‘It’s a Sin’ Star Lydia West, ‘Censor’ Director Prano Bailey-Bond Among BAFTA Breakthrough Cohort 2021

BAFTA has unveiled its 2021 BAFTA Breakthrough cohort, including “It’s a Sin” star Lydia West and “Censor” director Prano Bailey-Bond.

Supported by Netflix, the annual talent initiative, which originally launched in 2013 as “Breakthrough Brits,” was renamed BAFTA Breakthrough in May 2020 and expanded to include the U.S. and India. Previous participants have included Paapa Essiedu, Letitia Wright, Florence Pugh and Josh O’Connor, among others.

This year’s cohort, drawn from the worlds of film, television and games, were hand-picked by a global jury made up of industry leaders including Niamh Algar (“Raise by Wolves”), Tim Renkow (“Jerk”) and ITV’s director of diversity and inclusion, Ade Rawcliffe, who chaired the jury.

24 participants hail from the U.K. and 12 from the U.S. As part of the BAFTA Breakthrough program they will receive access to one-to-one industry meetings, group roundtable sessions, networking opportunities within BAFTA’s membership, peer-to-peer support, global coaching, PR support and access to BAFTA’s virtual events and screenings for 12 months.

In recent years those who have leant their support to the scheme, to offer guidance and career advice to participants, include Brad Pitt, Asif Kapadia, Nile Rodgers, Amma Asante, Olivia Colman and Tilda Swinton.

“Congratulations to each and every one of our Breakthrough recipients, both in the U.S. and U.K.,” said BAFTA chief executive Amanda Berry in a statement. “These 36 individuals, as chosen by our industry juries, have demonstrated extraordinary creativity in film, games, and television. As part of this initiative, I am absolutely delighted that they will benefit from support at a critical point in their careers, peer-to-peer networking opportunities and industry meetings. As a global arts charity, it was a key, and exciting, move for BAFTA in 2020 to bring US talent into the Breakthrough initiative. With the help of Netflix, we are delighted to be a part of these talented individuals’ next steps.”

Tendo Nagenda, vice president at Netflix Film added: “At Netflix we recognize the importance of supporting the most innovative, and creative minds of the future and this year’s BAFTA Breakthrough cohort is exceptional. Many Congratulations to the 36 recipients – we are incredibly proud to play a part in the next phase of your career.”

Variety spoke to three of BAFTA’s Breakthrough cohort 2021 – Lydia West, Prano Bailey-Bond and “Be Water” director Bao Nguyen – about what it means to them to be selected for the initiative.

Lydia West

“To be recognised by BAFTA is such a tremendous honour and it’s something you hope for your whole career,” West told Variety. “So when it happens so early on, it just feels like such an honour. And to be amongst so many other talented individuals and trailblazers and contemporaries that I both look up to and just really appreciate their work – it is so, so amazing to be part of that.”

“It’s a Sin” first aired in the U.K. in January 2021, sending its stars – including West – into the stratosphere. “It’s just been a whole whirlwind,” West said of the last 12 months. “It’s what we always hoped for. We hoped people would would watch it, we’d hoped we’d get a majority audience, we’d hoped that the people would be educated and inspired. And it just – it feels amazing.”

With “It’s a Sin” showrunner Russell T. Davies returning to “Doctor Who,” West is now hotly tipped to be the next time traveller. So far she has no idea whether she’s a shoo-in for the role. “If I am named as the next Doctor, Russell and I don’t yet know about it,” she said. “But I think it’s an amazing role. I think it’s a very challenging role. I think all the Doctors that have ever been have been so brilliant, and it’s tremendously huge shoes to fill.”

Prano Bailey-Bond

“It’s brilliant,” Bailey-Bond told Variety of being picked for BAFTA Breakthrough 2021. “I mean, it’s a real privilege to be recognised by BAFTA and I’m incredibly honoured to have been selected.”

“For me, moving from my first feature into the next step of my career, to have the support from BAFTA and the space to, I guess, nourish and consider the next steps and focus hopefully on my craft is really, really wonderful.”

The “Censor” director said she never expected the reaction that her directorial feature debut has received. “When you’re in the forest in the mud in the middle of the night, the last thing you’re of thinking at that point is how well this the film is going to be received or not,” she said. “You obviously hope and dream for your film to be welcomed with open arms by audiences and critics. But you never know what’s going to happen. And it’s been incredible.”

Her next project, “Things We Lost in the Fire,” is in development. “I’m keen to continue making work in a kind of genre-adjacent or dark space,” said Bailey-Bond. “I think it’d be amazing to find a dark fairy tale project, I don’t have anything like that. I’m definitely, you know, interested in making work that’s really bold and entertaining, and dabbles with the surreal and dabbles with horror and thriller genres. So I’m just open to what might come my way beyond the projects that I’m already working on.”

Would she ever consider following in someone like Chloe Zhao’s footsteps into the world of Marvel or D.C.? “I’ve never really been interested in superhero films,” said Bailey-Bond. “But I always say never say never.”

Bao Nguyen

“It’s such an honour and a thrill really, to be included in such an amazing class,” Nguyen told Variety. “I always like to focus on the work as much as possible but to be recognised and acknowledged by especially such an amazing organisation such as BAFTA, it’s again, really incredible.”

Nguyen was inspired to make his Bruce Lee feature documentary “Be Water” not long after Asif Kapadia’s Academy Award-winning film “Amy,” about the singer Amy Winehouse, came out. “I was just trying to figure out like, who would I want to do a film about who hasn’t been really documented in sort of a humanistic way,” Bao explained. “And Bruce Lee came to mind very quickly. Just because, firstly, the name is so iconic, but the life and his story is, frankly, quite unknown.”

The film also explores the racism Lee faced in Hollywood, a topic that was important for Nguyen to tackle. The explosion of South-East Asian film and television, however, has helped accelerate diversity on screen. “I think in the last year, you know, right before the pandemic happened, ‘Parasite’ had won the Oscar, this year ‘Squid Games’ is a global phenomenon,” said Nguyen. “So it hopefully shifts the paradigm of what Hollywood thinks is marketable. Because for so long it’s always been this myth that you have to have, you know, a white lead actor to really carry a film.”

“But nowadays we’re all sort of a bit more intimate and proximate to people’s stories, and it’s less about maybe the star power and more about the power of the story.”

Check out the full list of BAFTA Breakthrough participants below:

U.K. cohort:
Aaron Reid, Cinematographer – “Stephen”
Aisha Bywaters, Casting Director – “We Are Lady Parts”
Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou, Creative Director/Lead Developer – “Röki”
Ana Naomi De Sousa, Director – “Naseem, Fight with Grace”
Ashley Francis-Roy, Director – “Damilola: The Boy Next Door”
Chad Orororo, Sound Editor/Mixer – “Pele”
David Proud, Director/Writer – “Coronation Street”
Elle Osili-Wood, Presenter – “Special Characters”
Ellora Torchia, Performer – “In the Earth”
Gemma Hurley, Writer – “Host”
George Robinson, Performer – “Sex Education”
Georgi Banks-Davies, Director – “I Hate Suzie”
Heather Basten, Casting Director – “The Origin”
Helen Jones, Producer – “Censor”
Joanna Haslam, Design Director – “Family Feud”
Jo Jackson, Sound Editor/Mixer – “Radioactive”
Kirsty Elizabeth Gillmore, Production Voice Director – “Destruction AllStars”
Laure De Mey, Programmer – “Assemble With Care DLC”
Lydia West, Performer – “It’s A Sin”
Lyttanya Shannon, Director/Producer- “Subnormal: A British Scandal”
Mdhamiri A Nkemi, Editor – “Life in a Day”
PC Williams, Costume Designer – “We Are Lady Parts”
Prano Bailey-Bond, Director/Writer – “Censor”
Rajita Shah, Producer – “Love Sarah”

U.S. cohort:
Anna Franqueso-Solano, Cinematographer – “The Farewell”
Bao Nguyen, Director, Documentary – “Be Water”
Cheyenne Ford, Production Designer – “Shiva Baby”
Dominique Nieves – Writer/Director – “Our Lady Lupe”
Ember Lab: Joshua Grier. Mike Grier, Hunter Schmidt, Games – “Kena: Bridge of Spirits”
Hikari, Writer/Director – “37 Seconds”
Orlando Perez Rosso, Composer – “Allen V, Farrow”
Sarah Lampert, Writer – “Ginny & Georgia”
Siqi Song, Animator – “All In A Day’s Work”
Stephanie Economou, Composer – “Jupiter’s Legacy”

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