11 July 12
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 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 BEC 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 the distributor simply cannot afford to put on a special screening for BAFTA members. We are looking into finding ways to support these movies but sadly there is no easy or inexpensive solution.
Nevertheless most of the best films which win awards across the board are screened by BEC and in many cases the studios provide an extensive line-up of cast and production teams for Q&A sessions following the screenings. In an average year BAFTA voting members will have the opportunity to see almost 80 movies, perhaps 30 Q&As, with approximately half of those films eventually sent as DVDs at year end. The majority of screenings are crammed into the 3-4 month period known as the "screening season," which runs from September through to late December. The BAFTA East Coast Screening Committee is responsible for every aspect of every screening and in the past 4-5 seasons has seen the number of annual screenings increase four fold.
Members of the Screening Committee management - comprised of Board Members Lisa Harrison, Jill Hawkins, Susan Wagner and Chief Executive Christina Thomas - are the established year round links and contacts with studios and distributors. Every member of the Committee has a number of studios and distributors with whom they work to finalize the list of new films will be screened by BEC Members, which will have Q&As and most importantly the order and timing of every new screening. As productions are viewed by studios they are often fast tracked for the Awards season and dropped in the last few weeks before the December end date. A master calendar is managed by the Committee chair, who "holds" and/or "confirms," each screening. During the season 40-50 titles can be on hold at one time, across multiple dates and depending on the availability of talent these dates will also change as new titles are dropped in and late productions postponed or UK openings are re-scheduled - thereby dropping titles out of contention for consideration for a BAFTA.
By September we usually have a very preliminary list of 60% of the screenings. At this stage potential Q&As are identified but almost never confirmed until the actual screening is posted (announced) by BEC on the website followed by the personal invitation to all members. Behind the scenes the studio contacts working closely with their Screening Committee member, adjust times and theaters and dates as the weeks dwindle down to planned previews/opening and as multitudes of often opposing films also work towards Guild showings. Other Guilds have to be lined up and theaters selected in tandem with BEC screenings. Often talent is added much closer to the date if the screening is tied to a weekend “junket.” Everything changes at least once. We try to post new titles in order of their screening date in order to ensure that every film has equal access to its potential audience.
Almost every title is a pre-opening film - there will be no reviews, brief cast information and often ambiguous copy. Previews and trailers are linked wherever possible to give BAFTA members some information for the screening. This is where "buzz" comes in and where out of nowhere a screening will be sold out in hours.
Depending on the number of screenings also ready for posting in the pipeline, as soon as the theater, talent and information are finalized, BEC posts all of the vital information through 123signup hosting services, to the BAFTA East Coast website. Email invitations, with a hot link to the registration system, are automatically generated through the hosting service to all current members. Registration is fast and automated.
As the screenings are published Susan Wagner’s team of senior Screening Committee members, which include Maria Allen, Rebecca Clark, Roni Cook, Shirley Flores-Pena, Tiffany Mitchell, Carole Robinson and Dorine Walski each of whom will lead and be responsible for their own screenings, along with an additional army of volunteers, work on the schedule for check ins for each screening. Depending on the complexity of the screening 3-5 people are required for each of the 80-90 screenings held each year. By using a new web based information system much of the information flow has been simplified this year with exceptional flexibility among the volunteers without whom we literally could not put on a single show.
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 BEC 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.
If you have any suggestions for titles you would like to see please remember to send the name of the distributor.
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 movie.
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 the check in desk 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: email@example.com