2015 Film Independent Spirit Awards Winners

The Film Independent Spirit Awards are very close to my heart as they're essentially the Oscars for indies and often foretell some of those awards as well. For the past several years many of the films which were nominated for (and eventually won) Spirit Awards went on to dominate the Academy Awards. As expected, it was an irreverent 30th Annual celebration. Unlike the staid Oscars, this event is a no-holds barred party held in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica.

A total of eight awards went to four movies on my Top 10 of 2014. Birdman won three awards, including Best Feature, Best Male Lead (Michael Keaton), and Best Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki). Boyhood's Richard Linklater was named Best Director while Patricia Arquette took top honors for Best Supporting Female. Julianne Moore was awarded Best Female Lead for her performance in Still Alice. Whiplash picked up two trophies including Best Supporting Male (J.K. Simmons) and Best Editing (Tom Cross).      

Film Independent is an open enrollment and non-profit membership organization that champions independent film and supports a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation, and uniqueness of vision. Film Independent helps filmmakers make their movies, builds the audience for their projects, and works to diversify the film industry. Anyone passionate about film can become a member, whether you are a filmmaker, film industry leader, or a film lover. In the interest of full disclosure, although I am a member of Film Independent, I did not participate in the nomination process. I did, however, vote for many of the winners.

Here are the winners of the 30th Film Independent Spirit Awards:

Best Feature:

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Producers: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole

Best Director:

Richard Linklater, Boyhood (IFC Films)

Best Screenplay:

Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler (Open Road Films)

Best First Feature:

Nightcrawler (Open Road Films)
Director: Dan Gilroy, Producers: Jennifer Fox, Tony Gilroy, Jake Gyllenhaal, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak

Best First Screenplay:

Justin Simien, Dear White People (Roadside Attractions/ Lionsgate)

John Cassavetes Award (For best feature made under $500,000):

Land Ho! (Sony Pictures Classics)
Writers/Directors: Aaron Katz, Martha Stephens, Producers: Christina Jennings, Mynette Louie, Sara Murphy

Best Supporting Female:

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood (IFC Films)

Best Supporting Male:

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics)

Best Female Lead:

Julianne Moore, Still Alice (Sony Pictures Classics)

Best Male Lead:

Michael Keaton, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Robert Altman Award:

Inherent Vice (Warner Bros.)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, Casting Director: Cassandra Kulukundis, Ensemble Cast: Josh Brolin, Hong Chau, Martin Donovan, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom, Joaquin Phoenix, Sasha Pieterse, Eric Roberts, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Serena Scott Thomas, Benicio del Toro, Katherine Waterston, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Michael Kenneth Williams.

Best Cinematography:

Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Best Editing:

Tom Cross, Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics)

Best International Film:

Ida (Poland – Music Box Films)
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

Best Documentary:

CITIZENFOUR (RADiUS-TWC / HBO Documentary Films / Participant Media)
Director: Laura Poitras; Producers: Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky

Special Distinction Award:

Foxcatcher (Sony Pictures Classics)
Director/Producer: Bennett Miller, Producers: Anthony Bregman, Megan Ellison, Jon Kilik, Writers: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman, Actors: Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatum



5 Sony Pictures Classics
3 Fox Searchlight Pictures
2 IFC Films
2 Open Road Films
1 Roadside Attractions/ Lionsgate
1 Music Box Films
1 RADiUS-TWC / HBO Documentary Films / Participant Media
1 Warner Bros.

On January 10 the following winners were honored at the Spirit Awards Filmmaker Grant and Nominee Brunch at BOA Steakhouse in West Hollywood:

Chris Ohlson received the Piaget Producers Award. The award honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity, and vision required to produce quality independent films. The annual award, in its 18th year, includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Piaget for the 8th year. Finalists were Chad Burris and Elisabeth Holm.

Dan Krauss, director of The Kill Team, received the LensCrafters Truer Than Fiction Award. The award is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not received significant recognition. The award is in its 20th year and includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by LensCrafters. Finalists for the award were Sara Dosa for The Last Season, Darius Clark Monroe for Evolution of a Criminal and Amanda Rose Wilder for Approaching the Elephant.

Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia, directors of H., received the Kiehl’s Someone to Watch Award. The award recognizes talented filmmakers of singular vision who have not yet received appropriate recognition. The award is in its 21st year and includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Kiehl’s Since 1851. Finalists for the award were Ana Lily Amirpour for A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and Chris Eska for The Retrieval.


Larry Richman

Larry Richman

For 20 years I was a professional in the entertainment industry, from commercial broadcast radio in America's fourth largest market to band management to record production. But my passion is independent film, and I spend much of the year traveling to film festivals to see indies and meet the actors, directors, and others responsible for creating them. I'm a writer, photographer, and videographer, currently serving as Senior Vice President for Media & Technology and Public Relations at PROnetworks as well as Editor at Larry411.com

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  • Author: Larry Richman
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