Rules & Eligibility Updates 2020

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

entries to the british independent film awards 2020 ARE NOW OPEN.
Here are key changes and updates to our rules and eligibility criteria that entrants should know about.



We are committed to ensuring that we continue to support the British independent film community. We have adapted the way we work to keep the BIFA team safe and sound whilst focusing on how we can respond to this incredibly challenging time in a meaningful and helpful way. We have developed a more flexible approach to our current activities in order to be as adaptable as possible through 2020 and into 2021.

We have decided that we should aim for our film entry and voting processes to take place on a similar timescale to previous years to ensure minimal disruption to our processes and to the wider film calendar: come winter, we plan to be ready to announce and celebrate the best in British independent filmmaking. Our industry and filmmakers deserve it.

This means making some changes to our eligibility criteria, especially our criteria around festival and theatrical releases that make films eligible for BIFA. Due to the effects of the Coronavirus 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 that 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.

Update 26 June: Although some cinemas are planning to re-open, release schedules are still in flux. If many fewer films are released this year and therefore eligible for the Awards, it may make sense for us to reduce the number of nominations in each category (usually five in each category except for Effects, which is three) to reflect a lower number of entries. We’ll confirm this later in the process.

We’ll keep an eye on these rules and dates as the weeks go by and as (we hope) cinemas re-open. It’s possible that we may have to change deadlines and shift timelines if things change, so do follow us on (Twitter / Instagram / FB) for announcements. We’ll also keep those entrants who have already submitted a film informed of any changes, so do please give us permission to use your contact information to stay in touch.


Entry fees

There will be no entry fees for short films and feature films with production budgets under £1,000,000 before the Free Entry Deadline of Friday 14 August.

Thereafter, for the last few weeks of entries, a minimal entry fee will apply to all films being entered to BIFA at the following rates*:

Dates Entry fee – shorts Entry fee – features with production budget < £1m Entry fee – features with production budget > £1m
June – 14th August Free Free £50
15th August – 25th September £15 £50 £100

*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 to discuss the possibility of a fee reduction or waiver.


Other rule changes

BFI Diversity Standards

Over the past two years we have been working to incorporate the BFI Diversity Standards into our entry criteria. Since 2018, British feature and short films that are entered to BIFA must be assessed against the Standards in order to be accepted.

From this year, British feature films must meet the BFI Diversity Standards in order to be accepted. This means completing an assessment and meeting two of the four Standards.

Short films do not need to meet the Standards but must be assessed against them in order to be accepted.

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

Raindance Discovery award

A new criterion is being added for the Raindance Discovery Award: films entered to this category must have no, or very limited, theatrical distribution deals in place. Films that have had, were scheduled to have, or will have theatrical distribution with a major, recognised distributor (see list below) will no longer be eligible to be entered to this category.

The only exception to this rule is where a film has received, was scheduled to receive, or will 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.

The list of ‘recognised distributors’ is:

20th Century Fox Paramount
Altitude Parkland Pictures
Amazon Studios Park Circus
Arrow Pathé
Axiom Peccadillo
BFI Distribution Picturehouse
Bulldog Pinewood Pictures
Curzon AE Republic Film Distribution
Dartmouth Films Signature Entertainment
Disney Sony
Dogwoof Studiocanal
Entertainment Film Distributors STX
eOne Thunderbird
Icon Trafalgar
Lionsgate Universal
Netflix Vertigo
New Wave Verve
MUBI Warner Brothers
Modern Films


Best British Short Film award, supported by BFI NETWORK

We are altering the rule that allows shorts that have not screened at a qualifying festival but have won any award to be entered.
Instead, in order to be eligible, short films must:

Screen at one of BIFA’s qualifying festivals
Win an award from one of BIFA’s qualifying awards bodies
Screen on one of BIFA’s qualifying online channels

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.

Two new festivals and one new awards body have been added to the list of qualifying festivals, awards bodies and online channels:

Manchester International Film Festival

Watersprite Student Film Festival 

Grierson Trust Rumi Foundation Best Documentary Short Award

You can see the full list of qualifying festivals, awards bodies and online channels here.

Best Sound award

We are changing who can be nominated for the Best Sound award. Previously, entrants could choose to either nominate the lead Sound Designer or the Sound Department as a whole (consisting of the Sound Designer, Supervising Sound Editor, Production Mixer and Re-recording Mixer).

From this year, entrants must nominate the Sound Department rather than an individual. BIFA will accept nominees with the following credits, up to a maximum of 5 nominees per film:

Sole or Lead Sound Designer / Supervising Sound Editor / HoD
Sole or Lead Dialogue Supervisor / Editor
Sole or Lead SFX Supervisor / Editor
Sole or Lead Re-Recording Mixer
Sole or Lead Production Mixer / Sound Mixer


Please get in touch

We believe that the above changes improve how we celebrate the people and films of our industry, making BIFA a fairer ceremony for all. However, we also believe that our ethos this year should be about feedback and flexibility. If you have objections or think that you or your work would be disadvantaged in any way due to the changes we’re making, please do get in touch with us on

Read our full rules & eligibility requirements, and get started with entering your film, here.

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