“Spotlight” was the big winner Saturday at the Film Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica on Saturday, with co-hosts Kate McKinnon and Kumail Nanjiani keeping the beachfront crowd pumped about another year of indie cinema.
But those watching the telecast on IFC missed some of the most compelling action at one of the most casual awards shows on the calendar, a relaxed warm-up to the glamour of the Academy Awards on Sunday set in an outdoor tent.
Here are some things “scene and heard”:
1:10 p.m. PT
Liev Schreiber and the man he plays in “Spotlight,” Marty Baron, are chatting outside. After greeting Open Road CEO Tom Oretenberg, Sony Classics co-president Michael Barker joins the group. Nearby at the Heineken bar, Nikki Reed and Ian Somerhalder are catching sun in the newly configured beachfront footprint.
Rooney Mara comes over to join her “Carol” co-star Cate Blanchett by the newly installed bar. Flashbulbs light up as director Todd Haynes ducks out of the frame. Photographer Jeff Vespa pulls him back in.
Jay Duplass comes out on stage to present an off-air pre-telecast award. “Hello, drunk people,” he begins.
As Film Independent president Josh Welsh warms up the audience, the ultra-low-budget “Tangerine” gets the loudest audience pop.
After Anthony Mackie and young “Room” actor Jacob Tremblay toss to the nominees package for their award presentation and the lights go down, Anthony gives Jacob a back tap and says, “Good job.”
It’s so hot in the tent that guests are fanning themselves with their tickets.
Host Kumail Nanjiani is headed to the beach in Borat-approved wardrobe.
“Tangerine” star Mya Taylor’s win for supporting actress draws cheers backstage. In the sponsor tents, people stop talking and watch the monitors.
Wow. The room loves Abraham Attah’s win as lead actor for “Beasts of No Nation” so much by the time I can look around to see if there is a standing ovation, the whole room is already up. I have not heard a unanimous roar like this since Sylvester Stallone‘s Globes win.
Sean Penn is still in his seat. That’s surprising, since talent have floated in and out. Word spreads that he’s presenting the last award of the show.
As “Spotlight” wins Best Feature and the entire company comes on stage, producer Michael Sugar makes the speech. Sugar just returned from New York where he began principal photography on the Will Smith and Kate Winslet film “Collateral Beuaty.”
“It was great to have that this week to ground me,” Sugar told TheWrap from his ride to the Spirits. “To know that life goes on. I missed some fun events. I didn’t get to go to all the fancy dinners that were had in honor of the movie and my friends’ movies,” he said. “But I got to be in Bryant Park at 3 in the morning shooting a scene with Kate Winslet on ice skates. I guess that’s the trade-off. I’d rather be making movies then talking about having made them.”
On Saturday night, Sugar, partner and fellow producer Steve Golin (who is also nominated for Best Picture with “The Revenant”) and Doug Wald host their annual night before party with Grey Goose at the Sunset Tower.
As the tent cleared out after the show, Jessica Chastain lingered inside the tent, meeting “Birth of a Nation” director Nate Parker and asking Fox Searchlight chief Nancy Utley about the hot Sundance acquisition, “When can I see his movie?”
“We’ll work something out,” Utley promised.
Steve Pond contributed to this report.