All You’ll Ever Need to Know About the BAFTA Awards

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Photo Source: Joelle Avelino

It may not be a naked golden man grasping a sword, but winning a BAFTA is still right up there on many actors’ lists of ambitions. An honour from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts represents recognition from your peers, a level of career excellence—and with each bronze mask weighing in at 3.4 kg, the BAFTA award also makes a brilliant paperweight. Here’s everything you’ve ever wondered about the one-eyed golden gong and the organisation that hands them out.

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When did the BAFTA Awards first take place?

The British Film Academy presented its first awards in 1949. Five years later, the Guild of Television Producers and Directors held their first awards in a ceremony featuring just six gongs. The two organisations merged in 1958, eventually creating BAFTA—the British Academy of Film and Television Arts of today—in 1976, though even now the two awards ceremonies remain very separate: film BAFTAs are given out in February while the television BAFTAs occur in May.

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How does BAFTA vote?

Votes for BAFTA nominations and winners are cast by the academy itself or by specialist industry groups, depending on the category. Everyone in the academy gets a say on who should be nominated for Best Film, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. Everything else is decided by individual vocational “chapters” made up of around 100 people who actually know what they’re talking about: sound people vote for the sound awards, costume designers decide Best Costume Design, and so on. Once a chapter’s shortlists are announced, all voters can have their say, which is done online. As a voter, if you’ve not seen a film then you’re supposed to abstain from voting in that category—though there’s no way of actually knowing who’s seen what. This year’s BAFTA film nominations were announced on 7 January and voting will close not long before the ceremony.

When and where will the British Academy Film Awards be held this year?

This year’s film BAFTAs will be held on 2 February at the Royal Albert Hall. Hosted by Graham Norton, the film BAFTAs are now a regular date in the awards calendar with a glitzy A-list guest list guaranteed, whatever the weather.

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Who do the BAFTAs honour?

The film BAFTAs honour the very best films and film talent of the year—both in front of and behind the camera. Unsurprisingly, there is a slight focus on UK talent, and several awards recognise British films exclusively. However, what exactly makes an Outstanding British Film—when movies like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Brooklyn, and Gravity are all past winners—is perhaps open to debate.

New rules last year meant that all entries in two British film categories (Outstanding British Film and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer) must meet at least two of the four BFI Diversity Standards, which aim to increase participation and representation of minorities and the socially disadvantaged in British film. Go, BAFTA!

When and where will the British Academy TV Awards be held this year?

The British Academy Television Awards (aka the TV BAFTAs) will be held on 17 May at the Royal Festival Hall (TBC). Nominations will be announced on 26 March.

Who do the TV BAFTAs honour?

The TV BAFTAs honour the very best of the year’s television, showcasing programmes and performances from the previous 12 months. Much like the Primetime Emmy Awards in the U.S., behind-the-scenes and technical telly talent is celebrated in a separate ceremony at the British Academy Television Craft Awards, which this year will be held on 26 April.

What is the complete list of all BAFTA Film Award categories?

Brace yourself! Here’s a list of the 24 competitive awards given out at the Film BAFTAs...

  • BEST FILM
  • OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM
  • OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER
  • FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
  • DOCUMENTARY
  • ANIMATED FILM
  • DIRECTOR
  • ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
  • ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
  • LEADING ACTRESS
  • LEADING ACTOR
  • SUPPORTING ACTRESS
  • SUPPORTING ACTOR
  • ORIGINAL MUSIC
  • CINEMATOGRAPHY
  • EDITING
  • PRODUCTION DESIGN
  • COSTUME DESIGN
  • MAKEUP & HAIR
  • SOUND
  • SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS
  • BRITISH SHORT ANIMATION
  • BRITISH SHORT FILM
  • EE RISING STAR AWARD (Voted for by the public, not BAFTA members. This award is also notable for being turquoise, rather than the traditional gold mask.)

How can I attend BAFTA ceremonies?

If you’re not a member of BAFTA, don’t know a member of BAFTA, or aren’t nominated for a BAFTA, then getting a ticket to one of the awards ceremonies can be tough. But if you’ll settle for the red carpet then we have good news: on the morning of the Film Awards, BAFTA tweets out a secret location where members of the public can pick up a wristband to gain access to the carpet and see the stars arrive that evening. Keep an eye on their website for further details. Alternatively, you can always watch it on the telly: the BAFTAs are broadcast on the BBC.

What is their relation to other major awards shows, including the Oscars?

The BAFTA Film Awards are now a well-established date in the awards season calendar, coming just a week or two before the Academy Awards. Win big at the BAFTAs and you can ride that wave of momentum all the way to LA’s Dolby Theatre. Crucially, the final round of Oscar voting closes around the time the BAFTAs are given out—plenty of time to be swayed by Brit picks, or by that particularly moving acceptance speech you heard in London.

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That window also guarantees a starry turnout for the BAFTAs as studios and publicists try to get their nominees recognised. In recent years, London has become a regular stop on the route to awards glory come Oscar night, and BAFTA can be a good predictor of what voters may be thinking.

However, it hasn’t always been that way. The film BAFTAs used to be held in April—well after anyone was still talking about awards season. But in 2001 someone very sensible saved BAFTA from irrelevance and moved the ceremony to just before the Oscars, a position it has held ever since.

How can I become a BAFTA Award winner?

Frankly, the easiest way to win a BAFTA is to be really, really good at your job. If you’re an actor, the best way to win a BAFTA is to get a great role in a great film or TV show and be great. Simple, eh? Perhaps not—but the first step has got to be to get all your insider info and audition news from Backstage. BAFTA baby-steps start right here. 

This article was originally published on Feb. 27, 2019. It has since been updated.

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