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A brief history of the Film Independent Spirit Awards

Aptly the season’s last two award shows every year, the Film Independent Spirit Awards and the Academy Awards both celebrate the accomplishment of filmmakers and their motion-picure works, while clearly having the distinction of the former focusing on independent films and the latter mainly focusing on mainstream and large-scale film productions.

These two prestigious award-giving bodies garner much attention as they cap off the awards season every year. In general, the public is already quite familiar with many things Oscars. How about the relatively lesser known Spirit Awards?

Unlike with Oscar nominees typically featuring big Hollywood names and international celebrities, Spirit Award nominees are diverse combinations of promising and breakthrough filmmakers and film masters who tend to cross in between commercial movies and art-house fare. Given the independent filmmaking set-up, these filmmakers’ notable works can find a rightful venue for recognition through the Spirit Awards. Some of these motion-picture artists may keep themselves solely working within the independent film circuit, while others may sooner or later cross the bridge to also contribute to mainstream cinema.

How It Began

Founded in 1984, the Spirit Awards was originally known as the FINDIE (Friends of Independents) Awards. Two years after, it was renamed the Independent Spirit Awards. Since 2007, the ceremony was slightly changed to Film Independent Spirit Awards, which paved way to it being simply addressed as the Spirit Awards.

The original FINDIE Awards was conceived by Jeanne Lucas and IFP/West (now known as Film Independent) President Anne Kimmel. Film Independent is a non-profit organization dedicated to independent film and independent filmmakers.

Since its humble beginnings, the awards’ mission has always been clear: to bring the entire film community together in celebration of the best of independent filmmaking. It may be a considerably young award-giving body compared to other acclaimed ones that mostly cater to mainstream and guild-recognized works, but it has truly thrived through the years as it continues to recognize the voice and hard work of independent filmmakers.

A Vanguard Event for the Independent Film Community

Being ultimately dedicated to independent works that don’t really get as much marketing and studio backing as commercial movies, the Spirit Awards puts remarkable independent films into the spotlight. And so, while there are a couple of really outstanding and influential works with some generous studio backing (and also getting rightful nominations in the likes of the Oscars), about two-thirds of films getting nominated for the Spirit Awards are not yet widely known. Because of this, it becomes a prestigious way of promoting an independent film to a wider audience with the adequate support from a televised show seen in millions of homes and a comprehensive coverage by the international press.

Award Categories

Winners are awarded glass trophies depicting a bird sitting atop a pole with wrapped shoestrings dotted with film sprockets around it — symbolizing the shoestring budget of independent films. The award categories include: Best Feature, Best First Feature, John Cassavetes Award (best feature made for a budget under $500,000), Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best First Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Foreign Film, Best Documentary, Best Male Lead, Best Female Lead, Best Supporting Male, Best Supporting Female, and Robert Altman Award (given to one film’s director, casting director, and its ensemble cast). In the present season, it also features additional awards including the Piaget Producers Award, Acura Someone to Watch Award, and AVEENO Truer than Fiction Award.

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.

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