BAFTA stands for British Academy Film Awards, and it's an annual award show from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts that's mean to honour the best contributions to film from both British and international participants. It may not be the same as a naked golden man grasping a sword like those given out at the Academy Awards, 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 gongs and the organisation that hands them out.
The British Film Academy presented its first awards on 29 May, 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 sometime in winter or spring while the television BAFTAs occur in summer.
- 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.
The 76th annual BAFTA Film Awards ceremony is scheduled for 19 February, 2023 at the Royal Festival Hall in London's Southbank Centre.
When are the BAFTA nominations announced?
BAFTA film nominees were formally announced on 19 January 2023, following the release of longlists on 6 January 2023.
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.
In 2020, BAFTA announced sweeping changes to its awards processes after criticism regarding representation. Director Steve McQueen said the academy is risking irrelevance if it didn’t act, and act they have. Most notable is a commitment to introduce 1,000 new members from underrepresented backgrounds, adding significant new voices and votes to its 6,700 strong membership. Go, BAFTA!
BAFTA TV Awards nominations will be revealed on 22 March, 2023, with the awards ceremony taking place later in 2023.
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 separately at the British Academy Television Craft Awards.
Brace yourself! Here’s a list of the 25 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
- ANIMATED FILM
- ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
- ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
- LEADING ACTRESS
- LEADING ACTOR
- SUPPORTING ACTRESS
- SUPPORTING ACTOR
- ORIGINAL MUSIC
- PRODUCTION DESIGN
- COSTUME DESIGN
- MAKEUP & HAIR
- 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.)
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 BAFTA 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.
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 the Oscars at LA’s Dolby Theatre. Crucially, the final round of Oscar voting typically 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.
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.
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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