About

Rules and Eligibility

This page is best viewed on a laptop or desktop – phones and tablets may distort or omit parts of the tables. A PDF of all of this information is available to download here.

You can find an article with the key changes to this year’s rules and eligibility requirements 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. If you have questions about your film’s eligibility, please contact BIFA on hello@bifa.film.

Click here to begin the process of entering a film: https://members.bifa.film/entries

 

Timeline

June Feature/Short film entries open
14th August Free entry deadline (shorts & features)
28th August Final entry deadline (see Entry Fees below)
11th September Screening deadline
(all films must be available to be seen by voters by this date)
Late September – early October Round 1 voting
Mid October Longlist announcements
Late October Round 2 voting
Early November Nominations announcement
November Round 3 voting
December Winner announcements / BIFA ceremony

 

ENTRY DEADLINES & FEES

Entries for short films and feature films with production budgets of under £1,000,000 will remain free until the 14th August. Thereafter, each film entry will incur an entry fee at the following rates*:

Dates
Entry fee – short films
Entry fee – feature films with production budgets under £1m
Entry fee – feature films with production budgets over £1m
June – 14th August Free Free £50
15th – 28th August £15 £50 £100

Friday 28th August is the final entry deadline for short films. Feature films may be entered after the 28th August, until 4th September, at the discretion of the Nomination Committee and with the following entry fees*:

Deadline
Entry fee – feature films with production budgets under £1m
Entry fee – feature films with production budgets over £1m
4th September £100 £250

(*These prices exclude VAT)

In the event that an entry cannot be completed before the entry fees are applicable (e.g. if confirmation of a qualifying festival screening comes after 14th August), entrants are advised to submit an entry before 14th August with the qualifying festival / release field left blank to avoid the entry fees. An update on any qualifying screenings can then be sent to BIFA to confirm the film’s eligibility.

In the event that an entrant cannot afford the entry fee, they are encouraged to contact BIFA on hello@bifa.film to discuss the possibility of a fee reduction or waiver.

 

Categories

Category
Named nominees / recipient(s)
Eligible films
Winner decided by…
Best British Independent Film Director, Screenwriter(s), Producer(s) British features BIFA voters
Best Director Director British features Main Jury
Best Screenplay Screenwriter(s) British features Main Jury
Best Actor Lead actor British features Main Jury
Best Actress Lead actress British features Main Jury
Best Supporting Actor Supporting actor British features Main Jury
Best Supporting Actress Supporting actress British features Main Jury
The Douglas Hickox Award
(Best Debut Director)
British Director British features New Talent Jury
Best Debut Screenwriter British Screenwriter(s) British features New Talent Jury
Breakthrough Producer British Producer(s) British features New Talent Jury
Most Promising Newcomer British lead & supporting actors & actresses British features New Talent Jury
Best Documentary Director British features BIFA voters
The Raindance Discovery Award Director, Screenwriter(s), Producer(s).

Entrants may choose to nominate all or any of the above-listed people

British features BIFA voters
Best Casting Casting Director British features BIFA voters
Best Cinematography Director of Photography British features BIFA voters
Best Costume Design Costume Designer British features BIFA voters
Best Editing Editor British features BIFA voters
Best Effects Special Effects Supervisor(s)
Visual Effects Supervisor(s)
British features BIFA voters
Best Make-Up & Hair Design Make-Up Designer
Hair Designer
British features BIFA voters
Best Music Composer or Music Supervisor British features BIFA voters
Best Production Design Production Designer British features BIFA voters
Best Sound
Up to 5 of the following professionals may be entered:
– Sound Designer / Supervising Sound Editor / HoD
– Dialogue Supervisor / Editor
– SFX Supervisor / Editor
– Re-Recording Mixer
– Production Mixer / Sound Mixer
British features BIFA voters
Best British Short Film Director, Screenwriter(s), Producer(s) British short films BIFA voters
Best International Independent Film Director, Screenwriter(s), Producer(s) International features BIFA voters
The Richard Harris Award British actor Individual Nomination Committee & Board
The Special Jury Prize Decided by Jury Individual or organisation Main Jury

 

VOTING & ADJUDICATION PROCESS

More details about the BIFA voting and adjudication process can be found here.

 

FILM eligibility requirements

independent

BIFA considers the following eight companies to be ‘major studios’:

20th Century Fox Paramount
Amazon Studios Sony
Disney Universal
Netflix Warner Bros

 

Where there is any major studio substantially funding the production of a film, the total budget must not exceed $20 million. Any major studio involvement in the financing or production of a film will be assessed by BIFA. Films are not defined as ‘independent’ strictly on the terms of financing. The origination of a film (i.e. whether it was initially conceived inside or outside of a studio system) will also be taken into account when assessing the independence of studio-backed films.

British

BIFA considers a film to be ‘British’ if it:

  • Has been produced or majority co-produced by a British production company(ies) or is in receipt of at least 51% of its production budget from British sources
    AND
  • Includes sufficient creative elements from the UK, e.g. key creative team, lead cast and HODs

This applies to shorts and feature films entering all categories except for Best International Independent Film.

Where an individual must be British to qualify for an award, such as in the debut categories, or for the purposes of identifying the nationality of a film, we may ask entrants if they or others who worked on a film have a British passport or the right to hold one, or if they have achieved ‘settled status’ by living in the UK for more than 5 years. BIFA’s Nomination Committee may, at its discretion, accept individuals as ‘British’ if they have not lived in the UK for more than five years or do not have settled status but have demonstrably been living and working in the UK for a considerable period of time and intend to do so in the future. If you are unsure, please use this test and get in touch with us on hello@bifa.film.

BFI DIVERSITY STANDARDS

Films entered to the British feature film categories must meet the BFI Diversity Standards. Meeting the Standards requires passing two of the four Standards. Films that have already been assessed against the Standards do not need to be re-assessed.

Short films entered to the Best British Short Film award must be assessed against the BFI’s Diversity Standards. There is no requirement for short films to meet the Standards, simply to be assessed against them.

You can find out more about the BFI Diversity Standards here.

 

FILM RELEASE REQUIREMENTS

COVID-19 IMPACT STATEMENT

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic many films that were scheduled to screen at festivals or on general release over Spring/Summer 2020 (and perhaps later) are no longer able to do so and so may, according to our usual rules, be deemed ineligible for BIFA 2020 due to a lack of festival or general release screenings.

We are keen that this not be the case and films that under normal circumstances would have been eligible for BIFA remain so. For this reason, if a film was programmed to play at a festival or to screen on general release but did not do so due to the impact of the pandemic, it will remain eligible for BIFA regardless of how its release strategy changed to accommodate the circumstances. Emails from festival programmers and distributors confirming screenings, as well as public listings of film screenings on festival websites and the FDA website, will be used as proof that a film was scheduled for screenings.

Entrants who are unsure of their film’s eligibility or would like to make an appeal for BIFA to include their film are encouraged to contact BIFA on hello@bifa.film.

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS

To be eligible, feature films must be intended for theatrical release and must screen, or be scheduled to screen, to a paying public audience either at a qualifying festival or on general release during the eligibility period.

This year, the eligibility period is 1 December 2019 to 30 November 2020.

Where formal distribution is confirmed after a qualifying festival screening, the festival screening remains as the qualifying eligibility criterion for BIFA.

No re-releases may be entered. Once entered, a film can be withdrawn up to 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.

BRITISH FEatures

  • Must be intended for theatrical release
  • Must be over 70 minutes in running time
  • Must screen or have been scheduled to screen:
    • On general release in the UK during the eligibility period, for a run consisting of at least seven screenings in aggregate
      OR
    • At any British film festival or at one of BIFA’s qualifying international film festivals during the eligibility period (view or download a PDF of this year’s list by clicking here)

Films that are between 40 and 70 minutes in length may be eligible if they have a theatrical release in the UK during the eligibility period.

Where formal distribution is confirmed after a qualifying festival screening, the festival screening remains as the qualifying eligibility criterion for BIFA. Films which have a qualifying festival screening but are scheduled for theatrical release after 31 January 2021 may choose whether to enter in the current year or to wait until next year. Please contact BIFA to discuss this via hello@bifa.film.

BRITISH SHORTS

  • Must have been completed on or after 1 May 2019
  • Must be under 40 minutes in running time
  • Must be narrative, documentary or animation (music videos, fashion films and art films are ineligible)
  • Must:
    • Screen, or have been scheduled to screen, as part of the official selection at one of BIFA’s qualifying festivals for short films during the eligibility period (view or download a PDF of this year’s list by clicking here)
      OR
    • Screen on one of BIFA’s recognised online channels during the eligibility period (download a PDF of this year’s list by clicking here)
      OR
    • Won an award from one of BIFA’s qualifying awards organisations during the eligibility period (download a PDF of this year’s list by clicking here)

Short films that have won awards which are not on the qualifying festivals / awards list may still be entered but their acceptance to the BIFA competition is at the discretion of the Nomination Committee.

International features

  • Must be intended for theatrical release
  • Must be over 70 minutes in running time
  • Must have confirmed UK distribution
  • Must screen or have been scheduled to screen:
    • On general release in the UK during the eligibility period, for a run consisting of at least seven screenings in aggregate
      OR
    • At one of BIFA’s qualifying international festivals during the eligibility period (download a PDF of this year’s list by clicking here)

International features may also be entered if they have won an award at one of BIFA’s qualifying international film festivals and are available for voters to watch.

 

category rules & requirements

Films may be submitted to as many or as few categories as entrants wish. However, voters or 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.

Films entered to British feature film categories must also supply information about their production budget and production staff. This information is used by BIFA to analyse the state of the British film industry and does not affect a film’s entry or chance to be nominated in any way.

Category/ies
Named nominee(s) / Award recipients
Additional rules
Supporting material required
Best British Independent Film Fully-credited writers, producers and directors

Other producer credits, such as Associate, Executive, etc. are not eligible for this award.
Co-directors and co-writers are only eligible where there are no lead directors or writers credited

Best International Independent Film Fully-credited writers, producers and directors

Other producer credits, such as Associate, Executive, etc. are not eligible for this award.
Co-directors and co-writers are only eligible where there are no lead directors or writers credited

Best Director Director(s)

Co-directors are only eligible where there is no lead director credited

Best Screenwriter Screenwriter(s)

Co-writers are only eligible where there is no lead screenwriter credited. ‘Additional Material by…’, ‘Original Story by…’ and similar credits are not eligible

Screenplay sample
Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Lead & supporting performers Entrants may select which category a performer should be considered for but BIFA’s Nomination Committee reserves the right to make final decisions about performers’ category placement
The Douglas Hickox Award
(Best Debut Director)
Director(s)

Must hold, or have the right to hold, a British passport

Co-directors are only eligible where there is no lead director credited

For a British director for their debut fiction feature film. Previous television or documentary credits do not disqualify an individual from consideration. Documentaries are ineligible in this category unless an exception is granted by BIFA’s Nomination Committee
Best Debut Screenwriter Screenwriter(s)

Must hold, or have the right to hold, a British passport

Co-writers are only eligible where there is no lead screenwriter credited. ‘Additional Material by…’, ‘Original Story by…’ and similar credits are not eligible

For a British screenwriter for their debut fiction feature film. Previous television or documentary credits do not disqualify an individual from consideration. Screenplay sample
Breakthrough Producer Producer(s)

Must hold, or have the right to hold, a British passport

Other producer credits, such as Associate, Executive, etc. are not eligible for this award

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

Where a producer wishes to be considered for the award for their second feature film, BIFA’s subgroup and Nomination Committee will assess whether the producer’s first film could be considered their industry breakthrough.

Statement
Most Promising Newcomer Lead & supporting performers

Must hold, or have the right to hold, a British passport

For British performers taking their first significant role in a theatrical feature film. Eligibility of performers with significant theatre or TV credits will be determined by the Nomination Committee
The Raindance Discovery Award Fully-credited writers, producers and directors.

As standard, all above-listed people are listed as nominees in this category. Entrants may, at their discretion, choose instead to limit the number of nominees (e.g. just the director, or just the producers) but must explain this decision in their statement accompanying the entry.

This award highlights innovation, uniqueness of vision, maverick filmmaking and risk-taking, generally in fiction films with a budget under £500k and no, or very limited, theatrical distribution deals in place.

Films that have had, or will have, theatrical distribution with one of BIFA’s recognised distributors (see list here) are not eligible to be entered to this category.

The only exception to this rule is where a film has received, will receive, or was scheduled to receive a limited theatrical release consisting of fewer than 20 screenings in aggregate. BIFA’s Nomination Committee reserves the right to judge what a ‘limited theatrical release’ consists of on a case-by-case basis and appeals can be made to the committee by films that have received theatrical releases with a recognised distributor consisting of more than 20 screenings.

Films that confirm a distribution deal with a recognised distributor after entry to the awards and before the announcement of the Raindance Discovery Award longlist in mid-October will be removed from consideration. However, films that confirm a distribution deal with a recognised distributor after the announcement of the longlist will remain in contention

Statement
Best Documentary Director(s) & Producer(s)

Co-directors are only eligible where there is no lead director credited

Films should be non-fiction and photographer 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
Best British Short Film Fully-credited writers, producers and directors

Other producer credits, such as Associate, Executive, etc. are not eligible for this award.

Co-directors and co-writers are only eligible where there are no lead directors or writers credited

Films must be under 40 minutes in length.

Music videos, fashion / art films and promos are not considered eligible.

Best Casting Casting Director Statement
Best Cinematography Director of Photography Statement
Best Costume Design Costume Designer Statement
Best Editing Editor

Other editing credits, such as Assistant or Co-Editor, are not eligible

Statement
Best Effects Special Effects Supervisor and/or Visual Effects Supervisor Statement

Effects breakdown reel

Best Make-Up & Hair Design Make-Up & Hair Designer Prosthetics Designers are also eligible in this category Statement
Best Music Composer or Music Supervisor This category is for both composition of original music for a film and supervision of sourced music. The nominees accepted should reflect the proportion of original and source music: where over 70% of the music is either original or source, we would expect only the composer or supervisor to be listed accordingly Statement

 

Music Cue Sheet, plus breakdown of % original and sourced music

Best Production Design Production Designer Statement required
Best Sound The following professionals may be entered, up to a maximum of 5 people:

Lead or sole Sound Designer / Supervising Sound Editor / HoD

Lead or sole Dialogue Supervisor / Editor

Lead or sole SFX Supervisor / Editor

Lead or sole Re-Recording Mixer

Lead or sole Production Mixer / Sound Mixer

Statement required

You can download PDFs of the statement formats for the categories in which they are required by clicking the links below:

Craft categories (Casting, Costume Design, Cinematography, Editing, Effects, Make-Up & Hair, Music, Production Design, Sound)

Breakthrough Producer

The Raindance Discovery Award

Only one award trophy will be issued to the winner of each category. Where multiple nominees have been accepted by BIFA, additional trophies can be purchased in the event of an award win.

BIFA aims to include all nominees at events held to celebrate the nominees and to announce the winners but unfortunately this is not always possible. Confirmation of which nominees will be offered complimentary tickets to BIFA events will be issued in mid-October, when longlists are announced and shared with entrants.

 

how to enter

Entries to BIFA can be made by a film’s distributor or another representative, such as the producer,  a sales agent or a festivals & awards advisor. If duplicate entries are made BIFA will contact the entrants to clarify which one to proceed with.

To enter a film to BIFA:

  1. Create an account (or log in to your existing account) here: https://members.bifa.film/entries
  2. Complete an entry form for the type of film that you wish to enter
  3. If an entry fee is applicable, it will need to be paid on submission of the entry to BIFA.

It is the responsibility of the entrant to ensure that a film is entered correctly and no additional category entries or category changes will be accepted after 4th September.

 

access to films

Entrants must provide BIFA voters with access to their entered film, ideally via an online screener. DVDs and access to screenings are also accepted. If BIFA voters cannot watch the film by 11th September the Nomination Committee may disqualify it from the competition.

 

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