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Elizabeth Karlsen & Stephen Woolley - Winners' Acceptance Speech, OBCC, EE British Academy Film Awards in 2019

10 February 2019

Winner's acceptance speech by Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema 

STEPHEN WOOLLEY:  Thank you so much.  I do have a prepared speech and I'm just going to forget all of it.  

When we received the news that we were being awarded this prestigious honour, I genuinely thought BAFTA were having a laugh.  During my decade at BAFTA as chair with Simon Relph, we initiated some extraordinary changes.  But as the younger partner, I was destined to be the bad cop.  To say I was a pain in BAFTA's bum would be an understatement.  So flattering references now to me as "legend" or "veteran" feel like one step away from "retiree".  If that's a cunning BAFTA plan, it won't work!

We have over a dozen movies in development at the moment with some of our great partners, BBC Films, Film4, and as producers we are catalysts and crave partners, and all movies are collaborative creations.

When I started Palace in 1981, it was Powell and Woolley; when I started producing with a genius writer and director, it was Jordan and Woolley; and tonight it's Karlsen and Woolley, which is precisely how it should be.  So thank you to those three incredible partners.  I'm honoured to be your co-conspirator.  

Thanks to all the other amazing writers, directors, actors, crew, co-producers, sales companies, publicists, distributors, agents, lawyers and financiers with whom we have conspired over four decades, and who co-created those wonderful images you just viewed.  

Particularly, I would like to thank Joanna Laurie who has supported us for 12 years at Number 9.  

I also must single out two very inspirational women.  

Firstly, my mum, for her unconditional love and having absolutely nothing to do with the film business other than serving Richard Attenborough some flowers in 1953.  She was, and I still am, a huge film fan.  So meeting so many of my idols like Michael Powell and David Bowie sent shivers down my spine, and it still does.

In contrast, I must thank my first boss, the dynamic Romaine Hart, who transformed the flea pit Islington Rex, my local, into the very cool Screen on the Green.  She persuaded the teenage me that by changing toilet rolls and lugging 35-millimetre films and setting microphone stands for the Sex Pistols, that I was somehow in the film business.

My constant inspiration now comes from my amazing partner Elizabeth, and our three daughters, Edith, Agnes and Florence.

Thank you for this incredible spur in our sides, BAFTA.  I don't see this as just an award, but really more a provocation.  

Here is to our partners, all of you here in the future and in the past, and to another 30 years of making difficult and hopefully entertaining movies for the cinema and beyond.

ELIZABETH KARLSEN:  This is such an honour.  It really is.  Thank you, BAFTA.  Thank you.  This award has been granted to some incredibly talented people and I feel amazingly lucky to be amongst them.  Very, very lucky.

Many years ago, I saw a British independent film, Company of Wolves.  It was completely mesmerising.  I didn't know the filmmakers at all, but it was clear that they were redefining the landscape of British cinema.  A few years later, I found myself working with a producer and executive producer of that film, Stephen Woolley and Nik Powell, at their company, Palace Pictures.  By no means was it a palace; it was a veritable rabbit warren in London's Soho, packed to the rafters with cans of 16 and 35-millimetre film, bursting with creativity and daring.  It's hard to convey just what a radical and stimulating place it was to be for an aspiring filmmaker. 

Some of you here, like me, are old enough to remember those heady days: a golden age of British cinema, an age which continues still, with films that are vibrant, audacious, witty, bold and beautifully crafted, culturally and economically relevant, that radiate across the globe.  

I have been fortunate enough to have contributed to some of those films, films that often have women at their centre.  But I share this award with a great many brilliant creative people who have worked alongside me.  Thank you for your skill, your dedication, your hard work.  Thank you for your outstanding contribution to my contribution.  

Film4, BBC Films, Creative Europe, and the British Film Institute, public bodies without whom so many of our films would not have been possible.  Your vision and support are unfailing.  

To Lionsgate UK, who have distributed the last of our films.  Thank you to the team at Number 9.  

To Stephen Woolley, the legend -- yes, he's cut his hair, sorry, Bill -- who has shared just about every single aspect of my life, to my superbly supportive mother and my fabulous inspired and inspiring daughters.

It really has been a memorable journey so far.  Thank you.