The British Independent Film Awards (BIFA) will scrap this year’s gender-specific acting categories as part of a series of wider changes to its range of awards.
Individual male and female categories will be combined into awards for best main performance and best supporting performance. Up to 10 nominees are eligible in each category.
The BIFA will also present a best joint main performance – for two or exceptionally three – performances which are at the center of the film as well as an award for the best ensemble. Up to five nominees will be selected for these categories.
In a joint statement, BIFA directors Amy Gustin and Deena Wallace said they hoped the move would “more fully capture the range of outstanding performance and acting talent in British independent cinema and allow us to celebrate more talent than ever”.
The groundbreaking performance award established by BIFA, which has always been gender-neutral, remains unchanged.
Further additions will see the introduction of a new category, Best First Director – Documentary Feature. This will accompany the Douglas Hickox Award for Best First Director, which will now be reserved for feature-length fiction films.
The Best Music award, which previously recognized both Original Composition and Music Supervision, will be split into Best Original Music and Best Music Supervision.
Nominations for this year’s awards, which mark BIFA’s 25th anniversary, will be announced on November 3 ahead of a ceremony on December 4.
Last year, the Gotham Awards announced they would be eliminating gender-specific acting categories, and the Berlin International Film Festival followed suit earlier this year. In 2021, the Emmys allowed nominees to use the gender-neutral term “performer”, while keeping the gendered acting categories separate.
Talk to Filter About the changes, Wallace said, “We’ve been thinking about making changes to the performance categories for some time, as they were anomalous among all categories as the only ones to have a gender split, but we wanted to take our time to make decision.
“Quite often when we make changes we do things quite quickly, going through our electors and nominating committee, but with this one we wanted to consult more broadly, so we started with a consultation process open, for which we had hundreds of responses. We then spoke to the Personal Managers Association, Casting Directors Guild, Equity, BFI, GLAAD, artists who have been nominated in the past, distributors, as well as our performance subgroup.
Wallace added that the decision was also informed by reviewing the number of men and women who have entered for the awards over the past few years to ensure the change would not have a negative effect.
“The number of entries into the actor and actress categories has been around 50-50 over the past six years, since Amy [Gustin] and I led Bifa,” she said. “We are concerned with ensuring that there is fair representation among performers and we wanted to ensure that we were not negatively impacting the recognition available to women.
“We hope it will be a permanent change. We’re really excited about it and will continue to review it, talking to the people we’ve consulted to make sure it’s inclusive, representative and fair. We review the categories every year, so it’s a live process.
Performance categories, with the exception of the breakthrough award, are decided by a lead jury, all of whom must undergo unconscious bias training before voting.
BIFA also announced the addition of new members to its Board of Directors, including award-winning producer and Head of Home Team, Dominic Buchanan; Carmen Thompson, cultural curator for We Are Parable and producer at Aya Films; and Tim Platt, Head of Marketing and Audience Growth at the British Film Institute.