Magazine article Screen International

Bafta Blooms in Covent Garden

Magazine article Screen International

Bafta Blooms in Covent Garden

Article excerpt

How do the organisers of the Bafta film awards ensure each year is better than the last? Sarah Cooper reports on the plans for this year's event.

The most recent Bafta ceremony in February this year attracted its biggest TV audience since 2004, up 20% on 2010. Bafta chief executive Amanda Berry puts it down partly to the popularity of Christopher Lee's receipt of the Bafta Fellowship award and also the Harry Potter franchise picking up a prize for outstanding British contribution to cinema. She suggests too there was an above-average interest in last year's big winner, The King's Speech.

But she suggests it was more than just those reasons. "There does seem to be a much greater awareness of what we're doing at Bafta," says Berry, pointing out that viewing figures for Bafta's TV awards in May were also up this year. "The challenge is how you put on an event which pays proper tribute to the people in the room, but which can also be an entertaining programme for people watching on TV."

This year's host will be UK actor and comedian Stephen Fry, who fronted the ceremony from 2001 until 2006 when TV presenter Jonathan Ross took over until this year. It will be the first time Fry has presented the show at London's sumptuous Royal Opera House, where it has been staged since 2007.

'We would like to stay ahead of the Oscars, should they move'Amanda Berry, Bafta

The venue holds 2,000 guests and Bafta plans to host a simultaneous event for 300 members of the public, also at the Royal Opera House. There will also be an online broadcast featuring backstage interviews with the winners to coincide with the TV broadcast which will air on BBC1. And Berry says she is planning an exuberant opening to the event to rival last year's dance number from the cast of StreetDance 3D.

For the industry, the evening extends to a swanky dinner and after-party at the Grosvenor House hotel on Park Lane, attended by all the key talent. Increasingly distributors also host their own after after-parties -- last year the place to be was Harvey Weinstein's soirée in honour of much-lauded The King's Speech at the newly opened W London hotel in Leicester Square.

The awards are a chance for the British film industry to get together to celebrate its achievements. "As we have some categories just for British films [outstanding British film, outstanding debut, short film and short animation], there will always be that kernel of Britishness," says Bafta's head of film since 2008, Deena Wallace.

"And by making the ceremony international, you shine a global spotlight on Britain and our industry," adds Berry. …

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