There’s a great interview over at Guardian Film with the five BAFTA nominees for “The Carl Foreman Award for Special Achievement by a British film-maker in their First Feature Film”, which is a fancy way of saying ‘Best British Newcomer’.
But the nominees - Joe Wright, Peter Fudakowski, David Belton, Annie Griffin and Richard Hawkins - aren’t newcomers at all. They’ve been working in the industry for years. Or on the television side at least. Ah! There it is. Television. As they themselves discuss about being nominated as a cinema newcomer: “there's a line that you've crossed and that you're now accepted ... into the magical world of movie-making” whereas Joe Wright doesn’t “see any divide between the work I've done previously [in TV] and this.”
So, is it a case of the film industry making a grand gesture about itself by declaring these talented folk as ‘Best British Newcomer’ or is there a genuine divide between TV work and film fare? Christ, I don’t really know. I expect there’s a divide because cinema is on a bigger scale and attracts the larger egos but ironically the work reaches a smaller audience: “More people will watch something on TV than will ever go and see it in the cinema.”
They say it takes about ten years to become a successful screenwriter. Does that mean that ten years of doing hard graft and working your ass off grants you the misnomer of ‘Best Newcomer’? That you might plough away happily with loads of TV commissions but then you’re first cinema screenwriting credit is hailed as ‘Hot New Talent’? (I like it when publications use the phrase: “in his/her feature debut” whether it be a writer or director.) A couple of years ago, Matt Lucas and David Walliams won Best Newcomer at the British Comedy Awards, and they’d been around for about ten years in the comedy circuit, doing their time.
Personally, I can understand and accept this kind of categorisation because while you may work very hard for years under the radar, the industry needs to identify and classify your voice once it becomes known to a greater part of the viewing public. But the snobbish divide between cinema and TV is an interesting one. Most execs that I’ve come across encourage and approve of writers doing as much TV as possible - that’s where all the up and coming screenwriters are coming from - but there are some who hold their nose at the thought of the ‘lower ranks’ of TV, and wouldn’t dream of gracing their presence on anything but a 75x50 foot screen.
It doesn’t upset me too much. Nor does the heated debate about the “film by” director credit (over at Artful Writer). I’m kind of in the middle. Frustratingly on the fence. How about you?