BAFTA's Learning & New Talent Committee chair, Sara Putt, explains why inspiring the next generation is so important. Words by Toby Weidmann
Almost from its outset, the British Academy has celebrated new talent at its Awards, recognising how important turning the spotlight firmly on the next generation is to our industries. Notably, the winner of that inaugural debut category (aka Most Promising Newcomer in Film) was actress Claire Bloom in 1953, for Limelight.
Fast forward 65 years and BAFTA has recently championed familial writer-actor pairing Daisy May and Charlie Cooper at the Television Craft Awards where they won the Breakthrough Talent category. To call the Coopers’ year phenomenal would be a gross understatement – not only were they selected as BAFTA Breakthrough Brits in 2017 before winning their first BAFTA, they also picked up two more at the Television Awards, for Scripted Comedy and Female Performance in a Comedy Programme (for Daisy May only, obviously). They can even add an additional BAFTA nomination to their accolades, for Writer – Comedy, also at Television Craft. Excellence shines through and it’s small wonder that their fantastic show, This Country, has been further commissioned for a one-off special this year and a third season next year by the BBC.
The Coopers were just two of five Breakthrough Brits nominated at the Television Awards, with two others, Molly Windsor and Tom Davis, also winning. Our tent pole emerging talent initiative has an impressive success rate when it comes to our Awards – a third of the Breakthrough Brits have gone on to win or be nominated for a BAFTA.
But beyond the glitz and glamour of the red carpet, there’s good reason to focus on the nominees of our debut categories. These are the people who will form the next generation of talent, who will reinvigorate and stimulate the lifeblood of our industries in the years to come. Awards can serve as great inspirations for those wanting to break into the industry, but BAFTA does much more to help talented newcomers and emerging practitioners fulfil their dreams.
Sara Putt knows more than most what supporting and rewarding new talent means, not just for the recipients of BAFTA’s various initiatives but also for the wider industry. She not only heads up leading independent film and television agency, Sara Putt Associates, which has sponsored the Breakthrough Talent category for the past seven years, but she’s also chair of BAFTA’s Learning & New Talent Committee.
“It’s about the future of our industry, in one easy sentence,” Putt explains. “BAFTA can be such a force for good in inspiring and enabling people to come into the industry, whatever their background or circumstances. It makes me think about the BAFTA Kids Roadshows that we do so well – there are all these possible careers in our industries, not just in front of the camera, but so many young people don’t know about them. So, it’s about sharing that knowledge and inspiring them to get into the industry. For me, sponsoring the Breakthrough Talent category is a distillation of that. It’s about supporting someone as they take their early steps on their journey with BAFTA.”
That BAFTA journey is something that provides a running narrative through our Learning & New Talent programme, which identified and supported approximately 800 individuals in 2017, with around 100 emerging practitioners given bespoke support (such as mentorship, career development and financial support) throughout the year.
“When I first took over as chair of Learning & New Talent, we discussed that BAFTA journey at some length,” notes Putt. “It’s about building long-term relationships, because people need support on an ongoing basis. In my role as an agent, we have our own in-house trainee scheme, so we do support new talent, but on a commercial basis per se we look after people at a stage where they are already breaking through. But they have to get to that point and that’s where BAFTA is so important.
“BAFTA can be there at the beginning of that journey and offer that support,” she continues, noting how much BAFTA’s Learning & New Talent team do to support the likes of our scholars, BAFTA Crew, Breakthrough Brits and so on as they progress in their careers. “The door isn’t slammed in their face when that period is over either, it’s an ongoing relationship. Supporting people in those early years – which can be so difficult – just sustaining them emotionally and helping them to build communities in which they feel comfortable is incredibly important. If you don’t have the confidence then you don’t know how to maximize, create and succeed from opportunities.”
The confidence boost that BAFTA can provide through its initiatives and awards is vital for ensuring the screen industries remain healthy. Putt has seen the results first-hand: the winner of the Breakthrough Talent award in the first year her company sponsored the category was a young producer called Kwadjo Dajan, who’s now “a very grown up senior producer making big shows”. Both BAFTA and Sara Putt Associates have maintained a relationship with him and witnessed his career blossom. And last year’s winner, director Mahalia Belo (also a Breakthrough Brit), has subsequently been working with some of the agency’s other clients.
“One of the great pleasures of sponsoring the Breakthrough Talent award cateogrycategory is we host a dinner six months after the Awards for all of the nominees,” notes Putt. “We try to gather some of the great and the good from the industry, too. It’s a delightful evening and gives us the chance to find out what successes they’ve had since the Awards, as well as allowing the nominees to build additional relationships.”
Supporting the growth of creative talent is central to much of what we do at BAFTA. It’s vital that our industry is open to all and we nurture a diverse workforce, with the skills and passion to prosper in our ever-evolving industries. We will continue to try to level the playing ground so all talent, whatever their background or circumstances, is given a chance to succeed. It’s difficult to predict what the future holds, but supporting new and emerging talent on their BAFTA odyssey is something that will not change.
“It’s all about storytelling,” Putt concludes. “The arts of the moving image are about creating stories. That’s what we also need to do at BAFTA. We need to create those stories that enable those exciting new talents to enter our industries and prosper.”
Watch Daisy May and Charlie Cooper collect their Breakthrough Talent award here.
Submissions for Breakthrough Brits 2018 can be made here. Entry closes on 28 May.