Celebrating Outstanding Debuts for BAFTA's 70th Year

09 Jun 2017 BY Tim Hunter

6 mins
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Tim Hunter, Director of Learning and New Talent at BAFTA, discusses the new BAFTA Debuts tour, which features a collection of first feature films celebrating the work of British directors who have won the BAFTA Award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.

My first cinema trip was to see E.T. - a nominee in the first Special Effects category at the BAFTA Film Awards - with my dad and sister. Being Birmingham, everyone sang along to the Pearl & Dean music before settling in for the film. If you've seen E.T., you'll know at which point I looked around and realised that everyone was crying ('blarting', as we called it). Even my stoic father was wiping away tears. I remember being really struck by this collective display of emotion, and whispering afterwards to my mother, "Everyone cried, even daddy." 

Experiencing the spectacle of film with an audience really is special. Film literally and metaphorically brings us together and inserts itself into our collective conscience. In 2017, our 70th year, BAFTA has launched a long-term project to delve into our archive and unlock some of the stories it contains - not just of the history of BAFTA but also about the part film, TV and games have played in all of our imaginations. We're asking for your stories, and your students' stand-out memories of film, TV and games. You can explore our timeline and submit your memories here (heritage.bafta.org). And look out for many other projects this year - including our Young Presenter Competition and Roadshows at festivals around the country - where you and your schools can get involved.

The unique cinema experience is also why we are working with the BFI, Independent Cinema Office (ICO), Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Into Film to bring some amazing debut films back to the big screen around the country. One of the BAFTA Film Awards is dedicated to filmmakers who have achieved an Outstanding Debut - a film which BAFTA predicts will put a filmmaker on the map. With a membership made up of industry experts, BAFTA has a pretty impressive record of spotting future stars. Filmmakers who have won this award for their first feature include, Asif Kapadia (Amy), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), Lynne Ramsey (We Need to Talk About Kevin) and many more.

You can see the films which started these filmmakers' journeys on Into Film's BAFTA Outstanding Debuts film list and enjoy some of the exclusive interviews we've recorded with the talent involved. In addition, seven BAFTA-winning debut feature films from leading British directors will be showcased in cinemas and schools across the UK this summer and autumn - some featuring live Q&As or pre-recorded interviews with the filmmakers themselves. Into Film are hosting a screening of Amy with a Q&A with director Asif Kapadia in Manchester on 3 July - book your free tickets now!

Awards such as these are hugely important for a filmmaker. From BAFTA's early days, it has understood the importance of helping new creators to gain recognition and attention - Dame Judi Dench's first BAFTA was a newcomer award in 1966. It's something BAFTA has a strong commitment to - not only through its awards, but also initiatives like Breakthrough Brits, which identifies talented newcomers and introduces them to the BAFTA network to give them the best chance of achieving their potential.

But nurturing talent doesn't just start when you've made your first film - as all teachers know, it starts a lot younger than that. There is a world of difference between those young people who are told 'yes you can' versus the ones that have - sometimes, despite best efforts - heard the message 'no you can't'. Our research shows that many young people are put off working in film, TV and games because they don't think it's for them. Yes, the industries are competitive and no-one should enter them blindly, but there are plenty of roles that are currently underserved, from production accounting, to hair and make-up, to location scouting - there really is something to suit all talents. The BAFTA Careers Quiz will help your students explore careers they might not have considered and lead them to insights from industry professionals already working in those fields.

Through initiatives like these, BAFTA wants to give people the tools to achieve their ambitions and inspire them to dream. Our Debuts collection plays its part by demonstrating what can be achieved with talent and determination. 

For me, the desire to contribute to the screen industries was planted at that screening of E.T. when I saw the power the film commanded. Fast forward around 30 years as I attended my first BAFTA Film Awards. My father, sister and I were rooting for Duncan Jones, nominated in the Debut Award for his first film, Moon, also included in our Debuts collection. Although we'd watched it separately, we were all blown away by this stylish take on sci-fi, a genre we shared a love for since that first cinema trip. If you're looking for a testament to the power of dreams, look no further than Jones' tearful acceptance speech when he won that night.

He must have gotten something in his eye too.

The BAFTA Debuts film tour is part of BAFTA's 70 anniversary celebrations, and is supported by the BFI, awarding funds from The National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Independent Cinema Office and Into Film. For details of screenings and Q&As, and to watch the BAFTA Debuts trailer, visit the BAFTA website.

Tim Hunter profile

Tim Hunter, Director of Learning and Events, BAFTA

Tim joined BAFTA in 2008, becoming the Academy’s first Director of Learning and Events. Since then he has overseen the expansion of the Academy’s learning offer into a nation-wide programme of New Talent initiatives and events.

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