2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards Filmmaker Grant Winners Announced by Brian Tyree Henry and Lena Waithe

Contact: Melanie Bates, Film Independent
Tel: 323.556.9338 or mbates@filmindpendent.org

Gladys Santos, Ginsberg/Libby
Tel: 323.645.6800 or gladys.santos@ginsberglibby.com


Spirit Awards Winners To Be Revealed on Saturday, February 23
Broadcast Live on IFC at 5:00 pm ET / 2:00 pm PT

LOS ANGELES (January 5, 2019) – Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards, announced the winners of its four filmmaker grants today at its annual Spirit Awards Nominee Brunch held at BOA Steakhouse in West Hollywood. Emmy and Tony nominee Brian Tyree Henry (If Beale Street Could Talk, Widows, Atlanta) and Emmy award winner and Spirit Award nominee Lena Waithe (The Chi, Masters of None, Ready Player One) co-hosted the event and handed out the honors. Winners for the remaining categories will be revealed at the 2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, February 23. The Spirit Awards are the primary fundraiser for Film Independent’s year-round programs, which cultivate the careers of emerging filmmakers and promote diversity in the industry. The awards ceremony will be broadcast live exclusively on IFC at 5:00 pm ET / 2:00 pm PT.

Previous Spirit Awards grant winners include Effie T. Brown (Producers Award), Justin Chon (Someone To Watch Award), Elizabeth Chai Vaserhelyi (Truer Than Fiction Award), Lynn Shelton (Someone To Watch Award), Nanfu Wang (Truer Than Fiction Award) and Chloe Zhaó (Bonnie Award).

“The Spirit Awards grants provide direct, unrestricted and needed support to remarkably talented filmmakers, both emerging and mid-career,” said Film Independent President Josh Welsh. “We’re so proud of this year’s filmmakers and look forward to seeing their new work in years to come.”

Debra Granik received the second Bonnie Award. Bonnie Tiburzi Caputo joined American Airlines in 1973 at age 24, becoming the first female pilot to fly for a major U.S. airline. In her honor, the Bonnie Award recognizes a mid-career female director with a $50,000 unrestricted grant sponsored by American Airlines. Finalists for the award were Tamara Jenkins and Karyn Kusama.

Shrihari Sathe received the Producers Award. The award honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality, independent films. The annual award, in its 22nd year, includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant. Finalists for the award were Jonathan Duffy and Kelly Williams and Gabrielle Nadig.

Alex Moratto, director of Sócrates, received the Someone to Watch Award. The award recognizes talented filmmakers of singular vision who have not yet received appropriate recognition. The award is in its 25th year and includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant. Finalists for the award were Ioana Uricaru, director of Lemonade and Jeremiah Zagar, director of We The Animals.

Bing Liu, director of Minding The Gap, received the Truer Than Fiction Award. The award is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not received significant recognition. The award is in its 24th year and includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant. Finalists for the award were Alexandria Bombach, director of On Her Shoulders and Ramell Ross, director of Hale County This Morning, This Evening.

This year marks the 34th edition of the awards show that celebrates the best of independent film. Aubrey Plaza will host the show and Lena Waithe is the 2019 Spirit Awards Honorary Chair.

To learn more about attending the Spirit Awards and supporting Film Independent please contact Jennifer Murby, Associate Director of Institutional Giving, jmurby@filmindependent.org.

For sponsorship opportunities, please contact Albina Oks, Director of Corporate Sponsorship, aoks@filmindependent.org.

Download the Film Independent Spirit Awards logo at filmindependent.org/press

View a list of this year’s nominees

Media Credential Applications: filmindependent.org/press/



Now in its 34th year, the Film Independent Spirit Awards is an annual celebration honoring artist-driven films made with an economy of means by filmmakers whose films embody independence and originality. The Spirit Awards recognizes the achievements of American independent filmmakers and promotes the finest independent films of the year to a wider audience.

The Film Independent Spirit Awards are sponsored by Premier Sponsors American Airlines, AT&T, IFC and Subaru of America, Inc. FIJI Water is the Official Water. Getty Images is the Official Photographer. TOWN & COUNTRY EVENT RENTALS is the Exclusive Rental Company.


Film Independent is the nonprofit arts organization that champions creative independence in visual storytelling and supports a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision. Film Independent helps filmmakers make their movies, builds an audience for their projects, and works to diversify the film industry. Film Independent’s Board of Directors, filmmakers, staff and constituents is comprised of an inclusive community of individuals across ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race and sexual orientation. Anyone passionate about film can become a Member, whether you are a filmmaker, industry professional or a film lover.

In addition to producing the Spirit Awards, Film Independent produces Film Independent Presents, a year-round screening series for its members that offers unique cinematic experiences for the Los Angeles creative community and the general public.

Through annual screenings and events, Film Independent provides access to a network of like-minded artists who are driving creativity in the film industry. Film Independent’s Artist Development program offers free Labs for selected writers, directors, producers and documentary filmmakers and presents year-round networking opportunities. Project Involve is Film Independent’s signature program dedicated to fostering the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry.

For more information or to become a Member, visit filmindependent.org.

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