BIFA becomes first film awards ceremony to train voters to recognise unconscious bias and how it may affect voting decisions.
BIFA, in partnership with Creative Skillset, today announce the introduction of a bespoke programme in Training for Unconscious Bias to be initiated in preparation for the 2018 awards. BIFA is the first film awards body to train its voting membership to recognise where their unconscious biases (positive or negative) may be influencing their decisions. The move reinforces BIFA’s commitments to making its voting process as fair, inclusive and diligent as possible. The initiative is supported with National Lottery funds from the British Film Institute as part of the Future Film Skills programme.
A comprehensive programme will guide voters in addressing whether subliminal assumptions across dimensions such as genre, commerciality, gender and ethnicity are impacting their selections during the voting process, both in individual decision-making scenarios and also in group deliberations. Sources of potential bias examined will include among others;
- The ways in which comedic writing may be considered less favourably to drama
- How commercial box office success intersects with critical appraisal and whether a film with higher gross is viewed adversely to a critical favourite
- Whether greater weight in group deliberations may be unconsciously given to senior industry figures
- Whether assumptions are made about films directed by women or telling stories focusing on women
- Whether stories that do not reflect voters own experience are given less weight in voting and deliberation
BIFA aims that by the end of this year the programme will have trained over 400 industry professionals, including filmmakers, actors, industry executives and critics, in unconscious bias in voting and decision making. The initiative complements BIFA’s continuing drive, as a key access point for emerging filmmakers and professionals, to be a leader in standards for equality and inclusivity in industry-wide engagement. These efforts have seen an increase of over 900% in the voting membership since 2014, with dedicated initiatives to encourage registrations from diverse and under-represented groups. These run in tandem with a parallel focus ensuring eligibility rules and calls for submission encompass opportunities for filmmakers and technicians from all backgrounds.
In recognition that the voting process requires a large number of decisions to be made in a compressed timeframe, across a thorough series of meetings, discussions and online votes, the programme’s implementation is designed to offer members full support in making these choices as rigorously and equitably as possible. All voting members, including juries, BIFA committees and the board, will complete the training in advance of participation in this year’s awards process, across all stages of voting, from longlists to nominations. BIFA are committing to make the training accessible to the full membership, through a series of in-person group presentations as well as via online, interactive sessions, ensuring members can benefit wherever they are based. Further to providing valuable insights for members during the awards process, the training will be applicable to contexts far outside of these parameters. BIFA hopes that the training will benefit its voters and the wider industry by providing valuable tools for film professionals across situations as diverse as script assessment, hiring decisions, casting and funding awards.
Amy Gustin and Deena Wallace, co-directors of BIFA said: “Throughout its 20 year history BIFA has strived to champion the talent and skillsets exhibited in the independent film industry, judging work purely on its technical and artistic merits. We’re thrilled to be working with Creative Skillset on creating this ground-breaking training programme. Our aim is to ensure the playing field remains level for all filmmakers regardless of their budgets, subject matter, industry profile, ethnicity or gender – an ethos we hope will benefit not just BIFA’s process and voters but also the wider industry.”
Seetha Kumar, chief executive of Creative Skillset, said: “We are proud to have developed this pioneering initiative with BIFA. We believe understanding unconscious bias and training in understanding unconscious bias will become the norm in every organisation that wants to act responsibly. Many people feel they don’t have the knowledge or the tools to do anything about it. BIFA are to be praised for taking this step to give all films and screen professionals in contention for honours a fairer chance of success.”