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Independent Spirit Awards

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By Mary Ann Skweres
On February 28, under a tent on the beach in Santa Monica, the Independent Feature Project (IFP) held its Independent Spirit Awards, honoring independent films and filmmakers whose projects are made with budgets that typically run a fraction of the cost of the average studio feature.
For Focus Features’ Lost in Translation producers Sofia Coppola and Ross Katz took home the best feature award. Coppola also won best director and best screenplay. Coppola thanked her father, director Francis Ford Coppola for “all the screenwriting stuff that my dad talked about to fall back on,” and also recognized cinematographer Lance Acord for his ability to keep up with the hit-and-run nature of the shoot.
The best first feature award went to Newmarket Films’ Monster, directed by Patty Jenkins and produced by Mary Jane Skalski, Robert May and Karyn Tucker. Charlize Theron garnered the best female lead. For Theron’s physical transformation for the role, Jenkins and Theron credited make-up artist Toni G. “for subtle technique with a delicate hand.”
Miramax’s The Station Agent was honored with two awards: the John Cassavetes award for the best feature made for under $500,000 and best first screenplay. Writer/director, Thomas McCarthy admitted the biggest technical challenge he faced was a 20-day shooting schedule. He attributed the success in production to cinematographer Oliver Bokelberg, who shot on Super 16. Speaking of his editor Tom McArdle, McCarthy said, “Tom should have gotten this award with me. In the big jump from page to screen there were moments that didn’t work. When you have a great editor, he helps you rewrite.”
Newcomer, Andrew Bujalski, director of Funny Ha Ha, won a $20,000 grant funded by Turning Leaf Vineyards, created to honor a director of singular vision who has not received appropriate recognition. The grant is intended to help the filmmaker pursue his craft. Writer/director Bujalski shot on 16mm; he edited on film using a Steenbeck that he rescued from the NYU Film School, as it was en-route to the dump.
Declan Quinn received the award for best cinematography for In America. Director Jim Sheridan accepted the award on Quinn’s behalf, complimenting his DP for fantastic work despite 16-hour days.
The seventh annual DirecTV/IFC Truer Than Fiction Award, presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features, went to directors Megan Mylan and Jon Shenk for Lost Boys of Sudan. The award was accompanied by a $20,000 unrestricted grant.
Veteran filmmaker Errol Morris won the best documentary award for The Fog of War. Morris said he felt the story of Vietnam-era secretary of defense Robert McNamara was propelled by current events as he made the film. He thanked his editors, Doug Abel, Chyld King and Karen Schmeer. “It’s a very real sense of collaboration between me and them. When you shoot nonfiction, you create a story out of material from the real world. You don’t start with a script. You have to build it out of bits and pieces. It is a form of writing.”

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