Your Film Independent Spirit Awards questions—answered.

Official rules, regulations and eligibility requirements for the 2024 Film Independent Spirit Awards:

Film Submissions (PDF)
Television Submissions (PDF)

How do I submit my project to be considered for the 2024 Film Independent Spirit Awards?

We will accept submissions for the 2024 Spirit Awards from August 22, 2023 through October 3, 2023. A link to this year’s official submission forms will be available on our submissions page during that time. Detailed information about this year’s Spirit Awards rules, regulations and eligibility requirements are available via the links at the top of this page. The call for entries for the 2025 Spirit Awards will likely take place in August 2024.

What’s the deadline for 2024 Spirit Awards submissions?

Early Deadline: Tuesday, September 5, 2023
Regular Deadline: Tuesday, September 19, 2023
Final Deadline: Tuesday, October 3, 2023
Extended Arts Circle & Filmmaker Pro Deadline: Friday, October 6, 2023 (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 6, 2023. If you have questions about deadlines, please email sawards@filmindependent.org.

When will Spirit Awards nominations be announced?

The 2024 Spirit Awards nominations announcement for all film and television categories will be Tuesday, December 5, 2023.

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 sawards@filmindependent.org.

Do the Spirit Awards offer grants to filmmakers?

Spirit Awards-related grants are only provided to the recipients of the Emerging Filmmaker Awards. See above for information on how to be recommended for consideration for an Emerging Filmmaker Award. No other granting/funding takes place under the Spirit Awards banner. To learn more about how Film Independent supports filmmakers and their projects, please visit our Artist Development and Grants & Awards pages.

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

Yes! We’ve added a new television category: Best Breakthrough Performance (five nominees).

Is there a budget ceiling for nominated films?

The budget ceiling for all feature films, after tax incentives, is $30 million. The budget ceiling for John Cassavetes Award qualification is $1 million.

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 2024 Spirit Awards will recognize new series airing during the eligibility period of January 1, 2023 – December 31, 2023.

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 six television categories?

Only series eligible to submit in the category of Best New Scripted Series are eligible to submit for Best Lead Performance, Best Supporting Performance and Best Breakthrough 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 titles 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

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 official 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 Breakthrough Performance in a Scripted Series**
Best Ensemble Cast in a Scripted Series

** Best Breakthrough Performance is new to the Television Series categories for 2023. Best Breakthrough Performance nominations will be honoring actors making themselves known to wider audiences through noteworthy character portrayals. Performers may submit for Lead + Breakthrough consideration, Supporting + Breakthrough consideration, or just Breakthrough consideration. Ultimately, actors can only be nominated in either Lead, Supporting OR Breakthrough. Final determination on category will be per the discretion of the Nominating Committee.

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, in order to be eligible it must have screened on its own for at least one week in a commercial theater in the US during the 2023 calendar year, and/or had a VOD distribution deal through which the film was exhibited via commercial streaming or VOD service. 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. Virtual screenings at non-qualifying film festivals are ineligible.

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

Hot Docs Film Festival, 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


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, Robert Altman Award, Someone to Watch Award, Producers Award, Truer Than Fiction Award and Best Ensemble Cast in a New Scripted Series, 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 18, 2023 (January 5, 2024 for Arts Circle and Film Lover Members) to be eligible for voting benefits.

How can nominees screen their nominated film or series for voting Members? How do voting Members view the nominated films?

Nominees have the option to upload their nominated titles to the Nominee Screening Room, a private viewing site hosted by Vision Media. Voting-eligible Members can watch titles online during the voting consideration window, or stream via preferred devices.

Please email Evan Ward-Henninger at eward-henninger@filmindependent.org for more information.

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 sawards@filmindependent.org.