Film Independent awarded Adam Leon, Mynette Louie and Peter Nicks its three Spirit Awards Filmmaker Grants at a brunch on Saturday, while Laura Colella won a fourth prize, the Jameson Find Your Audienece Award. Jeremy Renner and Salma Hayek announced the winners at BOA Steakhouse in West Hollywood.
The prizes, though handed out in advance, are part of the Independent Spirit Awards ceremony, set for Feb. 23. Leon, Louie and Nicks each win $25,000 while Colella earns $40,000 for the marketing and distribution of a film.
Louie (left) won the 16th annual Piaget Producers Award for "Stones in the Sun," Patricia Benoit's film about a family forced to leave Haiti and go to New York. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
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The award honors emerging producers who have made films worthy of recognition in spite of limited resources. Finalists were Derrick Tseng and Alicia Van Couvering.
A New York-based Harvard graduate, Louie broke into film as a production assistant and has produced several shorts by female directors, including Karen Lin’s “Cotabato City” and Michelle Chai’s “The Picnic.” She has also produced feature films, such as “Art Machine,” the aforementioned “Stones in the Sun” and “California Solo.”
Leon won the Someone to Watch Award, given to a talented filmmaker who has yet to receive sufficient recognition but is poised for further success. Finalists were David Fenster for "Pincus" and Rebecca Thomas for "Electrick Children."
Leon wrote and directed “Gimme the Loot,” a comedy about two Bronx teens and graffiti artists who decide to try and tag a New York landmark – the Mets’ apple. They must raise $500 to do it, sending them on an adventure across the metropolis.
The film won the Grand Jury Prize at South by Southwest in 2012 and also screened at the Cannes Film Festival, competing in the Un Certain Regard section. It will open in theaters March 22.
Nicks won the Truer Than Fiction Award, presented by Stella Artois to a director of non-fiction films who has yet to break out. The other finalists were Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims for "Only the Young" and Lcien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel for "Leviathan."
Nicks directed "The Waiting Room," a documentary set at Highland Hospital in Oakland. Also conceived as a social media project, the film examines life at a hospital caring for a community of largely uninsured patients, following patients, doctors and staff.
The project included a blog with live reports from people in the waiting room, creating an archive of testimonials evincing the need for better health care.
Colella won her prize for "Breakfast with Curtis," a film she wrote and directed about an idiosyncratic bookseller who courts help from his neighbor's son to boost his business.
Colella's third feature, "Breakfast with Curtis" premiered at the 2012 Los Angeles FIlm Festival. The other finalists were Sara Lamm, Mary Wigmore, Kate Roughan and Zachary Mortensen for "Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and the Farm Midwives" and Jeremy Kipp Walker and John Mitchell for "History of Future Folk."