Film Independent’s newly minted co-presidents Sean McManus and Josh Welsh welcomed the Spirit Awards nominees at lunch today. But first the Los Angeles Film Critics Association hosted its annual gala in Century City Friday night with a quirky event where critics usually reviled were praised instead. Some LAFCA filmmakers arrived late from competing Golden Globe parties like Paramount’s and CAA’s, but nowhere else hosted Uggie, the dog from The Artist. “This is by far the best fucking awards dinner I’ve been to in my life,” Alexander Payne exclaimed after accepting LAFCA’s Best Picture nod for The Descendants. Best Actor winner Michael Fassbender (Shame) recalled how he first came to LA a decade ago for pilot season but soon returned to London with his tail between his legs. “It’s incredible to now stand here,” he gushed. Best Foreign Language winner Lu Chuan (City of Life and Death) sent a video that his investors were “holding him hostage” on his next film in China. So did Best Actress Yun Jung-hee (Poetry) and from Korea thanked critics in “the world capital of filmmaking” and signed off with “I love you”.
Norman Jewison tried to deliver a heartfelt intro for LAFCA’s Career Achievement honoree, Doris Day, who was piped in live from her home in Northern California. But mangled sound ruined the mood. The folks behind Martha Marcy May Marlene crowded the stage along with star Elizabeth Olsen. They noted how their collaborative filmmaking at Borderline Films, which often blurs traditional filmmaking roles, caused questions after film school. “When we told people how we work, they looked at us and said, ‘You do what?’”
At Film Independent’s nominees lunch this morning, Sarah Paulson (Martha Marcy May Marlene) and Mark Duplass (Humpday) handed out four Spirit Award filmmaker grants. Mark Jackson’s Without, Heather Courtney’s Where Soldiers Come From, producer Sophia Lin’s Take Shelter,and Benjamin Murray’s and Alysa Nahmias’ Unfinished Spaces took cash prizes ranging from $25,000 to $40,000. “The grant nominees and winners are part of the next generation of filmmakers we expect to inspire film lovers for years to come,” commented FIND’s newly minted co-president Sean Mc Manus about the awards in a statement.
Following the short ceremony dispensing cash, McManus and fellow co-president Josh Welsh chatted with me about their new gig, teasing broad plans for the organization that annually hosts the Spirit Awards as well as the Los Angeles Film Festival in addition to its ongoing filmmaker events. “We have ideas on how we want to further help filmmakers in [various areas including] releasing their films,” McManus noted. “Josh and I have had these ideas for a long time and now that we’re in these posts we want to survey the landscape for a bit and then move on with them.”