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Honoring the Independent Spirit


Over the past 26 years, The Spirit Awards – produced by Film Independent – has celebrated films made by filmmakers who embody independence and originality. Returning to the tents on the beach in Santa Monica from last year’s tents on L.A. Live‘s roof in downtown, attendees braved chilly conditions during this year’s premier awards ceremony exclusively honoring independent film.

The red carpet was opened by Sandra Oh with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and announcement that LG Cinema 3D contributed $100,000 to Film Independent’s Project: Involve – a signature diversity program that nurtures the careers of talented writers, directors and producers from under-represented communities.

Fox Searchlight‘s Black Swan swept the majority of awards. Producers Scott Franklin, Mike Medavoy, Arnold W. Messer and Brian Oliver received best feature film. Darren Aronofsky garnered best director. In speaking of the award-winning actors that he is able to cast in his films, Aronofsky commented, “I thought about Natalie for this movie ten years ago.”

Black Swan also took best female lead, which went to Natalie Portman. In her acceptance speech, Portman acknowledged the dedication of her ballet teacher during the year preparing for the award-winning role. Matthew Libatique picked up best cinematography, the evening’s only award for a below-the-line craft.

Fox Searchlight scored again when James Franco won best male lead for 127 Hours. The young actor, who just finished his thesis film for NYU, admitted, “When I first started acting, I didn’t want to know about the technical side, it was always about making the emotions genuine, really living it. I still believe that way… but I do see movies for the collaborative art form that they are now.”

In the other acting categories, Roadside AttractionsWinter’s Bone actors Dale Dickey and John Hawkes, respectively garnered best supporting female and best supporting male.

The best screenplay award went to writers Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko for Focus FeaturesThe Kids Are All Right, while Lena Dunham won best first screenplay for IFC FilmsTiny Furniture.

The Weinstein Company‘s The King’s Speech was honored with best foreign film for director Tom Hooper. Sony Pictures ClassicsGet Low director Aaron Schneider and producers David Gundlach and Dean Zanuck won best first feature. Director Banksy took home the best documentary for Producers Distribution Agency‘s Exit Through the Gift Shop.

Writers/directors, Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie, and producers, Casey Neistat and Tom Scott, garnered the John Cassavetes award for best feature under $500,000 with IFC Films’ second win of the night, Daddy Longlegs, a story that drew from the filmmakers experiences with their own father.

The brothers credited the role their cinematographer played in getting the film made. Josh revealed, “Brett Jutkiewicz is the most responsible person I know. I am probably the most irresponsible… he is also a goalie in ice hockey and a drummer in a hardcore band. They are always the most grounding people in an ensemble and he was a grounding force in this film.” Brother Benny added, “So much of this film is its timelessness… I think it is the aesthetic that yields that timelessness and it was Brett that really gave it that look.”

The 4th annual Robert Altman award was given to the director, casting director and cast of one ensemble film. Indie favorite, director Nicole Holofcener, along with casting director Jeanne McCarthy and ensemble cast members Ann Guilbert, Rebecca Hall, Catherine Keener, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Lois Smith, and Sarah Steele, received the award for Please Give. In choosing a cohesive ensemble cast, McCarthy shared, “I look for authenticity. That’s the way Nicole writes… the kind of acting that Nicole responds to is the not-acting.”

Aveeno‘s truer than fiction award was given to Jeff Malmberg, director of Marwecol, which also received the Jamison audience award. Anish Savjani, producer of Meek’s Cutoff, received the Piaget producers’ award.

Actor and comedian Joel McHale hosted the awards. Presenters included: Will Arnett, Don Cheadle, David Cross, Rosario Dawson, Jesse Eisenberg, Vera Farmiga, Jamie Foxx, James Franco, Greta Gerwig, Terrence Howard, Josh Hutcherson, Anna Kendrick, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence, Diego Luna, Ewan McGregor, Eva Mendes, Sandra Oh, Josh Radnor, Jeremy Renner, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd, Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Ben Stiller, Uma Thurman, Kerry Washington, Mia Wasikowska, John Waters, Naomi Watts, and Rainn Wilson.


Venue: Tents on Santa Monica Beach

Parking: Adjacent, $8 beach parking a short walk to the venue

Food n’ Booze: Hosted bar in the PR Tent; buffet with chicken, sliced carrots, zucchini, and creamy mashed potatoes that were worth seconds, choice of crusty bread or breadsticks; mini desserts including strawberry cream tarts, marshmallow topped chocolate cake bites and chocolate dipped pretzel sticks.

Swag: Nothing in the press tent, but guests received gift bags.

Length of Show: The afternoon event was finished by 5:30 pm.

Memorable Quote: Oscar-winning short film director, Aaron Schneider, on the ten years it took to get his first feature, Get Low, made, “We just had to will it to happen.”

Below: Watch a rebroadcast of the Film Independent Spirit Awards arrivals webcast.

Watch live streaming video from spiritawards at

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