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2018 Independent Spirit Awards: The Best Things Betty Gabriel, Kogonada, Chloé Zhao, and More Told Us From the Blue Carpet

Stars of weekend box-office winners and micro-budget labors of love shared an afternoon on the beach in the name of indie cinema.

Betty Gabriel arrives at the 33rd Film Independent Spirit Awards, in Santa Monica, Calif2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards - Red Carpet, Santa Monica, USA - 03 Mar 2018

Betty Gabriel arrives at the 33rd Film Independent Spirit Awards

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Before donning formalwear for Sunday’s more-austere Academy Awards, Oscar hopefuls from “Get Out,” “Call Me by Your Name,” “I, Tonya,” and “Lady Bird” gathered beachside in Santa Monica for the 33rd Annual Film Independent Spirit Awards. “I hear it’s very boozy,” said first-time attendee Matt Spicer, who later accepted the Best First Feature trophy for directing “Ingrid Goes West.” “I just have to wait until our categories are gone to start drinking…I don’t want to go up wasted onstage if we have to go up.”

Returning hosts Nick Kroll and John Mulaney cracked Harvey Weinstein and peach jokes before the honors — voted on by 6,400-plus members — were presented in nearly 20 categories. Once again, IndieWire was on the blue carpet chatting up the nominees: here are their most entertaining and though-provoking musings.

Betty Gabriel, “Get Out”

“I’m not going to lie, it feels pretty good [that awards season is ending]…I look forward to what have been some of my faves this year getting recognized. I mean a lot of them are also getting recognized at the Oscars, but a lot of them weren’t, and I was like, ‘Why?’ I thought ‘[The] Florida Project’ was going to get more nominations it’s so beautiful. And it’s painfully honest and important and something we need to all become more in tune with.”

Charles D. King, “Mudbound” and “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” producer

“It’s fun, it’s festive, it’s like the one awards gathering that’s just really low-key. Also, the presentation: no one’s taking themselves seriously. But also, too, there’ve been some really powerful speeches here that I’ve been [able to] hear through the years. I came a lot before with clients when I was a partner at WME…I remember the year that Ryan Coogler won for ‘Fruitvale Station,’ and it was just this signature needle-moving moment that I felt like [was] a sign of things to come, and I just remember how powerful that speech was.”

Peter Spears, “Call Me by Your Name” producer

“This movie got put together in the truest sense of independent filmmaking, and a global village of producers from Brazil and France and Italy and America, and our DP from Thailand, and our actors from the States and the UK and France. Honestly, it just took a universal village to make this movie, and nobody came to make this movie to make money, because there was no money. So it was only because they were moved by the story, and they were moved by the message that love is love is love. That just feels to me to be the truest and the most organic way to make a movie.”

“Ingrid Goes West”

Matt Spicer, director of “Ingrid Goes West”

“I forgot they were announcing the nominations and I was home with my family for Thanksgiving, we were at lunch and I started getting all these messages and people started calling me, and I was just like, ‘What is going on?’ And I looked and it was like, ‘Congrats, congrats, congrats, congrats’ — I literally had to Google my own name to see what they were congratulating me for, and then I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ So it was a complete shock, we never thought that this would happen. I’m so happy and it was such an independent production, we really were very scrappy…At one point I walked through a glass door in front of the entire crew, we were losing locations, the wildfire destroyed one of our sets.”

Chloé Zhao, writer/director/producer of “The Rider”

“There are so many filmmakers that I feel like I came up together with and we struggle — as the industry goes up and down — we go through very similar things…It feels like a big family, and that’s what this platform provides us, and it’s incredible.”

Kogonada, director of “Columbus”

“I’m a little socially awkward, so this is all a bit of a struggle, but it’s really great to have this moment to reunite, and connect, and have this sort of last moment together [with the makers of ‘Columbus’]. So that’s super meaningful and well worth my awkwardness.”

Haley Lu Richardson, “Columbus”

“I read so many scripts where they’re beautiful scripts, and I most of the time cry at the end if it’s a good script, but I also feel like there’s such a clear message of like, ‘This is what you need to feel, and this is the theme, and this is the lesson at the end of the movie that you need to learn.’ With ‘Columbus,’ it’s so quiet, which makes it open for interpretation, and makes people that appreciate that type of movie, it makes them search inside themselves to fine why they connect to it. It’s almost like a deeper level of connection when you have to figure it out for yourself, or when things are coming up that you’re not being forced to feel.”

William Oldroyd, director of “Lady Macbeth”

“People say [this ceremony]’s very irreverent, quite rowdy, and I think that sounds great. And I’m looking forward to that. Because we’ve been to some of these where you just basically sit down for three-and-a-half hours, without a drink; it’s the worst sort of school speech day. And this actually feels like maybe you can move around, you can see some of the people whose films you really loved, you get to meet them and it feels like a bit more informal.”

Antonio Méndez Esparza, writer and director of “Life and Nothing More”

“For me, the only movies I can make are like this. I really embrace the freedom that independent cinema gives you. Because independent cinema, in a way, it always starts with a love, a passion…And even before financing, they just start doing it. So in that way, I think I keep that very much alive.”

Shinobu Terajima, “Oh Lucy!”

“I would love to see [her Best Female Lead competition] Frances McDormand in person.”

Last Men in Aleppo

“Last Men in Aleppo”

Courtesy of Grasshopper Film

Kareem Abeed, “Last Men in Aleppo” producer

“By the support of the free world [I received my visa in time to attend tomorrow’s Oscars].”

Feras Fayyad, director of “Last Men in Aleppo”

“We are really looking forward to sharing a statement to stop the war in Syria, and send a message for Mr. Putin to stop bombing over our country.”

Josh Welsh, Film Independent president

“The studios are so focused on one type of filmmaking, and they do it very well, and they put all their money towards it, and they’re making gazillions of dollars. It’s the tentpoles, some of which are amazing, and I go see them. The rest of the landscape has been turned over to independent film and filmmakers, and I think it’s exciting…It’s not making independent film go away, it’s making it stronger, and that’s why at other award shows it’s predominantly independent films being celebrated. It’s where the great work is being done.”

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