Hollywood was buzzing with 2019 awards season activity this past weekend, as a dreary LA winter was brightened—for few hours, at least—by the shine radiating off the surfaces of some of the industry’s most coveted filmmaker prizes. And no, we’re not talking about the gilt planetary orbs of the Golden Globes, though those are indeed very pretty and extremely useful for bludgeoning cat burglars into law-abiding submission. No. We’re talking about Film Independent’s Spirit Award Filmmaker Award trophies: four handsome glass obelisks happy to find their forever homes (and no less adept at crime fighting, should the need arise).
These awards—and the unrestricted cash grants they represent, totaling a whopping $125,000—were given out on January 5, at Film Independent’s annual Spirit Awards Nominee Brunch in West Hollywood. And whether rubbing shoulders with fellow nominees, plotting future collaborations or just kicking off a fun party weekend with some high-calorie breakfast foods, the brunch is always a great place for filmmakers of every strive to celebrate their camaraderie and honor a few of their peers deserving of some special recognition.
The awards were presented in a lively ceremony shepherded crack by Film Independent brunch co-hosts Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta, If Beale Street Could Talk) and Lena Waither (The Chi, Master of None). “The Spirit Awards grants provide direct, unrestricted and needed support to remarkable talented filmmakers,” said Film Independent President Josh Welsh.
This year’s prizes included the Bonnie Award (in its second year), the Producers Award, the Someone to Watch Award and the Truer Than Fiction Award. Watch the winners’ full acceptance speeches and learn more below:
Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone, Leave No Trace) received the second-ever Bonnie Award, named for American Airlines pilot Bonnie Tiburzi Caputo, who in 1973 became the first female pilot to fly for a major U.S. airline. The Bonnie Award recognizes a mid-career female director with a $50,000 unrestricted grant sponsored by American Airlines. Finalists for the award this year included Tamara Jenkins and Karyn Kusama. Granik is also nominated for Best Director for Leave No Trace at the 2019 Spirit Awards.
Shrihari Sathe (The Sweet Requiem, Screwdriver) received the 22nd annual Producers Award, honoring emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality independent films. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant. Finalists for the award this year included Jonathan Duffy and Kelly Williams, and Gabrielle Nadig. Sathe is also a Film Independent Producing Lab and Fast Track Fellow.
SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
Alex Moratto (Sócrates) received the 2th annual Someone to Watch Award, recognizing a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition. It includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant. Finalists for the award this year included Iona Uricaru (Lemonade) and Jeremiah Zagar (We the Animals). Moratto is also a Film Independent Directing Lab and Fast Track Fellow. Sócrates premiered at the 2018 LA Film Festival.
TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
Bing Liu (Minding the Gap) received the 24th annual Truer Than Fiction Award, presented to an emerging director of nonfiction features who has not yet received significant recognition. Recipients receive a $25,000 unrestricted grant. Finalists for the award this year also included Alexandria Bombach (On Her Shoulders) and RaMell Ross (Hale County This Morning, This Evening). Liu is a Film Independent Fellow with Minding the Gap, through the Film Independent Producing Lab and Fast Track.
To see who else is nominated at this year’s 34th Film Independent Spirit Awards click here. The 2019 Film Independent Sprit Awards will be held Saturday, February 23 back on the beach in Santa Monica and broadcast live EXCLUSIVELY on IFC at 5:00pm ET / 2:00pm PT.
The 2019 Spirit Awards is sponsored by Premier Sponsors American Airlines, AT&T, IFC and Subaru of America, Inc. Rocket Mortgage® by Quicken Loans® is the Official Sponsor of the Voting Process. FIJI Water is the Official Water. Hangar One Vodka and Maestro Dobel Tequila are the Official Spirits. JNSQ Wines is the Official Wine. Getty Images is the Official Photographer. Town & Country Event Rentals is the Exclusive Rental Company.
(Header, L-R: Alex Moratto, Bing Liu, Brian Tyree Henry, Lena Waithe, Anne Rosellini, Shrihari Sathe, Josh Welsh)