After the announcement we stuck around to grab a quick chat with Pippa Harris, who was chair of the panel that whittled down a huge selection of up and coming young actors into a shortlist of just five. During the conversation, we spoke about last year’s all-male shortlist – a product of a public vote, the value of the award to the winner’s career, and the importance of the film industry engaging with the public.
The BAFTA Awards take place Sunday 10th February. You can vote for your favourite of the rising star shortlist here.
Q: You had a shortlist of five people, and last year you opened it out for the public to vote on a long list, and ended up with an all-male shortlist. Was the closed shortlist process a reaction to that, to make sure you had some diversity?
Pippa Harris: It wasn’t actually, it was actually a time thing, because as you probably know, everything this year has been squeezed slightly – our nominations are coming out earlier, and we didn’t have time to put in that round. But I think it’s fair to say that none of us would want the list to be unbalanced, you wouldn’t want an all-female, or an all-male list, you want a list that reflects the society we all live in and the stars of the future. I’m just really excited by the five we’ve got this year, because I think they’re so different, and they’ve all got star potential, but you couldn’t actually – I don’t think – pick out the absolute winner from that list. They’ve all got a chance, they’ve all got their own followings.
Q: Is it important that the people who win the award go on to big things to justify the award’s existence.
PH: I think it’s important that they carry on and have fantastic careers. They’re not all going to become massive, massive movie stars, but I think it is important – and I think it’s born out when you look at the previous winners – that they are people who have star potential. So whether it’s James McAvoy or Kristen Stewart, or Shia Le Boeuf, they’re all people who are real contenders in the movie world these days, and I think that’s great.
Q: How long does it take to come up with the shortlist?
PH: A number of hours, and a lot of coffee. There’s a pre-selection process where the public and BAFTA members suggest people, so there’s probably a long-list of 200 names that get suggested. A lot of those people either have won the award before, or they’re not eligible because they’re too old, or they haven’t had a film in the last year. That then whittles it down, and the [list] that we put in front of the jury [is] roughly twenty people, who each get discussed in great detail.
Q: What’s the age cut off?
PH: I think it’s 33.
Q: So what does this award do for the winners?
PH: The fact that you’re all here today, and there are cameras here, and Juno’s doing interviews, it’s clearly shining a spotlight on up and coming talent, and for me that’s important. Established film stars have their fan bases, and they have their followings, but these people who are starting out, I think it’s fantastic that they’re getting a platform to show what they can do.
Q: And why have a public voted category at all?
PH: The film industry is all about engaging with the public. There wouldn’t be a film industry if people didn’t pay their money to go and see films at the cinema, so I think it’s vital that the public feel a part of the whole process. It’s not something that happens over there in the distance, it’s something they can engage with, and they can have views on. For me that’s part and parcel of what makes the industry so exciting.
*It’s going to be fun to watch a half-cut Stephen Fry pronounce that in March