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HomeAwardsBirdman and Boyhood Split Top Honors at Spirit Awards

Birdman and Boyhood Split Top Honors at Spirit Awards

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Alejandro Iñárritu
Alejandro Iñárritu
On the eve of the Academy Awards, the contest between Birdman and Boyhood continued at the Film Independent Spirit Awards held Saturday, Feb. 21 in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica. ’s bold cinematic adventure garnered best picture honors while indie icon Richard Linklater took home the best director award for his 12-year family drama. Graciously accepting his award, Iñárritu commented, “All these films are an act of love.”

This year’s best documentary prize went to the Edward Snowden NSA exposé Citizenfour, directed by Laura Poitras. Journalist Glenn Greenwald addressed the importance of whistleblowers. “A lot of people talk about this film as though it’s about a subversion of privacy. I think it’s actually much more about a subversion of democracy. If we don’t know the most important acts that our government is doing because it’s kept from us, then we don’t really have a full democracy.”

Pawel Pawlikowski
Pawel Pawlikowski
Nightcrawler took both best screenplay and best first feature. Writer/director Dan Gilroy stated, “All of us here today, I think, are holdouts against the tsunami of superhero movies that swept over this industry. We have survived and we have thrived and I think that’s true spirit.”

Lensed in black and white with strong visual composition, Ida was awarded best international feature. Polish director, Pawel Pawlikowski shared his shooting philosophy for the film. “We lit it a little bit like a good photo journalist, so it wouldn’t feel like movie lighting. We used one strong source of light, not too much filling. Usually the sources of light were in the shot. There was a whole kind of strategy of how to make this. It is not enough to just switch off the color when you shoot the film. We designed the whole thing for maximum impact.”

Michael Keaton
Michael Keaton
In the acting races, Spirit Award voters gave lead actor and actress awards to Michael Keaton for Birdman and Julianne Moore for Still Alice and supporting prizes to J.K. Simmons for Whiplash and Patricia Arquette for Boyhood.

After accepting her award, Arquette remarked on the dedication of the crew over the course of the years, “Our crew members were part of this huge family. People would start as a P.A. and 12 years later, they were a first A.D., but they’d come back as a P.A.”

In one of the two crafts categories, Birdman’s Emmanuel Lubezki won best cinematography. Iñárritu called the cinematographer, “Chivo, my genius of light.”

Tom Cross
Tom Cross
Tom Cross took best editing for Whiplash, only the second year that category has been awarded. “It was a race against time,” noted Cross because the schedule for editing the feature was the same duration as the time allotted to edit the short, which was the basis for the long-form film.

The only award that recognizes the contributions of a casting director to the filmmaking process, the 8th annual Robert Altman Award, was presented to director, Paul Thomas Anderson, casting director, Cassandra Kulukundis, and the ensemble cast of Inherent Vice, which included 72 speaking roles. “Especially on independent film there is not enough money. Getting that cast together is just critical, so the role of the casting director is more important,” said Film Independent president, Josh Welsh.

Director Bennett Miller was on hand to accept the special distinction award, given to Foxcatcher for its uniqueness of vision, honesty of direction and screenwriting, superb acting and overall filmmaking achievement.

The Citzenfour creative team.
The Citzenfour creative team.
With its mission of diversity, the 2015 Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation Fellowship was awarded to 2015 directing lab participant Christina Choe, currently in active pre-production on her first narrative feature film, Nancy.

Speaking in advance of the awards ceremony, Welsh talked about celebrating the 30-year anniversary of the premiere awards show for the independent film community. “The Spirit Awards started very small,” he said. “I think the first show took place in a restaurant on La Cienega. As independent film has grown and become a bigger and more critically important part of the film industry and our film culture, the Spirit Awards have grown along with it.”

Honoring artist-driven films made with an economy of means by filmmakers whose films embody independence and originality, talent initially recognized by the Spirit Awards have become a large part of our film culture.

“A number of things make the Spirit Awards unique,” continued Welsh. “It is really an awards show of discovery, especially the people who are nominated for best first feature. If you look back over the years, it’s an amazing group of people from Ryan Cougler last year, and if you go back it’s Spike Jonze and Spike Lee and Charlie Kaufman – amazing filmmakers getting their first recognition at the Spirit Awards.” Selma director Ava DuVernay, who won the Cassavetes award for her first feature, graduated this year to Spirit and Academy Awards nominations for Selma.

Kristen Bell and Fred Armisen hosted the show, which was broadcast live on IFC for the first time. The honorary chair of the Spirit Awards was Scandal actress, Kerry Washington.

The winners of the Film Independent Spirit Awards are:

Best Feature
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Producers: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole

Best Director
Richard Linklater, Boyhood, (IFC Films)

Best Screenplay
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler, (Open Road Films)

Best First Feature
Nightcrawler (Open Road Films)
Director: Dan Gilroy, Producers: Jennifer Fox, Tony Gilroy, Jake Gyllenhaal, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak

Best First Screenplay
Justin Simien, Dear White People, (Roadside Attractions/ Lionsgate)

John Cassavetes Award (For best feature made under $500,000):
Land Ho!, (Sony Pictures Classics)
Writers/Directors: Aaron Katz, Martha Stephens, Producers: Christina Jennings, Mynette Louie, Sara Murphy

Best Male Lead
Michael Keaton, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Best Female Lead
Julianne Moore, Still Alice, (Sony Pictures Classics)

Best Supporting Male
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash, (Sony Pictures Classics)

Best Supporting Female
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood, (IFC Films)

Robert Altman Award
Inherent Vice, (Warner Bros.)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, Casting Director: Cassandra Kulukundis, Ensemble Cast: Josh Brolin, Hong Chau, Martin Donovan, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom, Joaquin Phoenix, Sasha Pieterse, Eric Roberts, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Serena Scott Thomas, Benicio del Toro, Katherine Waterston, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Michael Kenneth Williams.

Best Cinematography
Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Best Editing
Tom Cross, Whiplash, (Sony Pictures Classics)

Best International Film
Ida, (Poland Music Box Films)
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

Best Documentary
Citizenfour, (RADiUS-TWC / HBO Documentary Films / Participant Media)
Director: Laura Poitras; Producers: Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky

Special Distinction Award
Foxcatcher, (Sony Pictures Classics)
Director/Producer: Bennett Miller, Producers: Anthony Bregman, Megan Ellison, Jon Kilik, Writers: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman, Actors: Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatumros.)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, Casting Director: Cassandra Kulukundis, Ensemble Cast: Josh Brolin, Hong Chau, Martin Donovan, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom, Joaquin Phoenix, Sasha Pieterse, Eric Roberts, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Serena Scott Thomas, Benicio del Toro, Katherine Waterston, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon and Michael Kenneth Williams.

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