As part of our coverage of BAFTA’s Breakthrough Brits programme, which is now open again for applications, we spoke to Tim Hunter, Director of Learning & New Talent at BAFTA, on how the British Academy are meeting the challenge of encouraging and celebrating the best this country has to offer.

Hunter has worked at BAFTA for nearly nine years, and before that he worked in the Education team at the BFI.  The drive to democratise access to getting into the arts is a common theme in his work, and crucial to the success of the Breakthrough Brits initiative. In his nine years Hunter has been with them BAFTA has become much more outward facing, and they have focused on the charitable aim of championing creative excellence. This, as Hunter tells me, is a crucial part of what BAFTA is all about.

He joined the Academy at a time when BAFTA were looking at ways to develop new talent and talking directly to the public. It’s no coincidence that the momentum of this aim has been propelled by the social media boom. It has become a great engine to fulfill the meritocratic and collegiate direction of the Breakthrough Brits initiative.

In harnessing the best new talent in the crowded arenas of film, TV and games Hunter told me how working with BAFTA benefits their Breakthrough Brits cohort.

“The programme is open to anyone, you can apply yourself or get recommended by someone else. And people are judged based on their talent. They get the recognition of being a Breakthrough Brits but they get introduced to people who can help them develop their career.

“All the areas are competitive, lots of people want to work in them. Often progression is about being in the right place and the right time. We offer an open and fair way – put people in touch with the right network, linking people based on their talent. That’s what drives the Breakthrough Brits.”

BAFTA Tim Hunter
Scholar Tom Barnes (centre) meets Tim Hunter, Director of Learning and New Talent (right) and BAFTA Board member Brian Woods (left).

We have spoken to a number of previous Breakthrough Brits for an article to be published shortly. Many of them cite BAFTA’s network as a key benefit for their future career. Hunter agrees,

“One of BAFTA’s key assets is industry network. We are creating, each year, a living archive and knowledge base they can share with different audiences – that’s the model of learning. The winner and nominees of all three media awards can share what they know.

“Anyone with the passion and drive and talent can find the benefit. The industries are so informal and competitive there is a risk you’re churning around in the same space. We have the visibility and the profile to help people at the start of their career. Breakthrough Brits is the perfect combination of sharing some of the attention BAFTA gets and raising the profile of some fantastic people.

This collegiate drive has already helped a number of previous Breakthrough Brits on their path. Last year Alex Lawther, recently seen in a bleak episode of Black Mirror as well as The Imitation Game, spoke of how the programme has helped him thus far.

Part of the conversation with Tim Hunter also spoke to the measure of success for the programme. The initial push to apply needs to be complemented with a determination to succeed. This is something that links all previous cohorts,

“You should make your own stuff. Being really open to opportunities and equipping yourself to be able to take advantage of them. That openness, that ability to change is crucial.

“It’s fantastic to see all of these talented people come through, they all have an amazing spirit. One of the things that gives me the most pleasure is seeing what a diverse bunch of people come through, in every sense. There is a lot of talk about diversity and access to the industries, so I do mean under-represented groups, a very broad spread. It’s refreshing that each year the Breakthrough Brits has a full spectrum in terms of people who are selected and the work that they do.

“That to me is testament to how open and transparent the whole process is. It’s not explicitly a diversity scheme but just by virtue of being open and fair and judging people on their work it becomes diverse. That’s a model that everyone in the industry will hopefully look toward and realise that if you are open to everyone and you have fair systems in place you get a diverse workforce, and the best of people.”

Catch up with 2016’s Breakthrough Brits right here, and we’ll have a final interview with previous winners Ollie Clarke, Charlie Covell and Destiny Ekaragha on what the programme has meant to them up on the site shortly.

Applications for Breakthrough Brits 2017 are now open – find out more and apply here

Our thanks to Tim Hunter for his time.