BAFTA’s New CEO Prepares to Welcome Biggest Awards Guest List to Date

BAFTA’s new CEO Jane Millichip is preparing to welcome the largest group of nominees to ever turn up at this weekend’s film awards.

It’s exciting, says the executive, both from a red carpet perspective, but also as a testament to the growing appeal of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. “It’s the real mandate of BAFTA that people are flying from all corners of the world to come to our ceremony. I’m really proud of that, to be honest,” says Millichip.

Guests confirmed to attend as presenters include Brian Cox, Catherine-Zeta-Jones, Cynthia Erivo, Diego Luna, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jamie Dornan, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jodie Turner-Smith, Julianne Moore, Lily James, Martin Freeman, Matthew Modine, Rami Malek, Regé Jean Page, Rita Wilson, Sir Patrick Stewart, Taron Egerton, Toheeb Jimoh and Troy Kotsur.

Last year’s EE Rising Star Award winner Lashana Lynch returns to present the award to this year’s winner.

Additionally, Dame Helen Mirren will lead a tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The Sky veteran was appointed CEO of BAFTA in October, taking over from long-time chief executive Amanda Berry, who announced in late 2021 that she would be stepping down from the organization after 25 years.

Millichip came to BAFTA having held legendary status in the international TV industry. With a 25-year career that spans production, distribution and broadcasting, she most recently served as Sky Studios’ chief content officer, and prior to that as its chief commercial officer.

She’s best known, however, for her leadership of the company’s in-house distribution banner Sky Vision, which was folded into NBCUniversal International Distribution following Comcast’s acquisition of Sky in 2018. Under Millichip, Sky Vision grew from £8 million ($10.8 million) in revenues to £250 million ($338 million) in just six years.

“I was ready for a change, but I wasn’t quite sure what that was,” says Millichip of her decision to step down from Sky Studios. “I realized that I needed to leave to get the headspace to work it out. And then quite soon in that process, this role came up, and quite a few people called me and said, ‘You should apply.’”

At BAFTA, however, Millichip also needs to navigate the local film industry, which is going through a period of tectonic change given the streaming boom, challenged theatrical model and squeezed public funding. Despite a few production companies ably navigating both film and television, there still remains a clear distinction between Britain’s screen industries.

“It’s really interesting, because in mainland Europe, you see less of a difference,” says Millichip. “You see TV production companies that are producing both film and television. In the U.K., it’s been more separate for longer. But I think that’s changing as we watch more film producers go into the streaming and long-form television. We will see that merging and connecting-of-dots a bit more in Britain. It’s already happening.”

Now four months into the job, the British executive says she wants to be “data-led” in taking BAFTA into its next chapter.

“This is a long-term program and a long journey,” she tells Variety of her approach to implementing change at the org two years after its ground-breaking diversity review. “It’s not an end state.”

The org conducts a review of its processes after every awards season, and will continue to do so, says Millichip. “This is something we have to review and assess every year to remain relevant and representative. And there’ll be things we haven’t thought of yet that we have to consider in the future.”

One area, for example, is social mobility, an increasingly discussed topic in the British film and TV industries. “Those from low income backgrounds still [experience] a barrier to entry and progression in the creative screen industries, so we’re doing some research at the moment, which we hope will be useful for the industry,” says Millichip. “That cuts across all the other sectors of society and underrepresented groups that we look to represent.”

The piece of work that will occupy most of Millichip’s time, however, are the actual BAFTA awards across film, TV and games. After the academy’s #BAFTAsSoWhite scandal in 2020, the industry keeps a close eye on the org’s film nominations, particularly in its performance categories. It’s for this reason, perhaps, that BAFTA has instituted juries for its performance and directing categories — a level of involvement that has received its fair share of criticism.

But Millichip stresses that “there are no interventions for long lists through to nominations and winners.”

“Yes, there are complex processes and those are what we address, consider and tweak each time,” she continues. “But I think as long as you keep in mind the intention of what we’re doing, which is to shine a spotlight on more films and have them considered; we’re not telling people how to vote, we’re asking them to consider [all films].”

Looking ahead to the Feb. 19 film awards, Millichip says she’s thrilled to have joined BAFTA as it begins to broadcast some of its awards live on the BBC for the first time. To date, there has always been a delay between the live awards and its broadcast on the Beeb. This year, the final four performance categories will be revealed live.

“When I was doing the recruitment process with the board, we had been talking about TV coverage,” says Millichip. “The ceremony needs to be the ceremony but television coverage can have more of an entertainment take for the viewers at home. And this was in my mind when I joined.”

The week Millichip joined, TV producers Spun Gold were signed up as the show’s new producers. “And the idea of having a huge studio and a slightly different format for the viewers at home [began], so that’s really exciting,” says Millichip.

As for where she’ll be on the night itself? Potentially behind the bar. Millichip, a savvy mixologist, hadn’t considered stirring up a signature BAFTA cocktail, but likes the sound of it when suggested by Variety.

“Maybe I should do one for each category?” she says, weighing up the idea. “That’s 26 cocktails.”

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