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'In India, we will stretch our work far beyond Bollywood': BAFTA director

BAFTA launches its Breakthrough initiative in India to support and celebrate five diverse talents from film, TV and gaming industries, aims to foster the UK-India cultural exchange

Mansvini Kaushik
Published: Nov 24, 2020 04:46:05 PM IST
Updated: Nov 24, 2020 04:53:57 PM IST

'In India, we will stretch our work far beyond Bollywood': BAFTA director

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) is venturing into India by introducing the ‘BAFTA Breakthrough India’ initiative that will identify, celebrate, and support up to five exceptional talents working in films, gaming or television in India every year.

The flagship initiative—which aims to be the voice for the extraordinary talent in the entertainment industry—was launched in the UK in 2013. Since then, it has expanded to three more countries and supported 130 emerging talents.

Breakthrough participants are taught about the industry, how to overcome barriers, and network globally with people who can influence their careers. They also receive one-to-one mentoring, guidance sessions, free access to BAFTA events and screenings for 12 months, full voting BAFTA membership, and access to opportunities beyond geographical borders.

The programme has supported individuals such as Tom Holland, Letitia Wright, Florence Pugh, Jessie Buckley, Josh O’Connor and Callum Turner. Industry supporters of the initiative in recent years also include actors Oliva Coleman, Brad Pitt and Tom Harper, among others.

Netflix is the official supporting partner for BAFTA Breakthrough, in the UK, US and India.

To understand how BAFTA plans to operate and recruit in India, along with function amidst the pandemic, Forbes India speaks to Tim Hunter, director of learning and new talent at BAFTA. Edited excerpts:

Q. What can India expect from the BAFTA Breakthrough initiative?

We are very excited to be launching BAFTA Breakthrough India with Netflix, who has helped us facilitate the global expansion.

In 2019, we launched in China, and our hope is to bring communities across the world together to develop and support interesting stories with diverse voices. In India, the work we plan to do stretches far beyond Bollywood. The beauty of Indian cinema lies in the diversity of its various regional film industries. This initiative will be looking for talent across every corner of the Indian film, games and television industries that we can showcase to the world.

Q. What characteristics do you think are unique to the Indian entertainment industry? And what does the industry's future look like to you?

The Indian creative industry has a vast history represented in its many diverse forms of storytelling. It has a unique thread of diversity that binds it together, and with so many languages, it has a market for all types of homegrown expression. There is so much talent within this rich and developed industry that we cannot wait to showcase and learn from.

I feel the industry is ripe for global collaboration—to share its range with artists across borders and to engage in a cultural and creative exchange with the world.

For the future of this global collaboration, we would love to see projects created across regions with selected Breakthrough artistes working together to connect and share creative practices.

Q. How does BAFTA Breakthrough aim to foster the UK-India Cultural Exchange?

BAFTA is uniquely placed to facilitate creative collaboration across the moving arts, being one of the only arts charities to work across film, games and television on a global scale. Not only will we be working closely with cultural organisations here in India to offer bespoke support to the talent we recognise, but we’ll also be showcasing on a global stage the amazing talent-pool that India has to offer. Collaborating across cultures in this way will allow talent and industries to learn from one another and work together to tell different and diverse stories.

Q. What are the reasons for this expansion to India, and how different will the BAFTA operations be in this country?

As the Indian entertainment industry becomes increasingly global, it felt only natural for BAFTA to expand alongside this, helping creative communities to connect across the world.  India is the largest hub for cinema in the world. Moreover, in the past few years, India’s gaming industry has seen massive growth and is emerging as the preferred hub for gaming process outsourcing. So it was the natural choice to expand to India.

Five chosen participants will be offered a year-long support programme from BAFTA and will be showcased across India and the UK. They will also receive one-to-one mentoring, guidance sessions, global networking opportunities, free access to BAFTA events and screenings for 12 months and full voting BAFTA membership as part of the initiative.

Applications for Breakthrough India will open soon.

Q. What factors will you look for in applicants?

We’re looking for creatives who have had one major credit in the last couple of years, who see themselves as an exciting new performer, writer, director, producer, composer, cinematographer or game director, game producer or game developer within the Indian film, games or television industries.

We’re looking for candidates who would be willing to collaborate and share their expertise with UK practitioners and/or produce content for UK audiences. BAFTA Breakthrough selects talent through a cross-industry jury of leading professionals, hand-picked to ensure a diverse selection of experienced voices, rather than being based on whether or not they are a member of BAFTA.

Q. Gaming is a very diverse field. What support has BAFTA provided in this field, and what are your plans for the gaming industry in India?

BAFTA has been celebrating and supporting the games industry in the UK and internationally for almost 20 years. Developing and creating games is an art that takes a great creative skill. It strings together all the elements of filmmaking, storytelling, designing and more, and we believe it is an art that needs to be supported, especially with the rising popularity of games across the globe and in India. As part of BAFTA Breakthrough, we are looking for creative talent in game development, producing, or directing.

Q. How has COVID-19 affected BAFTA’s operations, and are there any fundamental changes that the pandemic has pushed you to make?

There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 outbreak has affected our plans, however, now more than ever, the industry needs to feel connected and support one another. BAFTA is continuing to creatively inspire the industry and keep networks alive during this time. We have recognised the opportunities and have enhanced the BAFTA Breakthrough initiative with digital communications and events. We are monitoring the situation in all regions closely and following the advice of local governments and organisations.

In previous years, the BAFTA Breakthrough UK celebration event has taken place in early November, with other events including press interviews, an after-party event, and juries being held. We’ve adapted to hold some of these practices virtually, including press activity and juries. While we would love to have a celebration event as part of Breakthrough India, we will have to monitor the situation and make a decision during the later part of the programme. ​

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