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Students set sights on secret Oscar musical award

A production company in America has set its sights on an Oscar feat that no one has ever accomplished before.

In 2000, The Academy Awards introduced a new category to the roster of awards already available.

The Best Original Musical intended to create a spot for musical films to get a wider appreciation in Hollywood.

However, since the creation of the category, no one has even been nominated for the award.

There are a few films which would fit the criteria for this award. Not only does the film have to be original, which would disqualify brilliant Broadway adaptations, the film also needs to have at least 5 original songs made specifically for the film.

La La Land, The Greatest Showman and Moana are some of the few recent films that would make the cut.

Bafia-Stamey productions raising money for their original musical film. Credit: Bafia-Stamey Productions

Nick Bafia and Julia Stamey were just students at the University of North Carolina but when they heard about this category they knew they had to find a way to activate it. Together they created the film production company, Bafia-Stamey productions, and have spent the last two years trying to create their own original musical film.

They compiled a team made up of fellow students and raised enough money to bring the project to life. Film producer, Nick Bafia, explained how their team faced challenges every step of the way because they have done nothing like this before. He went on to say:

“The whole reason Bafia-Stamey productions was created was because we wanted to bring all these people from different walks of life together.

What motivated them was their lofty goal of the Academy Award but also the comradery of knowing that there are people that are talented and having the opportunity to let everyone shine in their own unique way.”

For an Oscar category to be activated, there needs to be at least 10 films in the running for the award. There have been successful original musicals at the Academy awards such as La La Land but the 10 film quota has never been filled. Hence, Bafia-Stamey productions have been in contact with other companies making musicals in the hope that the films can all be released within the same year to reach that quota.

Co-founder, Julia Stamey was surprised that there aren’t more original musicals out there. She remarked:

“I think it’s just this thing that Broadway in New York feels like a different world than film in LA and they’re not often brought together when really all the people who aspire to do Broadway and filmmaking have really similar interest.

“It seems silly to me that there hasn’t been more feature musical.”

Bafia-Stamey productions team working hard on creating their first film. Credit: Bafia-Stamey Productions

Broadway and Hollywood have had a long-standing relationship with each other. Dr Eleonora Sammartino, a film lecturer, explained that this was because many of those working on film musicals at the beginning were also working on Broadway. Yet, she pointed out that filmmakers tend to adapt rather than create an original musical because it has less of a risk. The film lecturer said:

“The musical has always relied on pre-existing sources. Songs, storylines or even we could consider stars as a pre-existing source.

But making a musical which is an original is a great risk. It is not commercial viable.”

London Metropolitan University film course leader Dr Karen McNally also noticed that there has been a change in the trend of musical films on screen. She added:

“There certainly seems to have been a move towards more adaptations in recent years and towards what could be called soundtrack musicals that construct a narrative around the songs of particular performers.”

Due to the pandemic, Nick and Julia have had to delay their plans for Best Original Musical. However, they intend to release their film, Fix, later this year and hopefully ensure the category is activated in 2022.

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