Ahead of Saturday’s Spirit Awards, the executive director of Film Independent tells why “Milk” has it but “Slumdog” doesn’t.
Do you feel ready to celebrate independent film in the current economy?
I was thinking about this economy. It’s hard to find money. It’s hard to make money. So — welcome to the world of independent film. Now the world is experiencing what we always experience.
But certainly there are production companies and distribution companies going out of business. It’s a critical time in distribution in independent film. But most of the indepdendent filmmakers we work with are making films with equity funding anyway.
Aren’t independent films being affected?
I don’t see any diminishing of numbers committed to the festival or the Spirit Awards. It’s only increased. On the low budget front, I don’t think that world has been rocked in the same way bigger productions are. These are artist-driven films, not profit driven films. So – there’s no profit? They weren’t in it for the profit.
But isn’t that why all the studios got interested in indie film – because of the profits?
Yes, but they have Slumdog Millionaire to entice them now.
Why isn’t Slumdog nominated at the Spirit Awards?
Slumdog is considered a foreign film because of (Irish director) Danny Boyle. It‘s only eligible in the foreign category. And it wasn’t nominated in that category.
Doesn’t that feel weird?
Yes. I see an irony in the most successful film in foreign film category not being nominated. It would be even stranger if it were an American film.
But the Spirit awards were really created to promote American independent filmmaking. That’s the history of the Spirit awards.
The fact that we’re putting the spotlight on 30 or 40 other fantastic films does not break my heart. Slumdog deserves all attention it’s getting, but we’re focusing on other films.
What is a foreign film anyway these days? In a global world, isn’t that a false construct?
You are right. Among our American films there so many foreign coproductions. But we have specific rules in place for 24 years, and they say that 2 of 3 of the creative team must be American. Whether that needs rejiggering – you can speculate on that.
What’s the favorite for the Spirit awards?
People are talking a lot about Ballast by Lance Hammer, and Frozen River by Courtney Hunt. Milk got a lot of nominations. We are doing our job in pointing attention to films that might not get attention.
What should and will happen to Sundance with Geoff Gilmore leaving?
I think Sundance is film festival that’s been institutionalized. It is premier film festival for new independent film, and they have a deep bench of programming. It’s not like Sundance will be diminished.
It absolutely is a chance for it to move forward, be innovative, respond to the time. But Sundance has always done that.