By Eugene Hernandez | Indiewire March 5, 2006 at 12:00AM
For the first time in memory, the Independent Spirit Awards honored a group of films that are likely to dominate the Academy Awards. Presented each year on the eve of the Oscars, the Independent Spirit Awards (presented by the recently re-branded Film Independent) honor work made outside the Hollywood system, with lower budgets and a "uniqueness of vision." Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain," Bennett Miller's "Capote," Paul Haggis' "Crash," and Duncan Tucker's "Transamerica," all nominated for multiple awards at tomorrow's Oscars, dominated the Spirit Awards this afternoon at the ceremony held in a tent, on the beach, in Santa Monica, CA. Each won two Independent Spirit Awards, while "Capote" also was honored with a special producing prize.
"Brokeback Mountain" won the award for best feature, while "Crash" won the prize for best first feature. Insiders chatting backstage during the show buzzed about which of the two films might win the Oscar for best picture tomorrow here in Southern California. "Brokeback" director Ang Lee won the award for best director at the event today. Screenwriter Dan Futterman was honored with the screenplay prize from the Spirit Awards for "Capote", and "Transamerica" writer and director Duncan Tucker was awarded the prize for best first screenplay.
Mora Stephens' "Conventioneers" won this year's John Cassavetes Award, honoring a film made for under $500,000.
Today's event, telecast live and uncensored on IFC, was hosted by salty, sassy comedian Sarah Silverman, who is currently starring in her own indie film ("Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic"). She mixed in a range of jokes about vaginas and the word "fuck" was prominently featured in multiple on stage remarks, testing the limits of IFC's slogan, "tv. uncut." Committees choose nominees for the Spirits, with the winners selected by the membership of FIND and branches of the IFP around the country (FIND recently split from the other IFP chapters and re-named itself Film Independent.)
In the acting awards, "Capote" star Philip Seymour Hoffman won the best actor prize, while Felicity Huffman was honored as best female lead. Supporting actor prizes went to Amy Adams for "Junebug" and Matt Dillon for "Crash."
Filmmaker Garrett Scott, who died earlier this week, won the Truer Than Fiction prize, along with his "Occupation: Dreamland" director Ian Olds. Acknowledging that Scott died of a heart attack this week, Olds' said he contemplated not attending the event today but praised his former filmmaking partner, saying, "He was an honest person. I accept this award on his behalf." Continuing he added, "I loved him like a brother, I miss him already."
The special award is one of three special prizes selected by separate juries and each includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant. "Capote" producer Caroline Baron won the AMC/American Express Producers Award, while Ian Gamazon and Neill Dela Llana received the Someone to Watch Award for "Cavite".
Accepting the cash prize, filmmaker Gamazon quipped, "Wow, $25,000, we just tripled our budget right there!"
The complete list of Independent Spirit Awards winners:
Best Feature: "Brokeback Mountain"
Producers: Diana Ossana and James Schamus
Best Director: Ang Lee, "Brokeback Mountain"
Best Screenplay: Dan Futterman, "Capote"
Best First Feature: "Crash"
Director: Paul Haggis
Producers: Cathy Schulman, Don Cheadle, Bob Yari, Mark R. Harris, Bobby Moresco, Paul Haggis
Best First Screenplay: Duncan Tucker, "Transamerica"
John Cassavetes Award: "Conventioneers"
(For the Best Feature made for under $500,000)
Director: Mora Stephens
Writers: Mora Stephens and Joel Viertel
Producer: Joel Viertel
Best Supporting Female: Amy Adams, "Junebug"
Best Supporting Male: Matt Dillon, "Crash"
Best Female Lead: Felicity Huffman, "Transamerica"
Best Male Lead: Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote"
Best Cinematography: Robert Elswit, "Good Night, and Good Luck"
Best Foreign Film: "Paradise Now"
Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Best Documentary: "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room"
Director: Alex Gibney
AMC/American Express Producers Award: Caroline Baron, "Capote", "Monsoon Wedding"
($25,000 unrestricted grant -- honors producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity, and vision required to produce quality independent films.)
IFC/Acura Someone To Watch Award: Ian Gamazon and Neill Dela Llana, "Cavite"
($25,000 unrestricted -- honors a director of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition.)
Truer Than Fiction Award: Ian Olds and Garrett Scott, "Occupation: Dreamland"
($25,000 unrestricted -- presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features.)
[Additional coverage from the awards weekend in Los Angeles, including iPOP photos, will be published in indieWIRE's special Awards Watch section.]