Matthew Wiseman came to work for BAFTA LA in 2002 for what he thought would be a short stint. The BAFTA Film Awards had just shifted their dates ahead of the Oscars and the Hollywood outpost was expanding.
“BAFTA was in such a growth spurt at that point, that I mentally thought I would be here for three years,” says the newly appointed CEO of BAFTA LA, who starts his role Nov. 1. “But like many Brits, without any planning” he put down roots, including marrying a California native.
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Wiseman’s initial role was to help expand the screening series; the BAFTA insiders program, which helps newcomers navigate Hollywood; and the tea party for Emmy nominees. Previously chief operating officer, Wiseman is succeeding Chantal Rickards as the chief exec as she returns to London at the end of this month after four years at the helm.
Kathryn Busby, chair of the board of directors of BAFTA LA, said in a statement announcing his promotion, “We are delighted for Matthew to take on the role of chief executive officer as we continue to grow BAFTA’s role in inspiring, educating and celebrating the film, games and TV talent. Matthew’s demonstrated leadership, vision, and creativity will allow us to further the impact of our U.S. initiatives and collaborate with our N.Y. and U.K. colleagues to broaden our international influence.”
Pippa Harris, BAFTA chair stated, “We are all very excited to welcome Matthew into his new role as CEO of BAFTA Los Angeles. Given his many years of experience within BAFTA, and across the industry, I have every confidence that he will lead BAFTA’s activities in LA with skill and dynamism.”
Rickards, a television producer, channel director and commissioner of programs in the U.K. who worked for ITV, BBC and Group M, had overseen the expansion of the student film competition from the U.S. to include international talent. She also grew member activity in TV and games.
“Our work doesn’t end with the 100-foot carpet,” Wiseman says. “We are here year round.”
That work includes not just the fun events such as the upcoming Britannia Awards and pre-Emmy and Golden Globes tea parties, but also its scholarship and mentor programs.
The Newcomers Program gives a “soft landing” to Brits arriving on these shores, but has recently expanded to other international rookies. Established Brits talk to rising stars about their pathway in Hollywood and are paired as mentors. BAFTA LA also offers scholarships to students, runs a student film competition, which has been expanded to entries from around the globe, and offers education programs.
While film and television activity are core to BAFTA’s mission, games have been an expanding area.
With 2,000 members, BAFTA LA is the biggest chapter outside the U.K. and Wiseman wants to collaborate with New York and London on its international initiatives. “We’re not a faceless corporation, but a community of members who believe in BAFTA, BAFTA’s growth and our programs.”
Also he wants to expand its outreach in North America both in “ideas and places.”
Next up is BAFTA LA’s Britannia Awards on Oct. 25 at the Beverly Hilton, where Norman Lear, Jane Fonda, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jordan Peele, Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan will be honored.
“I don’t want to say too much,” Wiseman says of what else is in store. “We have an exciting new host, a rising star from the U.K.”
James Veitch will host. In the past Jack Whitehall, Craig Ferguson and Billy Connolly have emceed the evening. “That role has become a platform for a big name in the U.K. transferring to the U.S.”