The British Independent Film Awards, in partnership with Creative Skillset, have announced 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 may be influencing their decisions. 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
- 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
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.”
BIFA 2018 nominations will be announced on 31 October. The winners will be unveiled at the ceremony on 2 December at Old Billingsgate, which will mark the 21st anniversary of the awards.
Naila Scargill is the publisher and editor of horror journal Exquisite Terror. Holding a broad editorial background, she has worked with an eclectic variety of content, ranging from film and the counterculture, to political news and finance.