Your Film Independent Spirit Awards questions—answered.

How can I attend the awards ceremony?

We’d love to have you! Contact Jennifer Murby regarding ticket and table sales at 310 432 1253 or [email protected].

How do I submit my film?

Submissions for the 2017 Spirit Awards will begin August 9, 2016 and run through October 11, 2016. A link to the 2017 submission form can be found here. For reference, the 2017 rules & regulations are available via the link on the left.

How can I can advertise my film/my film’s screenings to the Spirit Awards voting body?

We have a number of ways to get your film in front of Spirit Awards voters. Contact [email protected] for more information.

Who can tell me more about submitting my film?

Email [email protected].

What’s the deadline for 2017 Spirit Awards submissions?

Regular Deadline: Tuesday, September 20, 2016. Final Deadline: Tuesday, October 11, 2016.

Are there extensions on entries?

Late entries will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Inquiries can be made by emailing [email protected] or calling 310 432 1249.

When are nominations announced for the 2017 Spirit Awards?

The 2017 Spirit Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, November 22, 2016.

What makes a film eligible for a Spirit Award?

A PDF of the Spirit Awards official rules and regulations is available via the link on the top left of this page.

Who decides which films are nominated?

Experts in the field. Three nominating committees are made up of members of the film community — one each for American Narrative films, Documentary films and International Narrative films. Committees may include film critics, film programmers, actors, producers, directors, writers, cinematographers, editors, past nominees and winners, and members of Film Independent’s Board of Directors.

There are three additional nominating committees for our Producers, Someone to Watch and Truer Than Fiction grant awards. These committees select three nominees, including the winner, for each of the specific grant awards.

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

These are the Film Independent Spirit Awards grant awards for emerging filmmakers. 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; the Truer than Fiction Award is designed to support an emerging director of American documentary films.

I’m a filmmaker. Can I apply for the grant awards?

The Producers, Someone to Watch and Truer Than Fiction grant awards are closed submissions only. Filmmakers and/or their representatives cannot submit for these awards. For more information about the grant awards, please email: [email protected].

What is the Spirit Awards nomination process?

It’s a rigorous process. All eligible submitted films are distributed to the appropriate committees and are discussed at regular meetings throughout the fall. The nominees in each category are determined by the committees during final deliberation meetings, held just before the nominations announcement.

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

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

  • Uniqueness of vision
  • Original, provocative subject matter
  • 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”?

Films that are made with lower budgets, ranging from microbudgets up to $20 million. This range includes Tarnation ($220,000) and House of Sand and Fog ($18 million).

Didn’t the budget ceiling for nominated films used to be lower?

The Film Independent Board of Directors never actually set a budget ceiling for Spirit Award films prior to 2006.

The task of setting a budget ceiling—of deciding which films should be considered for nomination and which should not—was given each year to the Spirit Awards Nominating Committees. Some years, as in 1995, the committees nominated films with budgets as high as $22 million (Bullets Over Broadway).

Typically, the ceiling has hovered between $16-$18 million. The Board of Directors was reluctant to set a hard-and-fast limit in the past, but at the request of the Spirit Awards Nominating Committees to give the committees more specific direction, the Board fixed the budget ceiling at $20 million in 2006.

Do you accept short films?

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

Do you accept animated films?

Of course! (As long as they meet all other eligibility requirements.)

What are the categories for nomination?

The Spirit Awards nomination categories are as follows:

  • Best Feature
  • Best Director
  • Best Screenplay
  • Best First Feature
  • Best First Screenplay
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Editing
  • John Cassavetes Award*
  • Best Female Lead
  • Best Male Lead
  • Best Supporting Female
  • Best Supporting Male
  • Best Documentary
  • Best International Film

*John Cassavetes Award winner selected by the Spirit Awards nominating committee(s)

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 six qualifying film festivals, it must have screened on its own for at least one week in a commercial theater in the US, during the 2016 calendar year.

What are the six qualifying film festivals for the 2017 Film Independent Spirit Awards?

The LA Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, New York Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival and Toronto International 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


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.

Note: 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 isn’t a U.S. narrative feature as defined above will be considered an international film, eligible only for the Best International Film and Best Documentary categories.

My film is a foreign production but is in English and has lead actors who are American. Does this qualify as an American entry?

No. Please refer to the American narrative feature question/answer above.

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

Yes. International documentaries are also eligible for Best Documentary.

Why are features made by first-time directors and features made for under $500,000 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 $500,000 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.

Who votes on the winners of the Spirit Awards after the Nominating Committees select the nominees?

Eligible, registered voting Members of Film Independent and IFP 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 grant 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 is a non-profit arts organization. Its voting Members include filmmakers, film industry leaders and film lovers.

Anyone passionate about the art of film can become a Member and vote for the winners of the Spirit Awards. We invite you to visit our Membership page and become a Member today.

PLEASE NOTE: You must be a registered Film Independent Member no later than Tuesday, December 6, 2016 to be eligible for full voting benefits.

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

You may only vote on 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 films as possible. After the nominations are announced, the Spirit Awards website will provide details about the various ways voting Members can view the films.

How do voting members see the nominated films?

Film Independent and IFP work together to host free members-only screenings in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Minneapolis prior to the Spirit Awards ceremony. Film Independent also invites nominees to participate in a DVD screener mailing/online viewing initiative that allows voters to receive nominated films by mail and/or view online.

If you are a Spirit Awards nominee and would like to participate in this program, please email Evan Ward-Henninger at [email protected].