Find out more about the BAFTA in New York Screenings Committee and how and why screenings are chosen to show to our members.
First the reality: screenings are made possible only through distributors, studios and PR companies and are primarily intended for Full voting Members who must screen as many films as possible during the "BAFTA year." Eligibility for a BAFTA is based upon its opening date in the UK - usually with a late December - January cut off date before the BAFTA Awards usually held in February. The BAFTA New York Screening Committee is always happy to receive member suggestions or to put forward their own work at any time of the year but it is a BAFTA EC policy that all screenings must be financially supported by a producer/distributor in order to be screened. The major obstacle to screening some of the best films that you never see is that there is because the US distributor simply cannot afford to put on a special screening for BAFTA members or that there is no US distributor. In recent years however as the importance of winning a BAFTA has grown, more partnerships and new film production entities have emerged from the UK distributors in the UK have often arranged screenings directly from the UK or arranged for screeners for voters.
Nevertheless most of the best films which win awards across the board are screened by all BAFTA New York members and in many cases the where studios and distributors determine their Awards targeted films they they arrange extensive line-up of cast and production teams for Q&A sessions following the screenings. In an average year BAFTA members will have the opportunity to see almost 80 movies, perhaps 15-20 Q&As, with approximately half of those films eventually sent as screeners at year end. The majority of screenings are crammed into the three month period known as the "screening season," which runs from September through to mid December.
The Screening Committee management - comprised of Board Members Lisa Harrison, Jill Hawkins, and Chief Executive Christina Thomas - along with the Screening Committee members work throughout the year with studios and distributors. The target is to provide year round screenings, outside of the awards based season, to ensure that members can enjoy the best of the year's openings. The studios and distributors working with the committee members now routinely schedule screenings from April to December with almost every tentpole screening now being screened for all of the members.
Screening Committee Members lead the screenings, taking responsibility for ensuring that the theater is prepared, print has arrived and if necessary mikes, chairs and talent will all be available. If talent is expected, photography, studio contacts and schedules and a Board Member are usually added to the mix. In a preview screening security will be present and timings must be adjusted accordingly. Door opening times are a major starting point for all screenings. Once check in has closed all screenings officially "close the doors." Late arrivals at screenings is a major annoyance for those running each screening as the lead Screening Committee member is usually positioned close to the door to help those who arrive a little late or to head off those who arrive 20 minutes late. The door is technically closed once the titles are running. The decision by one latecomer to make 5 or 10 people stand up or generally disturb their viewing is not acceptable to BAFTA New York and we ask that all Members refrain from doing so: if a seat cannot be found without disturbing one other member then we ask that you leave the theater.
A few points to bear in mind for those of you who wonder why we tape off seats or why guest allowances can vary or why on a rare occasion some members do not receive invitations; here are the answers:
a) Who are the seats taped off for? For studio guests, for volunteers who run the check ins and have to close the desks and get to the theater before the screening starts, for BAFTA Screening Committee Members who oversee the screening, for the moderators and their guests, for Q&A guests. There are a lot of people involved in screenings, all of them have also come to see the film.
b) Why do you have different guest allowance? Theater sizes vary considerably. The studio pays for the screening out of their marketing budgets and although we all work closely to ensure the largest theater possible for all members, in the end the studio/distributor is paying for the cost of the screening. Sometimes during a hectic screening season there is literally no spare theaters within reasonable distance of the subways in mid town. Yes the location is a crucial aspect of every screening. We have to think of that too.
c) Why do start times vary? We always close check in at the scheduled screening time - unless we know that there is a weather or traffic delay. In order to make sure that everyone gets to their seat from closing the check in we allow around five minutes which includes the opening introduction. If the check in and the theater are next to each other this time will only be 2-3 minutes after the scheduled time. On a rare occasion we might close the check in 2-3 minutes before the scheduled start time because the theater is booked for another screening immediately following or because guests are running on a very tight schedule. In that case the screening will start close to the published time.
d) What about the moderators? You seem to use a small group of people. Can I be a moderator? We welcome qualified moderators, who can handle the often multiple line-ups of guests. You need to be able to show that you have had some experience and that you can work to tight timings, stay in charge, be likable and be able elicit fabulous insights from our guests. If you would like to be considered, please contact one of the screening committee or email: firstname.lastname@example.org