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Sir Ridley Scott - Winner's Acceptance Speech, BAFTA Fellowship, EE British Academy Film Awards in 2018

18 February 2018

Winner's acceptance speech by Ridley Scott in the BAFTA Fellowship category.

RIDLEY SCOTT: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Big boys don't get upset and I'm quite upset right now. It's been 40 years in this business and this is the first time they've ever given me anything. So I'm not going to go quietly.

I could never be an actor because I can never remember the lines. So I have to do it this way. Your Royal Highness, thank you for those kind words,and to BAFTA for this fellowship. It's a tremendous honour to join this list of such great recipients.

I'm constantly reminded in press articles that I'm now in the octogenarian club. For those who don't know what that means, it is definitely not a discotheque; it's more like a lawn bowls club with straw hats. I wonder if the real reason behind the award is, "Better give him something before it's too late".

I have always been a late starter. Years ago, when I was 15, and headed for the GCE - to Americans, that means the most significant year, when you're about 15, big exams - my dad was reading my report card and saw that my position in class was 29th, but the number in class was 29. I had achieved the distinction of being bottom of the class at my secondary modern school for the fourth year running.

I wasn't lazy, and I was really trying. You can imagine how I felt. Dad put his hand on my shoulder and said, "You can only do the best you can, but whatever you decide to do, make sure you love it". He was a really sweet guy and a great man. I know his attempt to hide his disappointment with some of his encouraging words. I was depressed for a week, but his advice was a wake-up call.

Fortunately I love working with my hands, and I was good at two things: woodwork - yes, woodwork - and art, and I really loved to draw and paint. I was quite talented. Dad strongly encouraged me to go to art school, which in those days wasn't the obvious place that a father would suggest. The reputation of laying about, smoking, talking about the meaning of life and doing nothing in particular had a bohemian ring to it. I was excited. It really appealed to me.

The education system - it is worth mentioning this - at that time allowed me to apply for art school with one GCE. That could never happen today. So I got into Hartlepool College of Art.

The college was a revelation, its weirdly dressed students expressing their individualism, passionate teachers who are genuinely interested in the students, not just tolerating them but actually engaging with them, a world apart from my schooling until then. 

It's extraordinary what an enthusiastic teacher can do, drawing the student out, igniting independence, and encouraging a design of your own future, rather than waiting for something to happen.

Teaching is the most important of all professions. Sort that out and social problems will get sorted out. Sounds simple, we have been talking about it for years, but it's absolutely vital.

My teachers inspired me, and thanks to my dad's intuition, here I am tonight.

So, finally, I secured a place at the best art school in the world, certainly at that point, the Royal College of Art, painting, fashion, industrial design, on and on.

I lost my place. I was able to mooch around and utilise the facilities. You weren't taught here; you seized the opportunity. At this point I was already in ignition mode and taught myself to deal with all the competition around me. It was tough. Some of the best were here, definitely.

The painting school again had David Hockney, Kitaj, Francis Bacon wandered around and lectured us occasionally.  We even had our own madman from New York who was an advertising guru called Bob Gell. But there was no film school. I unearthed a small camera in the design department, a Bolex.  I borrowed it to make a movie, but I didn't have a clue how it worked, so there was a small instruction book, which was new, unthumbed, no one ever used it before.

Are you bored? Shit. Are you all right?

Cut to a cold north Durham beach, a bitter day. The cast and crew of two are sheltering in a bus stop, and as I tried to work out the stop for another take, the actor is freezing his arse off - sorry - waiting for me to make a decision. Making a film for 65 quid is no joke. Lesson number one, economy is everything.

The actor, worth mentioning, was a young man called Tony Scott, my brother, later of Top Gun. He'd be my partner for 50 years, and I guess you all know what we did in that time. We didn't hang around.

Film is a great art form, maybe the most exciting and challenging of all occupations. I caught the first wave of independent television and enjoyed the exciting world of advertising and commercial making. This was my film school.

Today the explosion of content platforms and social media have made this a far more accessible and democratic art form with an unprecedented reach, 24/7, 365 days. The opportunity to create authentic and relevant engagement, the future of film and storytelling can have, must have, a profound effect.

As storytellers, we have a duty to be mindful how we use this power. We must strive to protect the core tenet of the narrative, that all the best stories tend to come from the truth, even fiction.

It's important to acknowledge that entitlement within the most powerful form of education. But documentaries have suddenly really kicked in, and take on this position by raising global awareness.

The best example of storytellers' power, when you think about this, is Blue Planet. Probably the greatest commercial for our beautiful Earth. We must not lose this beautiful gift we have because it's the only one we've got left.

I think I should mention all the talents I have worked with over time, and to my kids, who are all in the same business, and to my wife Giannina, and your Highness, thank you.

BAFTA, thank you for this great award. I shall find a very special place for it.

By the way, I'm available in autumn 2019.