Films released on VOD now eligible for BAFTA consideration
James R | On 21, Aug 2016
Films that have been released on-demand rather than theatrically can now be eligible for BAFTA consideration.
Digital distribution has become increasingly important to smaller films, and to the distributors who help them reach viewers. With cinema screens increasingly taken up by large blockbusters and exhibitors keen to maintain the traditional window for theatrical titles, which delays their release online or on DVD or Blu-ray, the landscape is heavily weighted against independent and arthouse titles, for whom awards recognition can help to raise awareness and build an audience.
Now, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts has relaxed its rules regarding the entry of video on-demand titles into its annual awards race. Under the new regulations, the BAFTA Film Committee (chaired by producer Pippa Harris) has the option to allow films that have received a VOD release to be entered into the awards race. While these decisions will be made on a “case by case” basis, it’s a significant step towards recognising the growing number of films being released digitally instead of in cinemas. Last year, Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation received a BAFTA nomination for Idris Elba’s performance (pictured above), but only after it had been given a limited theatrical release.
“This is to do with making sure that we continue to recognise the best in filmmaking and not penalise films, especially international content, because of how it is funded or who has picked it up in the UK,” Jim Bradshaw, BAFTA’s head of film, told Variety. “We don’t expect this to be a massive change, we don’t expect this to open the floodgates in terms of number of entries or anything like that, but it is just a response to [a conversation the committee has been having] … Distribution models are changing very, very rapidly, and we have to be open to looking at things that are not the norm and different to how distribution has been in the past.”
Bradshaw added that the Committee is “very clear that they want the primary distribution route to remain to be through cinemas, and want to be biased towards that and to support cinemas, and therefore the normal route to entry will be as it was last year: a theatrical release on 10 screens for at least a week, with a lower threshold for foreign-language [films] and documentaries”.
But Bradshaw noted that BAFTA has to “respond to the reality that – particularly for independent films and the non-British independent films coming into the UK.— theatrical release is less common and digital distribution is becoming more and more the norm”.
The new rules also include a change for short films, with BAFTA requiring that all rights must be cleared for both theatrical and digital release when the film is entered, which will enable BAFTA to distribute a packaged program of short film nominees in cinemas and online.
The 2017 BAFTA awards will take place on 12th February, with nominations announced on 10th January.