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BIFA’s Unconscious-Bias Training Rolls Out to Wider Industry (EXCLUSIVE)

The British Independent Film Awards is opening up its unconscious-bias training to anyone who judges the work of others in the film and TV business in the U.K.

With the makeup of award-nominee and -winner lists under close scrutiny, BIFA introduced its unconscious-bias training last year. Its voters, jurors, committee members, board members and staff underwent the training.

BAFTA is rolling it out, on an optional basis, to its jury chairs and committees. Other BAFTA members and voters can also choose, independently, to take part.

The program is designed to help industry professionals better understand how subliminal assumptions about genre, commercial potential, gender and ethnicity can affect decision-making. It addresses assumptions made about female directors and stories focused on women, and whether greater weight is accorded to senior industry figures.

The unconscious-bias training involves in-person presentations in London, online work and extended sessions for some group leaders. This year’s training kicks off in August ahead of BIFA’s announcement of its 2019 nominations in October.

Those who underwent the BIFA training last year – about 250 people – will take part in a short online refresher course. Those taking part from outside of BIFA will be asked to pay a small unspecified fee.

“Of course we want to make sure that our voting process is as fair and rigorous as possible, but the skills that participants learn through the training have a much broader application than just voting,” BIFA co-directors Amy Gustin and Deena Wallace said in a joint statement. “That’s why we’re really pleased to open the training to the wider screen industries and encourage all those in decision-making, gatekeeper roles to come along to a session.”

Industry charity ScreenSkills and Endeavor are backing the initiative, as they did last year. Gareth Ellis-Unwin, head of film and animation at ScreenSkills, said that the course “has made me think just a little bit harder about the decisions I make.”

He added: “We are very keen to share this pioneering initiative more widely with industry so that more people and organizations can benefit from its impact. Understanding the unconscious bias behind our decision-making is important not just when it comes to judging awards but in everyday decision-making.”

(Pictured L-to-R:  Deena Wallace, Amy Gustin).

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