FAQ

Your Film Independent Spirit Awards questions—answered.

Official rules, regulations and eligibility requirements for the 2023 Film Independent Spirit Awards:

Film Submissions (PDF)
Television Submissions (PDF)

How do I submit my project to be considered for the 2023 Film Independent Spirit Awards?

We will accept submissions for the 2022 Spirit Awards from August 23, 2022 through October 4, 2022. A link to this year’s official submission forms are available on our submissions page. Detailed information about this year’s Spirit Awards rules, regulations and eligibility requirements are available via the links at the top of this page.

What’s the deadline for 2023 Spirit Awards submissions?

Early Deadline: Tuesday, September 6, 2022 (Film submissions only)
Regular Deadline: Tuesday, September 20, 2022
Final Deadline: Tuesday, October 4, 2022
Extended Arts Circle & Filmmaker Pro Deadline: Friday, October 7, 2022 (see below)

Do you grant extensions on entries?

We offer an extended deadline to Film Independent Arts Circle and Filmmaker Pro Members. The extended deadline is Friday, October 7, 2022. If you have questions about deadlines, please email spiritawards@filmindependent.org.

When will Spirit Awards nominations be announced?

The 2023 Spirit Awards nominations announcement for all film categories will be Tuesday, November 22, 2022. The announcement for all television categories will be Tuesday, December 13, 2022.

What makes a film/series eligible for a Spirit Award?

PDFs outlining Spirit Awards rules, regulations and eligibility requirements are available via the links at the top of this page.

Who decides which films/series are nominated?

Film Independent assembles nominating committees comprised of passionate, working members of the film community. Committees typically include a mix of film critics, programmers, producers, directors, writers, cinematographers, editors and actors, as well as past Spirit Award nominees and winners, and members of Film Independent’s Board of Directors. Film Independent staff are not voting members of any of our nominating committees. We have separate committees for American Narrative, International and Documentary films. We also have separate committees for our scripted and non-scripted television categories.

What are the Producers, Someone to Watch and Truer Than Fiction Awards?

These are the Film Independent Spirit Awards Emerging Filmmaker Awards. The Producers Award is designed to support an emerging producer of American narrative films; the Someone to Watch Award is designed to support an emerging director of American narrative films; and the Truer than Fiction Award is designed to support an emerging director of American documentary films.

Can I apply for the Spirit Awards Emerging Filmmaker Awards?

The Producers, Someone to Watch and Truer Than Fiction Awards are closed submissions only, meaning filmmakers and/or their representatives cannot submit for these awards. Every August, Film Independent solicits suggestions from professionals in the independent film landscape for filmmakers to consider for the Emerging Filmmaker Awards. Filmmakers must have a new film currently in the festival cycle to be considered. If your film is currently playing festivals, and you would like to be suggested for this award, please reach out to the festival’s director or programmers, and have them send a recommendation email to: spiritawards@filmindependent.org.

Are there any new categories for this year’s Spirit Awards?

Yes! Film Independent has changed all acting categories, for both film and television, to be gender neutral. This means that all performers can be nominated together, regardless of their gender or non-binary status. The updated film performance categories are Best Lead Performance and Best Supporting Performance, each of which will have up to ten nominees. A new film category has been added as well: Best Breakthrough Performance (five nominees). The modified television performance category is now Best Lead Performance in a New Scripted Series, with the addition of Best Supporting Performance in a New Scripted Series (up to ten nominees for both).

Is there a budget ceiling for nominated films?

The new budget ceiling for all feature films is $30 million (formerly $22.5 million), and the new budget ceiling for John Cassavetes Award qualification is $1 million (formerly $500,000).

Do you accept short films?

No. All submitted films must be at least 70 minutes long.

Do you accept animated films?

Yes, as long as they meet all other eligibility requirements.

What is the window that a series must have played in, in order to qualify for the Spirit Awards television categories?

The 2023 Spirit Awards will recognize new series airing during the eligibility period of January 1, 2022 – December 31, 2022.

Can I submit a television series that is in its second or third season?

No. The Spirit Awards television categories are for new series that have aired only one season.

Can I submit to all five television categories?

Only series eligible to submit in the category of Best New Scripted Series are eligible to submit for Best Lead Performance and Best Supporting Performance. All series submitted for Best New Scripted are automatically considered for Best Ensemble Cast. One series will be awarded Best Ensemble Cast at the discretion of the Nominating Committee.

What is the Spirit Awards nomination process?

It’s a rigorous process that begins in late summer and runs until the nominations are announced. Eligible submitted films are distributed to the appropriate committees and discussed at regular meetings throughout the fall and winter. The nominees in each category are determined by the committees during final deliberation meetings, held just prior the nominations announcement(s).

How do the Nominating Committees determine if a film is “independent”?

The Spirit Awards Nominating Committees consider and apply the following guidelines in making their selections:

Uniqueness of vision
Original, provocative subject matter
Diversity (on camera and behind the camera)
Economy of means
Percentage of financing from independent sources

Films that are made with an “economy of means” and are fully financed by a studio or an “indie” studio division may still be considered independent if the subject matter is original and provocative. In other words, Film Independent does not, as of 1994, define “independent” strictly on the basis of financing. (The first studio film we honored was Darnell Martin’s I Like It Like That from Columbia Pictures in 1994.)

What do you mean by “economy of means”?

First, we are only considering films that are made with lower budgets, ranging from microbudgets up to $30 million. Second, ‘economy of means’ means that, whatever their budget, the filmmakers stretched every dollar and used every resource at their disposal to make the best and most ambitious film they possibly could.

What are the categories for nomination?

The Spirit Awards nomination categories are as follows:

Feature Film Categories

Best Feature
Best Director
Best Screenplay
Best First Feature
Best First Screenplay
Best Cinematography
Best Editing
John Cassavetes Award*
Best Lead Performance
Best Supporting Performance
Best Breakthrough Performance
Best Documentary
Best International Film
Robert Altman Award

*John Cassavetes Award winner selected by the Spirit Awards Nominating Committee(s)

Television Series Categories

Best New Scripted Series
Best New Non-Scripted or Documentary Series
Best Lead Performance in a Scripted Series
Best Supporting Performance in a Scripted Series
Best Ensemble Cast in a Scripted Series

I screened my film in a commercial theater as part of a film festival, does that qualify as a commercial theatrical run?

No. Unless the film qualifies through one of our qualifying film festivals, it must have screened on its own for at least one week in a commercial theater in the US, during the 2021 calendar year. Please note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the 2023 Spirit Awards only, films that had a VOD distribution deal through which the film was exhibited virtually, or via commercial streaming or VOD service, will be eligible. Films must have participated in a fee-based service for which viewers purchased a “ticket” or paid a rental fee, or a subscription was required.

What are the qualifying film festivals for the Film Independent Spirit Awards?

Sundance Film Festival, SXSW Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, Tribeca Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival.

How does the Spirit Awards define an “American” narrative feature?

The Spirit Awards defines an “American production” as:

A film in which U.S. citizens or permanent residents are credited in at least two of the following positions: director, writer or producer. This can be fulfilled by one person with multiple duties or by separate individuals

OR

The film is set, in significant part, in the United States and/or has significant American content.

The Spirit Awards nominating committees and Film Independent reserve the right to determine if a film qualifies as an International or American Narrative. The language and/or citizenship/nationality of a film’s cast are not taken into consideration.

How does the Spirit Awards define an “international” film?

Every narrative film that is not a U.S. narrative feature as defined above will be considered an international film, eligible only for Best International Film.

Does an international film entry qualify for any categories other than Best International Film?

International documentaries are eligible for Best Documentary. If your film is an international narrative feature (as defined above), it is only eligible for Best International Film.

Why are features made by first-time directors and features made for under $1,000,000 sometimes nominated in the Best Feature category? Don’t they have their own categories to compete in?

The Spirit Awards American Narrative Nominating Committee first selects the Best Feature nominees from the entire pool of qualifying independent films, no matter what the budget level or the experience of the filmmakers. After those features are chosen, the committee considers only films directed by first-time directors for the Best First Feature category, and only films made for budgets under $1,000,000 for the John Cassavetes Award category.

The same process applies to Best Director and Best Screenplay. No film may be nominated for both Best Feature and Best First Feature (i.e. no “double-dipping”). The underlying philosophy is to spread the wealth among nominees while still guaranteeing that the Best Feature category represents the best overall in independent film, regardless of budget or the filmmakers’ level of experience.

I submitted my film last year, and it meets the requirements for this year. May I resubmit?

Yes, as long as your film was not nominated in any category in previous years.

Can I invite members of the nominating committees to a screening of my film or send them any materials?

No. The identities of the nominating committee members remain anonymous and confidential. Please follow the directions on the Spirit Awards submission form and submit all screening schedules, screeners and materials to the Spirit Awards nominations staff.

Once the nominating committees select the nominees, who votes to determine the winners of the Spirit Awards?

Only Film Independent Members vote on the Spirit Awards nominees to determine winners*. Voting takes place online through a secure third-party website. Only one ballot is counted per individual voter and all ballots are confidential. Ballots are tabulated by Integrity Voting Systems.

*The winners of the Producers, Someone to Watch and Truer Than Fiction Awards, and the winner of the John Cassavetes Award are chosen by the Spirit Awards Nominating Committee(s).

Who can become a Member and vote on the Spirit Awards?

Film Independent Members vote to determine the winners of the Spirit Awards in all categories except: The John Cassavetes Award, The Robert Altman Award, Someone to Watch Award, the Producer’s Award, and the Truer Than Fiction Award, which are selected by the Spirit Awards Nominating Committee(s). Members include filmmakers, film lovers and leaders in the entertainment industry. Anyone passionate about visual storytelling can become a Member and vote for the winners of the Spirit Awards.

You must be a current Film Independent Member no later than December 20, 2022 to be eligible for voting benefits.

How do voting Members view the nominated films?

All nominees are invited to participate in our Nominee Screener program, which provides nominees with the opportunity to share digital access to nominated titles via Film Independent’s Nominee Screening Room, powered by Vision Media. Additionally, as the voting body, Film Independent Members may be invited by studios to attend select hosted screenings and Q&A events during awards season, both online and in person (when safe).

If you are a Spirit Awards nominee and would like to participate in the Nominee Screener program, please email Evan Ward-Henninger at eward-henninger@filmindependent.org.

What happens if I don’t see one of the nominated films? Can I still vote in all the categories?

You may only vote in categories in which you have seen all of the nominated films. Your ballot will still be valid even if you do not vote in every available category.

Film Independent strongly encourages voting Members to see as many of the nominated titles as possible. After the nominations are announced, we provide details about the various ways voting Members can view the nominees.

Can I advertise my film to Film Independent Members?

Yes. We have a number of ways to get your film in front of our Members. Contact Rebecca Cavallari at rcavallari@filmindependent.org for more information.

How can I attend the awards ceremony?

To learn more about attending the Spirit Awards and supporting Film Independent, please contact Jennifer Murby at jmurby@filmindependent.org.

How can my company partner with the Spirit Awards?

Film Independent is a nonprofit arts organization and our partners are vital to our ability to support filmmakers. There are many opportunities to partner with the Spirit Awards and enjoy recognition, audience engagement and attendance benefits throughout awards season. To learn more about how your company can partner with us, contact Kate Walker D’Angelo at kwalker@filmindependent.org.

I’ve read this full FAQ and I still have questions about submitting my film. Is there someone I can talk to?

Of course! Send us an email at spiritawards@filmindependent.org.