Film Independent’s in Love With Downtown – Festival Moves

Organization moves the Spirit Awards to downtown L.A., then the Los Angeles Film Festival

Why the love affair between Film Independent and downtown Los Angeles?

First it was the Spirit Awards, which left its signature time and location – Saturday afternoon on the beach at Santa Monica – for a 25th anniversary celebration on a rooftop in the L.A. Live complex in downtown L.A.

And now it’s the Los Angeles Film Festival, which for the past few years has been held in Westwood Village, but which also is moving to L.A. Live, and the surrounding downtown neighborhoods, this June.

L.A. LiveFilm Independent, the nonprofit organization that runs both the Spirit Awards and the LAFF, is headquartered on the west side of Los Angeles, near Century City. But in moving its two signature events nine miles east, the organization appears to be making a commitment to an area that’s typically had problems luring westsiders, particularly at night.

If this looks like a concerted move to affiliate Film Independent with L.A. Live and AEG, LAFF director Rebecca Yeldham insists it’s not part of any grand plan. Instead, she says, the Spirit Awards and festival decisions were made independently.

“The Spirit Awards move was sort of conceived as a one-off event,” she says. “It remains to be seen what they’ll do in the future. But we were in conversations with AEG and L.A. Live long before that for the festival, so the Spirit Awards experience didn’t really influence our decision.”

The relocated Spirit Awards met with a decidedly mixed reaction: Although David Poland said the new location “was almost unanimously seen as a flop,” Yeldham says that most of the feedback Film Independent received was positive. “We kept hearing people tell us that it was much easier than they expected.”

And when it comes to the film festival, which felt compelled to leave Westwood because of uncertainty over the future of theaters there, Film Independent doesn’t expect the kind of comparisons that were inevitable at its other big event.

“The Spirit Awards were always going to be compared to the beach,” Yeldham says. “Whatever you thought of doing it downtown, you were going to compare it to the tent on the beach, because that’s what the Spirit Awards were.”

With LAFF, which had been held at the Arclight in Hollywood and the Sunset 5 in West Hollywood before moving to Westwood, she expects none of those comparisons.

“We don’t have that with the festival, because it’s been several different places,” she says. “Westwood is not part of the DNA of the festival.”