New CEO, Jane Millichip, wants to harness BAFTA's power to inspire talent of the future and drive progress within the film, games and TV industries.
Jane Millichip became BAFTA’s CEO in October 2022, taking on one of the most influential roles in the arts today. With a 25-year career that spans production, distribution and broadcasting, and with extensive commercial and creative experience – most recently as Sky Studios’ Chief Content Officer and prior to that as its Chief Commercial Officer – Jane is well placed to take the organisation into a new era. Since her appointment, she has been getting to know staff, members, boards and committees across the organisation and identifying key priorities for the years ahead.
As her first EE BAFTA Film Awards approaches, Jane sits down with Film Committee member, producer and presenter Jason Solomons to reflect on her first months in the job and what she sees as BAFTA’s essential role in driving progress across the industry.
Jason: What was the first thing that struck you when you arrived to work at BAFTA?
Jane: It felt like all my birthdays had come at once, to work somewhere that was creative and commercial and charitable. I had already been a voting member for a few years, but what I was really bowled over by was the passion everyone here has – the staff, the boards and the committees. The level of dedication is extraordinary and to see just how much people here care about BAFTA is astounding. I think that’s a very special thing for an organisation, so I very quickly realised how powerful that commitment can be.
Did you watch the BAFTAs when you were growing up?
I loved them. I was starry-eyed. It felt magical and exalted. But it also felt very distant and unattainable. I grew up in a council flat in Worcestershire and there was no way I ever thought I could be part of something like BAFTA, let alone sit in its boardroom. I’d really like to change that for others. I want any young person watching our awards now to be inspired. I want them to think that they can join this industry, if they want. Or just be inspired to love films, games or TV. That would be a job well done.
You started out as a journalist – is that a skill that has stayed with you?
Yes. I trained as magazine journalist at Haymarket Publishing in the early 1990s. My first job was on Car and Accessory Trader – I couldn’t even drive at the time, but I discovered you can write about anything if you do the right research. My first published article was three pages on in-car air fresheners. It’s a wonder I lasted the week. I gravitated towards media journalism, and I eventually became editor of the trade magazine TV World, before moving into the TV industry. I still rely on the skills I learned as a journalist. I turn up with a beginning, middle and an end in mind. I’m always asking: where’s this meeting going, what are the action points, what’s the story here? Because everything’s about storytelling. It’s the most human impulse.
How will we see that in action at BAFTA?
I’m very conscious of how our role is perceived, and I’m news-obsessed so I always have an eye on where we sit in the eco-system. We must be relevant and amplify our story. It’s also important for me to take our members along for the journey and to communicate concisely. In my work, I’ve always needed a sense of purpose, and BAFTA has very clear goals as a charity with a vital role in the screen industries.
Do you think everyone knows what BAFTA does and what BAFTA is?
Probably not. You might ask 10 members in the bar and get 10 different answers. It’s a multi-faceted organisation and a very complex one so we do need to focus. We are a world-leading arts charity for the film, games and television industries and a world-leading awards body and our charitable mission is to level the playing field for creatives regardless of background or life experience. We are prestigious, but that must not be confused with elitism. How can we harness that prestige to achieve more positive change?
How does that work in practical terms?
The awards, for example, must reflect the work we’re doing to level the playing field across the screen industries year-round. Our Awards and our work as an arts charity are interlinked. Although the purpose of awards is often scrutinised, I believe they are key for the arts, not just in getting public attention, but they inspire conversation too and can bring about change. We should never be embarrassed about celebrating creative excellence. Our awards serve as a beacon for the UK and international film, games and TV industries. And we can use the spotlight provided by our Awards to campaign for more positive change.
As someone who had huge success with TV at Sky, how does BAFTA deal with the converging worlds of cinema and streaming?
Cinema-going is important, culturally, and of course we want to encourage more people to watch more films in cinemas. We also have to acknowledge how streaming allows audiences to access and consume films and television. The question is how do we incorporate both of these things into our worlds in a healthy way that’s culturally and economically sustainable? And how can our Awards contribute positively to that ecosystem. This year there are 45 exceptional films nominated and I would love audiences to seek out and watch all those films in whichever way they can.
You mentioned BAFTA is a multi-faceted organisation – that must be a lot to get across in your first three months?
Absolutely, yes – we’re an awards academy, an arts charity across three industry sectors, with a year-round learning and editorial programme. We are a membership organisation, with operations in Scotland, Cymru and North America, and we have a hospitality business and a technology business. We’re also tackling the environmental impact of the screen industries through our sustainability arm, albert. That’s a lot of moving parts. We work with fundraisers, donors and sponsors who support our new talent initiatives such as BAFTA Breakthrough, which are absolutely vital and life-changing for those involved. I want bring more benefit to even more people going forward. So, how do we focus and scale what we do to bring about real change, to release talented people to do their best work in a fair and equitable environment, engage our members in that journey, and then celebrate excellence in our events and awards?
What’s your approach to BAFTA’s work in games?
I’m devoted to digging more into the games sector, which is far less London- and metropolitan-centric than the other screen industries. This year we have a fantastic regions and nations editorial programme which I hope our games members will enjoy. I was also delighted to discover how much respect the BAFTA Games Awards command from the games industry. It is important we acknowledge and celebrate the craft in games design. I look forward to doing more in this area.
What was the first film you saw at the cinema?
I think I must have gone to the cinema before this, but the one that sticks in my memory is Star Wars. Yes, the first one! I went back the following week to see it again. One summer, my older sister was off sick from her job as a nurse, and she took me to the pictures every week, I think it was the Kidderminster ABC. It was amazing. My Dad was even more of an influence. He was a fan of the classics. He introduced me to Laurel and Hardy and Hitchcock. When I was a student in Sheffield in the 1980s, we had a brilliant indie cinema, the Anvil, but I mostly remember having ‘film club’ nights at my grotty flat, where we’d watch things like The Cabinet of Dr Caligari off a VHS on a tiny telly, and think we were terribly intellectual.
What sort of viewer are you?
I get very immersed. I cry, yelp and jump. I’m haunted by the memory of going to see Psycho II and there was this shot of an eyeball peering through a keyhole that suddenly filled the screen. I leapt up in the middle of the auditorium and screamed. Everyone turned to look at me. Excruciating. I once got such a fright watching a film on a plane that I sent my husband’s meal and wine flying all over him.
Do you have any film posters up on your wall?
I have about 35! I used to collect Belgian film posters from the 1930s onwards, mostly film noirs, including my favourite ever B-movie The Big Combo, and a few iconic films like Paul Muni’s I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. I’m a sucker for a femme fatale and a flawed hero, anything with Gloria Graham. And I love a bit of 1960s angst, and have a few posters from Joseph Losey films. I also love my large format Italian poster for Death in Venice.
I hear you are a mixologist? What cocktail would you make me?
Again, I go with the classics – so it’s a Martini, stirred, definitely not shaken. Or a Manhattan. I’m a stickler for precise measures. Or maybe a French 75 as homage to Rick’s Bar in Casablanca.
The Film Awards, certainly, have been through quite a few changes recently. Will there be more?
I’m in awe of what Krishnendu [Majumdar, BAFTA Chair], Amanda [Berry, former CEO] and the team delivered with the 2020 BAFTA Review and the 120 changes it prompted and that have since been implemented. Our interventions, such as gender parity at the longlist stage in the Film Director category, are about drawing attention to areas where more representation is required, and that work absolutely will continue and evolve. This is not an end state, we must keep working on this to remain relevant and representative. The trajectory of the industry is very much towards progression and I think most people are on board with that. So, we will continue to advocate and cheerlead for change, and we will keep creating opportunities, and continue to recognise achievement and creative excellence in our Awards.
Words by Jason Solomons
Photography by BAFTA/Sophia Spring
BAFTA – the British Academy of Film and Television Arts - is a world-leading independent arts charity that brings the very best work in film, games and television to public attention and supports the growth of creative talent in the UK and internationally. Through its Awards ceremonies and year-round programme of learning events and initiatives – which includes workshops, masterclasses, scholarships, lectures and mentoring schemes in the UK, USA and Asia – BAFTA identifies and celebrates excellence, discovers, inspires and nurtures new talent, and enables learning and creative collaboration. For more, visit www.bafta.org. BAFTA is a registered charity (no. 216726).