Rules and Eligibility

You can download a pdf of all this information here.

The British Independent Film Awards are for theatrical feature films and short films. The majority of categories are only open to British, independent films. There are separate eligibility criteria for international independent films.

In all cases, final decisions about a film’s eligibility rest with BIFA’s Nomination Committee: under exceptional circumstances, inclusion and consideration of films which do not strictly comply with the below criteria will be subject to the discretion of the Committee.

Enter here before the deadline of Tuesday 6 September.


Release Requirements

Release requirements: British features

Films must be intended for theatrical release, over 70 minutes in length


Have a public screening to a paying audience either on general release in the UK between 1 December 2015 and 30 November 2016


Screen at a British-based film festival or in one of BIFA’s list of recognised international festivals between 1 December 2015 and 30 November 2016.

Films which have a qualifying festival screening but which are scheduled for theatrical release (i.e. have confirmed distribution) after 10 February 2017 may choose whether to enter in the current year or to wait until next year. Please contact BIFA to discuss this. 

No re-releases can be entered. Once entered, a film can be withdrawn up a week before the first round of voting opens. Films that are withdrawn at this point can be entered in subsequent years, if eligible. Otherwise, previously entered films are not eligible.


Release requirements: international features

Films must have a theatrical release in the UK between 1 December 2015 and 30 November 2016. Films released from 1 December 2016 onwards may also be entered if the films have won an award at one of BIFA’s recognised festivals and are available for voters to see.


Release requirements: shorts

For British short films that have been accepted as part of the Official Selection at one of BIFA’s recognised film festivals or have won an award during the eligibility period.

This is the 2016 list of recognised festivals.

To be eligible, short films should have been completed on or after 1 May 2015.


Eligibility Requirements

Eligibility: independent

Where there is any major studio substantially funding a film, the total budget must not exceed $20million. Films are not defined as ‘independent’ strictly on the terms of financing.


Eligibility: British

It has been produced or majority co-produced by a British company or is in receipt of at least 51% of its budget from a British source or sources or it qualifies as a British Film under the DCMS guidelines and includes sufficient creative elements from the UK.

This applies to all categories except for Best International Independent Film. 

Where an individual must be British to qualify for an award, or for the purposes of identifying the nationality of a film, we will ask whether you hold a UK passport or have the right to hold one. If you are unsure, please use this test and follow the process through to see if you are a British citizen, have indefinite leave to remain or permanent residence.


Category Rules

Films do not have to be submitted in all categories, however the Nomination Committee may choose to consider a film in additional categories to those submitted.

Credits and eligibility decisions are based on the credits featured on exhibited prints of the film.

Only one award trophy will be issued to the winner of each category. Where multiple named nominees have been accepted by BIFA, additional trophies can be purchased in the event of an award win. Named nominees will each receive an invitation to the Awards, up to a maximum of three invitations.


Best British Independent Film, Best International Independent Film

Fully-credited writers, producers and directors may be listed as nominees.

Executive producer, associate producer, co-producer or other producer credits are not eligible for nominations or awards.


Best Director

Awarded to the director. Co-directors are only eligible for nomination where there is not also a director credited.


Best Screenplay

Additional material by or similar credits are not eligible for nomination.


The Douglas Hickox Award (Best Debut Director)

For a British director for their debut fiction feature film. Previous television or documentary director credits do not exclude an individual from consideration.

This award is presented for promise and potential as well as achievement.

The estate of Douglas Hickox shall present a cheque for £500 to the winner. 


Debut Screenwriter

For a British screenwriter for their debut fiction feature film. The Nomination Committee will determine whether three or five nominations will be presented. 

This award is presented for promise and potential as well as achievement.

Additional material by or similar credits are not eligible for nomination.


Breakthrough Producer

For a British producer for their first or second documentary or fiction feature film.

All fully credited producers may be listed for nomination. Executive producer, associate producer, co-producer or other producer credits are not eligible for nominations or awards.

Entrants should submit a 500 word statement outlining the achievements of the producer in support of their entry. More information may be requested where other, non-eligible, producers are listed.


Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress

Entrants may select which category a performer should be considered for, but BIFA’s Nomination Committee will make final decisions about eligibility.


Most Promising Newcomer

This award recognises promise and potential as well as achievement by a new British actor. Performers are eligible if they are taking their first significant role in a theatrical feature film. Eligibility of performers who have significant television/theatre credits will be determined by the Nomination Committee.

Entrants should please highlight eligible performers when entering their film.


Outstanding Achievement in Craft

This award encompasses the following: editing, cinematography, sound (design and editing), special effects, visual effects, casting, costume design, make up design, hair design, production design. Heads of department may be listed as nominees.

This award is for exceptional and innovative examples of each of these disciplines. Votes will be tabulated in such a way that only one representative per discipline will be included. As with all categories, there will be five nominations.

Entrants wishing to submit an entry for a discipline not listed above should please contact us first at

Entrants should please highlight extraordinary achievement by a particular department and supply a 500 word statement in support of their application explaining why the achievement is exceptional and how it was achieved.


Best British Short

For films with a maximum running time of 40 minutes, including credits.

Fully-credited writers, producers and directors may be listed as nominees.


Best Documentary

Eligible films must be non-fiction. They should be photographed in actual occurrence, or employ partial re-enactment, stock footage, stills, animation, stop-motion or other techniques, as long as the emphasis is on fact and not on fiction. 

The director and fully credited producers will be listed as the nominee.


The Discovery Award

This award highlights innovation, uniqueness of vision, maverick filmmaking and risk-taking, generally in fiction films with a budget under £500k.

Nominees will be at the discretion of the sub-group responsible for the adjudication of this category, and are likely to be the writing/producing/directing team. Entrants may propose nominees for the sub-group to take into consideration.

Entrants should submit a 500 word supporting statement highlighting which aspects of the film should be considered for this award and why.


All decisions made by BIFA are final and no correspondence will be entered into as to why particular entries were or were not nominated.