Careers in film, television and games remain popular choices for young people, but getting into these industries is notoriously difficult. Research by BAFTA in 2012 (Young, Bright and Under-Informed - The Challenging Facing Film, TV and Games 'Aspirants') found that a lack of funds and industry contacts were among the barriers that dissuaded many young people from pursuing their goal.
This year will see the first students who paid tuition fees of £9,000 a year graduate from their degree courses. The idea of spending thousands more on a postgraduate course specifically focussed on film, television or games could seem like one more hurdle too many for some people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. That would be a real shame. We don't want talented individuals to be lost to our industries simply because of their background; we need people from all walks of life, who reflect the paying audience, in order to thrive. Nurturing a diverse range of talent is key to this.
The BAFTA Scholarship Programme is one of the ways that BAFTA aims to support aspiring new entrants. Each year, we provide up to £10,000 a year to individuals in financial need who wish to study film, television or games at an industry-recognised institution. In addition to financial support, BAFTA Scholars are paired with a mentor from their industry, and are given free access to BAFTA events. By introducing these students to key industry players, we also aim to help address the issue that 'who you know' remains an important factor in getting ahead.
BAFTA Scholarships are available for creators, technicians and performers. Since we launched the programme in the UK in 2012, recipients have ranged from budding producers, game designers and screenwriters to animators, cinematographers and broadcast journalists.
This year the initiative saw its first BAFTA winner: Daisy Jacobs won the British Short Animation award with The Bigger Picture, which she wrote and directed. Daisy was also Oscar-nominated for the same film, her graduation project at the National Film and Television School, where she completed an MA in Directing Animation thanks to a BAFTA Scholarship. Speaking about her success, Daisy said: "I couldn't have made The Bigger Picture without the BAFTA Scholarship. It's as simple as that."
Daisy received mentor support from Tristan Oliver, the cinematographer on BAFTA-winning animations such as Chicken Run and ParaNorman. The mentors for the Scholars award in 2014 include games programmer Lizi Attwood (Call of Duty: Strike Team), screenwriter Jack Thorne (Skins, The Fades) and visual effects compositor Ed Plant (Hugo, X-Men: The Last Stand).
Although not all the Scholars may win BAFTAs in the first few years after graduation, they have all been helped to progress along a career path that they might otherwise have had to give up. As Tadhg Culley, a scholarship recipient in 2014 said: "The BAFTA scholarship has given me an extreme confidence boost as it feels like an invitation from the industry to continue on this difficult journey. It's as if the first door has been opened to me and I am grateful for the opportunities ahead."
The road ahead may still be tough, but at least we're able to offer talented individuals the chance to take that path.
Sara Putt is Chair of the BAFTA Learning and Events Committee, and Managing Director of Sara Putt Associates, an agency for technicians and production personnel.
To apply for a BAFTA scholarship, and for a list of eligible courses, go to: http://bit.ly/BAFTAScholarships. The deadline for applications is Friday 12 June.
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