, acting marvels Fraser Ayres, Geraldine McNulty, Anna Crilly and Ed Weeks as well as the awe-inspiring crew from the BBC Birmingham Drama Village of Doctors and Land Girls fame, the film was in the can at the beginning of October 2009. Then came the premiere. The short was due to be broadcast to the world on BBC2 at 4am on 27th November 2009, but first came the small matter of exhibiting it to assembled family and friends. BBC Blast had handed out bursaries in various disciplines; drama, music video, animation, documentary and of course comedy, and so a venue was selected for us to show off our handiwork.
That location was rather prestigious: BAFTA Headquarters in London’s Piccadilly.
By this time we had already had our work shown on the big screen once before. Sensitivity played at the BFI Southbank’s amazing National Film Theatre as part of the BBC Blast Future Films Festival in February 2009, so the thrill of seeing ones work projected on the silver screen was still (and remains) incredibly powerful. But at the home of the British Academy? That was something else. When the day arrived, 18th October, we went down to the capital and walked along Piccadilly, passing the Ritz from where we had parked, and practically walked straight past the BAFTA hub. Just a small doorway, non descript, except for the BAFTA mask on show. It felt like entering a filmic Batcave. In we went, and as the screening got underway were shown into the perfectly formed screening room. At which time, film critic James King, then of Radio 1, made the introductions. He was on the judging panel that selected Sensitivity and later said this writer had “more neuroses than Woody Allen” (compliment, or insult? You decide!) After the premieres of several of the other, exceedingly good bursary using films, our short unspooled; The Interviewee, on the big screen. At BAFTA. We sat in nervous anticipation, waiting for that first laugh. After that, everything is fine; the audience “get it.” The longer you wait, the more nervous you get; “this isn’t funny, is it?” In our Woody Allen-style neurotic mind the laughless passage went on forever…but really it was just a few seconds. They lapped it up. Titters, chuckles and guffaws were all in attendance, and all was well. We could then enjoy our own film as well as everybody else is. A fantastic experience, made even better. For it is always special having your work shown, extra special on a big screen, but even more special when in some small way connects to the rich history of British film by playing in the hallowed halls of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. It is our aim in the near to distant future to snag a BAFTA nomination of our own one day, ideally for one of our many forthcoming short film projects. Until then, we will warm ourselves with our BAFTA experiences.
For those who wish to see the BAFTA premiered The Interviewee, look no further!
Best of luck to all the BAFTA nominees! Here’s hoping we will join you in the years ahead.