On-scene coverage by Deadline’s Pete Hammond and Dominic Patten, Awardsline’s Anthony D’Alessandro, and contributor Diane Haithman. Written by Nikki Finke:

Refresh For Latest… SANTA MONICA – The always fun (and usually comic) 28th Annual Film Independent Spirit Awards Spirit Awards from Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization, spread the wealth today at a daytime luncheon in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica. (The broadcast will air at 10:00 pm ET/PT on IFC.) Many audience favorites won, as indicated by the cheering. The Weinstein Company scored the most marquee winners for Silver Linings Playbook including Best Feature, Best Female Lead Jennifer Lawrence, and Best Director and Best Screenplay for David O Russell. Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate’s The Perks Of Being A Wallflower took First Feature for Steve Chbosky, and Fox Searchlight’s The Sessions won Best Male Lead for John Hawkes and Best Female Supporting for Helen Hunt, while Warner Bros’ Magic Mike won Best Male Supporting for Matthew McConaughey. Sony Pictures Classics’ Amour won Best Foreign Language while Cinedigm’s The Invisible War took Best Documentary. (See below for all the winners)

This is an annual celebration honoring artist-driven films made with an economy of means by filmmakers who embody independence and originality. The host is Andy Samberg, in a bewildering green tuxedo, here flanked by Film Independent co-Presidents Sean McManus and Josh Welsh who spoke of their commitment to diversity. Nominees for Best Feature included Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Bernie, Keep The Lights On, Moonrise Kingdom, and Silver Linings Playbook. Awards also were given in the categories of Best First Feature, Best First Screenplay, Best Director, Best Screenplay, John Cassavetes Award (given to the best feature made for a budget under $500,000), Best Male Lead, Best Female Lead, Best Supporting Male, Best Supporting Female, Best Cinematography, Best International Film, Best Documentary, and the Robert Altman Award given to one filmʼs director, casting director and ensemble cast – in this case, Starlet.

Welcome to the only award show watched by more people in person than on TV. It’s packed. Guests and presenters at the luncheon include Motion Picture Association Of America chief Chris Dodd, Francis Ford Coppola and Sophia Coppola and Roman Coppola, Dave Grohl, Paul Rudd, Bruce Willis, Jack Black, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Tucker, Laura Dern, Daniel Radcliffe, Salma Hayek, Fred Armisen, Kyle MacLachlin, David Ayer, John Lesher, Ellen Page, Ketrry Washington, Common, Zoe Saldana, Jason Bateman, Rashida Jones, Emily Mortimer, Michael Pena, Bryan Cranston, Amy Poehler, Jeremy Renner, Matthew McConaughey.

The show begins with a video of Jeremy Renner & Salma Hayak thanking the sponsors. In fact, this year’s Spirit Awards will be interspersed with several pre-prepared videos and digital shorts, which is what Samberg wanted. There’s a humorous digital short of a fake trailer of a fake movie Bottlecap starring Samberg and the dog from The Artist and later another of Samberg auditioning for the nominated films via Skype. And clips for Best screenplay featured fake dialogue. (Like Moonrise Kingdom co-stars Ed Norton and Bruce Willis saying “Surfing has a rad future”.) Samberg offers a tribute to past host John Waters – “the Brad Pitt of Baltimore”.

Monologue is getting a lot of laughs including joke about Mr Frontal Nudity’s (aka Michael Fassbender’s) penis is big: “It streched from 2012 to 2013.” Samberg starts ticking off the Best Feature nominees: “Silver Linings Playbook. Or as they call it in Japan, ‘Garbage bag man’.” About The Sessions, he said, “Helen Hunt, I’m not going to make any jokes about your nudity. Your performace was inspiring. But John Hawkes, what’s up dude?” Samburg finishes by dissing the Oscars. (“I have one thing to say to you, Hollywood. Fuck you. Fuck you, Oscars. This is our Oscars. You can keep Matthew McConaughey because we have Matthew McConaughey. So everyone say it with me, ‘Fuck you, Hollywood.'” There is silence. “What, no takers? Not even you, John Waters? Let’s start the show.” All in all, the show was a lot tamer than in previous looser years.


Silver Linings Playbook
Bruce Cohen, Donna Gigliotti, Jonathan Gordon (producers)
“We want to thank The Weinstein Company,” says producer Donna Gigilotti, who claimed (jokingly) that she knew Silver Linings Playbookwas going to win. To David O Russell, she said, “This award is yours.” “You teach us everyday,” added producer Jonathan Gordon. Backstage, producer Bruce Cohen had this quip about Sunday’s Academy Awards: “We were sure that we were not going to win today. And we are sure we are not going to win tomorrow.” also backstage, David O Russell said he was as overwhelmed by today’s Best Feature win as he was 19 years ago when his indie film Spanking the Monkey won for Best Feature and Best First Screenplay. The award, he said, is important because it brings more aucdiences to Silver Linings Playbook: “That’s everything. To give it life in an Internet age when everything is so fleeting.” About his hopes for Sunday’s Oscars, Russell said he is just happy to be in the game. (“What’s not to like about going to the World Series?” he said.) He praised Harvey Weinstein for having confidence in the film but admitted that the slow rollout was a “spine tingler”. “He based it all on word of mouth. When we opened he didn’t blow it out in thousands of theaters” but “you have to say a prayer and let it go”. It was, Russell said, “a blessing” that it worked. As to whether it’s fair that Silver Linings Playbook competes with lower-budget films at the Indie Spirits, Russell said he has no qualms. “I was here with Spanking the Monkey which we made for $80,000 and when we put it through post it came to $250,000. And that film was at the same ceremony when Quentin Tarantino had Pulp Fiction,”he recalled. “We’re all part of the same group. Silver Linings Playbook was made in 33 days with 152 pages for about $20 million or less.” Russell acknowledged that the film had more resources than Benh Zeitlin did for Beasts Of The Southern Wild “who made that film with toothpicks and glue on the bayou”. Russell added: “He’s a very young man. He’ll be back here at the Spirits, no doubt. I’m not worried about Benh Zeitlin.”

John Hawkes, The Sessions
The Sessions is truly an independent film, shot for very little money,” says winner John Hawkes thanking his co-stars, producers snd director. He adds that he hopes the movie helps people see beyond disabilities. “It was a physical challenge for sure,” said John Hawkes backstage about playing the iron-lung poet Mark O’Brien. “Any amount of pain I dealt with was my own choice, but it was minimal daily.” Aboout preparation, O’Brien “left a lot of amazing writing behind that I checked out. There was his autobiography, his poetry and an amazing Oscar-winning short film Breathing Lessons made by Jessica Yu. In trying to figure out the physicality of the part, all these materials were a start.”

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

“I love doing independent film,” says Jennifer Lawrence. Then she talks about how the long hours and freezing temperatures on location are worth it. She thanks David O Russell, Bradley Cooper and Harvey Weinstein “for supporting this film”.

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

“Benh Zeitlin is a young man, Benh Zeitlin will be back,” winner David O Russell says of his fellow nominee, the helmer of Beasts Of The Southern Wild.

Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike

A loud cheer erupts from the audience when Matthew McConaughey’s name is read. “I had to drop my drawers to win an award,” he sings before thanking fellow nominees and “everyone and Sue [Kroll] and Jeff [Robinov] at Warner Bros”. McConaughey concluded by praising indie films: “Let’s keep making ’em”. Backstage, McConaughey recalled “week-long discussions with Steven Soderbergh about the right thong to wear and that turned into a stalemate. I brought up Jim Morrison as being an influence for my character Dallas. But then I got fitted into these ballet slippers and got this Richard Simmons/Mikhail Baryshnikov thing going and found this obsessed but comedic route toward the character. Steven told me, ‘If you play this straight and serious, it will be hilarious.'”

Helen Hunt, The Sessions

“Thank you, thank you so much,” Helen Hunt gushes. “I got to dance with the sexiest dance partner ever – even though he never moved John Hawkes.” Nudity has been a big issue for Helen Hunt this year, and backstage when asked about taking her clothes off, she joked, “I’m never taking them off again. That’s it.” Although Hunt downplayed her expectations for Oscar Sunday by saying that her plans for the big day include “eating breakfast”, when asked backstage if she expects to win, Hunt exclaimed with a laugh, “Yes.”

(Award given to the director)
Amour (France), Michael Haneke

There is big applause for Amour when it is read with the nominees. And of course it wins. “I must be the oldest man in the room,” says silver-haired Michael Haneke before thanking everyone. Backstage, however, he said that the youth of the Independent Spirit crowd makes the award especially important to him.  “My impression is that this is given by a younger audience, that is important for a film like mine that deals with such a serious theme… In a society like ours that is aging, it is important to make films that deal with such a subject and treat it seriously.” He said the only thing he is going to do to prepare for Sunday’s Oscars is to put on his tuxedo.

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

“The last time I held one of these was 19 years ago,” says winner David O Russell and thanks everyone including Harvey Weinstein. Russell makes a point of also thanking his son for teaching him so much about mood disorders and opening his heart.

(Award given to the director and producer)
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky
(director); Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich, Russell Smith (producers)

Onstage winner Stephen Chbodsky said: “Smaller movies need big friends and that includes everyone in this room.” To the audience and media, he thanked Emma Watson for helping bring his novel to the screen and described how the Harry Potter actress would bang her fist on the table saying to studio executives, “Get this film made!” Noted Chbodsky: “I waited 10 years to  write the screenplay after I finished my novel. Then it took me another six months to write. Then it took a year to get it greenlit with Emma Watson. I lived Wallflower. I was one as a kid.”

Derek Connolly, Safety Not Guaranteed

Derek Connally thanks everyone. “Well, it doesn’t belong to everyone, I’m gonna keep this,” he jokes. He starts to ramble. With that, Bryan Cranston comes on stage to give him a drink to end his speech. Big laughs. Matthew McConaughey then comes onstage and scoffs, “Derek Connelly, way to take your time dude.” Then McConaughey intros a clip from Bernie saying it’s gone to his mom’s head. “She corners every producer with her big idea to remake The Graduate with her in the Ann Bancroft role. And guess who would be Dustin Hoffman? Me! It’s weird.” Big laughs.

(Given to one film’s director, casting director, and its ensemble cast)
Starlet, Sean Baker (director); Julia Kim (casting director); Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson, Karren Karagulian, Stella Maeve, James Ransone (cast)

Indie stalwart Laura Dern intro’ed. “I love Robert Altman,” she says and tells a story about the first time she worked with the legendary director and about the mixed messages Altman gave her and other actors – and how that friction enhanced their performances. Starlet director Sean Baker said, “Film Independent has been my biggest supporter besides my parents.” Baker spoke about the lengths his casting director Julia Kim went in assembling the acting ensemble. “She found Besedka Johnson, who played our 85-year-old Sadie, working out at a YMCA. She never acted before. Julia knows that I want my films to have human interaction, great dialogue, and actors who are talented improvisers.”

(Given to the best feature made for under $500,000. Award given to the writer, director, and producer. Executive Producers are not awarded.)
Middle of Nowhere
Ava DuVernay (writer-director-producer); Howard Barish, Paul Garnes (producers)

Winner Ava DuVernay reminds everyone that John Cassavetes was not only a pioneer in independent filmmaking but also in distribution – and gets cheered.

Ben Richardson, Beasts Of The Southern Wild

Winner Ben Richardson is cheered and says, “Thanks to everyone at Fox Searchlight for taking this film as far as they have. I can’t believe it.” Then Sophia Coppola presented a Special Distinction Award to cinematographer Harris Savides who died on October 9th. Backstage, when asked whether his win here made up for not securing an Oscar nomination, Richardson grinned: “Yes, it does!” He called young actress Quvanzhane Wallis his inspiration. He said he was moved by the script, too, but when he first met Wallis, “I just saw what she was going to be able to do, the energy she was going to be able to put out.”

(Award given to the director and producer)
The Invisible War
Kirby Dick (director); Tanner King Barklow, Amy Ziering (producers)

“It’s been a great year for documentary film,” says winner Kirby Dick. Producer Amy Ziering adds, “This says to our service men and women that you are not alone and not forgotten.” Backstage, Dick said that the biggest challenge was trying to produce a film that would be entertaining to general audiences but also influence “a few hundred people in Washington who are policymakers”. He said filmmakers expected a highly negative response from the military but “that didn’t happen” and that the film has screened to 250,000 military men and women as part of their sexual assault sensitivity training. Ziering stresses that at first it was difficult to get women to come forward and talk about sexual assault in the military. But when they finally spoke, “they were grateful that someone was listening and someone cared” and that inspired more to step forward and speak out.

(The 19th annual Someone to Watch Award recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.)
Gimme the Loot, Adam Leon (director)

(The 18th annual Truer Than Fiction Award is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.)
The Waiting Room, Peter Nicks (director)

(The 16th annual Piaget Producers Award honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources demonstrate the creativity, tenacity, and vision required to produce quality, independent films. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Piaget.)
Stones in the Sun, Mynette Louie (producer)

Winner Mynette Louie said that the Independent Spirit Awards are important because they create “such a strong connection with on the ground filmmakers [who work for] the love of art rather than money – and our bank accounts show it.” Backstage, she joked that she was wearing “loaner diamonds” but that the award carries “25Gs so I can’t complain.” She said that she plans to use the award money to “pay my bills. It’s so helpful because as an independent producer it’s very hard to make money doing what I love.”

The Spirit Awards Nominating Committees selected nominees from 299 submissions this year and applied the following guidelines in determining the nominations: uniqueness of vision, original and provocative subject matter, economy of means (with particular attention paid to total production cost & individual compensation), and percentage of financing from independent sources. The Spirit Awards Nominating Committee is comprised of writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, actors, critics, casting directors, festival programmers, and other working film professionals. The Spirit Awards are the primary fundraiser for non-profit Film Independentʼs year-round programs including the Los Angeles Film Festival, the Film Independent at LACMA Film Series, and Film Independentʼs Artist Development program offering free Labs.