BIFA was the inspired idea of Suzanne Ballantyne and Elliot Grove. The catalyst was Annabel Hickox; she donated the interest that the Douglas Hickox Memorial Trust Fund had accumulated and that money became the Douglas Hickox prize, to be awarded to a new director. With the prize on board, Elliot and Suzanne sought the advice and help of a small group of committed founding members. The first planning meeting was held in June 1998 and attended by Michiyo Yoshizaki, Norma Heyman, Neil McCartney, Martin Myers, Steve Kenis and the event's first producer Fred Hogge. The first BIFA happened a mere 13 weeks later at the Café Royal in London's West End.
The group listed below all gave their time, energy, connections and, in some cases, financial support to help establish BIFA as the prestigious, respected and much-loved industry institution that it is today.