I’m not alone in having mixed feelings about the change of time and venue for the Independent Spirit awards this year. Ostensibly a response to both the award show’s 25th anniversary (celebrated in this Funny or Die video) and a bid to save money on mounting the beach-tent celebration in Santa Monica, I suspect that Film Independent director Dawn Hudson is drawn like a moth to flame to a chance to broadcast live the awards soiree on a Friday night in prime time (IFC, 8 PM, PT.). And she admits that some of the money saved by not going to the beach was used for a pre-Golden Globes Indie Spirit Nominees brunch.
This year, the show moves to downtown L.A.., where a tent will be erected on top of the L.A. Live Event Deck parking lot–the indie blue carpet will be at street level, and attendees will walk upstairs to the party. Hudson assures me that the main attraction for many in the indie film community–the chance to greet friends and hang for several hours before the actual show–will be repeated Friday night. The Jameson whiskey will start pouring at an extended cocktail party starting at 5:30 PM: the show doesn’t go on until 8. (Clearly, the drinking vibe will have a different dimension at night.) “People are passionate about the work, that’s why they’re here,” says Hudson. “They see their friends year after year, that’s the very heart of the event.”
Change is good, Hudson insists. Missing the beach, light lunch and song parodies will help the indie community not to fall into a rut, she feels. A Wolfgang Puck dinner (he also caters the Governors’ Ball on Oscar night), a live name band, and dancing are promised instead. “We want to change it up,” she says. “It’s like changing your vacation from the beach to the mountains. This community is very cohesive. The players don’t change a lot.”
Well, the ranks of agents, producers, talent, managers and distributors–among them Jonathan Seyring, Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula, Harvey Weinstein, Bob Berney, Michael Barker and Tom Bernard and James Schamus–will have lost some key players to attrition and hard times. But added to the mix will be new names like rookie filmmaker Tom Ford and some innovators who will change the future as the indie world realligns itself. Among them, new distribution entity Tribeca Films will be front and center in the cocktail chatter.
Another attraction of the show itself is the freedom–with an IFC live cable-cast–for the hosts and presenters to go wild and uncensored. John Waters–interviewed about the Spirits by KCRW’s Kim Masters–Sarah Silverman and Rainn Wilson all delivered hard-R content between Indie Spirit prizes. (Last year’s show won a WGA award, the Spirits’ second.)
This year’s host, Brit improv whiz Eddie Izzard, will be full of surprises: Hudson is as unprepared as the audience: she won’t know what he’s going to do until he does it. (UPDATE: USA Today interviews Izzard.) Presenters are often under-rehearsed and willing to try anything: memorable indie speakers include Ally Sheedy and the late Brittany Murphy. The awards themselves will have little impact on anything except to make the winners feel appreciated and validated. The Oscar contenders tend to be the big winners at the Spirits–sometimes, that’s all they get.