Yesterday, in downtown Los Angeles at the Spirit Awards, John Waters was on stage rehearsing his lines, while producers, writers and crew watched. Morgan Spurlock was lead to his position for a run-through, while crew scurried to unload boxes and set up props inside the new main tent. Backstage, press and sponsor areas, as well as gifting lounges for VIPs were being built. The sun was shining brightly over L.A. Live, the new home of Film Independent Spirit Awards ahead of the arrival of tonight's throng of filmmakers, stars and indie film fans.
Given this year's 25th Anniversary of the Spirit Awards, it's no surprise that John Waters is in the mix again this year. He's a longtime host and friend of the event. M.C. duties this year fall on Eddie Izzard, with Ben Stiller as the honorary chair. Event insiders were touting a star-studded array of presenters who will take time off of the pre-Oscar party circuit to head downtown for the night. Among those on tap are Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Maria Bello, Pierce Brosnan, Mariah Carey, Rosario Dawson, Matt Dillon, Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Colin Farrell, Jodie Foster, Andy Garcia, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ethan Hawke, Ed Helms, Taraji P. Henson, Emile Hirsch, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Dawn Hudson, Ken Jeong, Regina King, Lenny Kravitz, Carey Mulligan, Jeremy Renner, Ryan Reynolds, Amy Ryan, David Spade, Marisa Tomei, The Whitest Kids U Know, John Waters, Olivia Wilde and others.
Local news here in Los Angeles has been broadcasting stories about set up plans for that other big awards just north of here in Hollywood, tracking road closures, Wolfgang Puck's culinary creations and a brouhaha about a property owner who sold off the side of his building for a huge ad within camera shot of the Kodak Theatre (it's coming down apparently and there was a warrant out for the owner's arrest – damn, don't screw with these people!), but in downtown LA, the focus is on the independents and the 25th anniversary of the popular show. A number of changes are on tap this year.
"We're going for a downtown, late-night cafe sort of feel," explained Jamie McGurk, the awards show's new executive producer who took over from long-time executive producer Diana Zahn-Storey (now in an advisory role). "We want to keep it fast-paced and at around two hours."
Other changes will also be apparent to long-time Spirit Awards attendees tonight. The on-stage song parodies are out and the music, according to McGurk will be edgier and more fun (attendees will get a double-CD of songs from the event). "Change is always good, and you can tell by the music it's going to be a bit more lively." DJ Russian Bear will serenade the show and there will also be another DJ for the pre-awards cocktail party (Oh my, will there be rain?)
Among the musical acts taking the stage will be Canadian band Anvil, the subjects of Best Documentary nominee "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" by Sacha Gervasi. "[They're] so excited about it – it's sort of the culmination of a dream," McGurk said.
What to Wear?
On Wednesday night, the indieWIRE folks attended a party for Best Doc Oscar nominee "The Cove" after attending an event at AMPAS toasting all of its non-fiction noms. One question several people asked us at both events…. What the hell do you wear now to the Spirit Awards? Before, the whole event started at 11 a.m. and it was right on the beach in Santa Monica. It was a daytime event that in most years was blessed with California sunshine (though it could get chilly by the time guests rolled over to the IFC party at the nearby Shutters Hotel). People both came in suits and in shorts. It was across the map fashion-wise in Santa Monica. But now it's going to be at night and the beach vibe will be gone…
So, we asked a round of advice…
"Not formal. Probably no sunglasses. It will run the whole gammit, but think of downtown nightclub – a bit more urban," McGurk and Film Independent's Sean McManus advised. "I've found the guys asking me more about what to wear then the women," she added. Film Independent Executive Director Dawn Hudson arrived as we chatted, after being caught in LA traffic. Hudson started giving some do's and dont's but then caught herself. "There are no rules… It's fun. Maybe no tuxedos, but then again, maybe everyone wears tuxedos," she laughed.
OK, so not a problem, the fashion will again run the gamut and the event is meant to be fun and low key – now with a bit of downtown pizazz. Not too far from previous years.
And despite the location and time change, there will also be the familiar main tent, albeit a larger one. The tables and chairs are deliberately set up to be mis-matched – "We didn't want it to look like a banquet," McGurk added. It's more like a chi-chi backyard party – one in which it just so happens that a bunch of stars show up. The tent is a bit more cavernous then years past though, and it accommodates 178 more people this time around, for a total of 1,678.
"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," Anne Thompson reported earlier this week, after a chat with FIND's Dawn Hudson. "A Wolfgang Puck dinner (he also caters the Governors’ Ball on Oscar night), a live name band, and dancing are promised instead," she wrote.
“We want to change it up,” Hudson told Thompson. “It’s like changing your vacation from the beach to the mountains. This community is very cohesive. The players don’t change a lot.”
The move came as a way of bringing more attention to the Spirit Awards.
“IFC recommended the location and time changes to this year’s Spirit Awards to commemorate the 25th anniversary and to broaden the audience of the live telecast," IFC head Jennifer Caserta told indieWIRE about the move to downtown LA this year.
"It’s IFC’s way of celebrating the influence that independent films and filmmakers have on cinema and pop culture." The Spirit Awards will air live and uncut on IFC tonight at 8 p.m. PT (11 p.m. ET). There will also be a live arrivals show on MySpace beginning at 5 p.m. with host Gerrad Hall and guests, including Morgan Spurlock, giving live coverage of the red…err… blue carpet outside the main venue. And check out the Live Tweets from our friend, and Roadside Attractions exec Dustin Smith as well as Nguyen Tran (try and be nice Dusty).
And of course, indieWIRE will have the winners, images and ebb and flow from the awards throughout the evening here at indieWIRE.com.
"Get here early, talk to people and drink a lot," was additional advice we heard from an insider. "Come in, introduce yourselves. We're here to support one another…"
— the Spirit Award nominations on page two —
The complete list of 25th Spirit Award nominations:
BEST FEATURE (Award given to the Producer)
“(500) Days Of Summer,” Producers: Mason Novick, Jessica Tuchinsky, Mark Waters, Steven J. Wolfe
“Amreeka,” Producers: Paul Barkin, Christina Piovesan
“Precious,” Producers: Lee Daniels, Gary Magness, Sarah Siegel-Magness
“Sin Nombre,” Producer: Amy Kaufman
“The Last Station,” Producers: Bonnie Arnold, Chris Curling, Jens Meuer
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, “A Serious Man”
Lee Daniels, “Precious”
Cary Joji Fukunaga, “Sin Nombre”
James Gray, “Two Lovers”
Michael Hoffman, “The Last Station”
BEST FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and producer)
“A Single Man,” Director: Tom Ford, Producers: Tom Ford, Andrew Miano, Robert Salerno, Chris Weitz
“Crazy Heart,” Director: Scott Cooper, Producers: T Bone Burnett, Judy Cairo, Rob Carliner, Scott Cooper, Robert Duvall
“Easier With Practice,” Director: Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Producer: Cookie Carosella
“Paranormal Activity,” Director: Oren Peli, Producer: Jason Blum, Oren Peli
“The Messenger,” Director: Oren Moverman, Producers: Mark Gordon, Lawrence Inglee, Zach Miller
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
(Given to the best feature made for under $500,000; award given to the writer, director, and producer)
“Big Fan” Writer/Director: Robert Siegel; Producers: Elan Bogarin, Jean Kouremetis
“Humpday” Writer/Director/Producer: Lynn Sheldon
“The New Year Parade” Writer/Director: Tom Quinn; Producers: Steve Beal, Tom Quinn
“Treeless Mountain” Writer/Director: So Yong Kim; Producers: Bradley Rust Gray, Ben Howe, So Yong Kim, Lars Knudsen, Jay Van Hoy
“Zero Bridge” Writer/Director: Tariq Tapa; Producers: Josee Lajoie, Hilal Ahmed Langoo, Tariq Tapa
Alessandro Camon, Oren Moverman, “The Messenger”
Michael Hoffman, “The Last Station
Lee Toland Krieger, “The Vicious Kind”
Greg Mottola, “Adventureland”
Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber, “(500) Days Of Summer”
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Sophie Barthes, “Cold Souls”
Scott Cooper, “Crazy Heart”
Cherien Dabis, “Amreeka”
Geoffrey Fletcher, “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire”
Tom Ford, David Scearce, “A Single Man”
BEST FEMALE LEAD
Maria Bello, “Downloading Nancy”
Helen Mirren, “The Last Station”
Gwentyth Paltrow, “Two Lovers”
Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire”
Nisreen Faour, “Amreeka”
BEST MALE LEAD
Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
Colin Firth, “A Single Man”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “(500) Days Of Summer”
Souléymane Sy Savané, “Goodbye Solo”
Adam Scott, “The Vicious Kind”
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Dina Korzun, “Cold Souls”
Samantha Morton, “The Messenger”
Natalie Press, “Fifty Dead Men Walking”
Mia Wasikowska, “That Evening Sun”
BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Jemaine Clement, “Gentleman Broncos”
Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger”
Christian McKay, “Me and Orson Welles”
Raymond McKinnon, “That Evening Sun”
Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station”
Roger Deakins, “A Serious Man”
Adriano Goldman, “Sin Nombre”
Anne Misawa, “Treeless Mountain”
Andrij Parekh, “Cold Souls”
Peter Zeitlinger, “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans”
BEST DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director)
“Anvil! The Story of Anvil” Director: Sacha Gervasi
“Food, Inc.” Director: Robert Kenner
“More Than a Game” Director: Kristopher Belman
“October Country” Directors: Donal Mosher, Michael Palmieri
“Which Way Home” Director: Rebecca Cammisa
BEST FOREIGN FILM (Award given to the director)
“A Prophet” (France), Director: Jacques Audiard
“An Education” (UK/France), Director: Lone Scherfig
“Everlasting Moments” (Sweden), Director: Jan Troell
“Mother” (South Korea), Director: Bong Joon-Ho
“The Maid” (Chile), Director: Sebastian Silva
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
(Given to one film’s director, casting director, and its ensemble cast)
Robert Altman Award
“A Serious Man”
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Casting Directors: Ellen Chenoweth, Rachel Tenner
Cast: Richard Kind, Sari Lennick, Jessica McManus, Michael Stuhlbarg, Aaron Wolff
PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD
Karin Chien, “The Exploding Girl,” “Santa Mesa”
Larry Fessenden, “I Sell the Dead,” “The House of the Devil”
Dia Sokol, “Beeswax,” “Nights & Weekends”
SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
Kyle Patrick Alvarez, “Easier With Practice”
Asiel Norton, “Redland”
Tariq Tapa, “Zero Bridge”
TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
NNatalia Almada, “El General”
Jessica Oreck, “Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo”
Bill Ross, Turner Ross, “45365”