Usually a harbinger of Oscar season, the 2021 edition of the show on Monday night will be an early sign of how to hand out film statuettes and pay tribute to creative luminaries during Covid-19.
Founded in 1979 as the Independent Filmmaker Project, IFP has long been known to select circles within the indie film world, primarily in New York City. The non-profit organization supports creators in various stages, from funding, development and pre-production to production and distribution.
In an interview with Deadline, IFP executive director Jeffrey Sharp said the name change had long been in the works.
“It had been planned for years,” said Sharp, who was a producer of films like You Can Count on Me before joining the IFP in early 2019. “Our organization has evolved beyond film to support episodic, podcasts, VR and many other areas.” Beyond the odd use of the word “project,” he said the acronym “wasn’t speaking to people … If you don’t know what IFP means, how do you know if you can join?”
The new name, which Sharp said would generally be shortened to The Gotham, speaks more directly to the group’s year-round mission as well as its role in producing the Gotham Awards. Branding agency Love + War was brought in to spearhead the rebrand.
“We are a year-round institution in New York City,” he said, “with a maverick spirit that New York will always represent. We are a home for New Yorkers and writers, directors, producers. We’re not just a ‘project,’ we’re a year-round home.”
In addition to the rebrand, Sharp previewed Monday night’s Gotham Awards, which will be hosted at their longtime home, Cipriani Wall Street but attended virtually due to Covid-19 precautions. He said only a “super-skeletal crew” will be onsite at the venue, and nominees, presenters and others will take part in online “tables,” which aim to replicate the community-building aspects of the Gothams.
Starting last summer, event organizers wanted to determine, “What does a live event look like?”
Many stakeholders in the Oscar race are trying to answer that same question for the months ahead. So far, notable events like the Emmys and VMAs and scaled-down festival galas in Venice and Toronto have provided only a rough outline about how statues and tributes can be handed out. The Grammy Awards, citing rising virus infection rates and production constraints, opted to push the show to March from its initial date this month..
“No one’s really had to fully execute” a film awards night, Sharp said. “We’re kind of on the frontier.”
As in recent years, the Gothams will go host-less, he said. In addition to the competitive categories led by A24’s First Cow with four nominations, tributes will be handed out to Ryan Murphy, Steve McQueen, Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman.
Using a video platform that Sharp describes as “”more polished” than Zoom, attendees will be able to interact with “tablemates.”
Especially given the cavernous interior of Cipriani, a lavish, mid-19th-century bank building with 70-foot-high Wedgwood ceilings, “we feel confident about it,” Sharp said, noting he plans to be physically onsite. “We’re going to give it a real go. We have the time and the opportunity and it is important to acknowledge this extraordinary period.”
A record number of submissions came in for the Gothams’ 10 categories (see the nominees HERE), and a new one — international feature — is expanding the scope of the awards.
The pandemic “raises the bar in terms of the importance of the Gothams this year – not only supporting but promoting films this year that haven’t had a theatrical release,” Sharp said.
Sponsored tables at the Gothams are a key pillar of the organization’s fundraising efforts. In that sense, the show needed to go on in some fashion. “We’re grateful that the industry has stepped up and supported us,” Sharp said.
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