Spirit Awards 2024: A Platform for Essential Independent Films | Chaz’s Journal
Movie Reviews

Spirit Awards 2024: A Platform for Essential Independent Films | Chaz’s Journal

Fortunately, the little engine that could kept chugging right along. It is now a very important part of the filmmaking landscape in California, supporting a diverse group of filmmakers and hosting one of the most fun and celebrated awards shows around. And now the date of the show is not tied to the occurrence of the Oscars. They will showcase their talent next Sunday, and the Oscars will be telecast on March 17. 

Film Independent and the Spirit Awards have grown and evolved because they have remained steadfast in their mission of true transformation and representation of stories inclusive of diverse filmmakers. Supporting a global community of artists and audiences, Film Independent has year-round programs including Project Involve, a free nine-month intensive program offering up-and-coming film professionals from under-represented communities the opportunity to hone their skills and gain industry access. Past mentors who have participated in the Project Involve program include Nina Yang Bongiovi (“Fruitvale Station,” “Dope“), Ava DuVernay (“Selma,” “Origin“), Catherine Hardwicke (“Thirteen,” “Twilight”), Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine,” “The Place Beyond the Pines“), Destin Daniel Cretton (“Short Term 12“), Dan Gilroy (“Nightcrawler,” “The Bourne Legacy“) and Alexander Payne (“Sideways,” “The Holdovers“).

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Roger and I made a decision to provide grants to help Film Independent carry out its mission. Some of the filmmakers supported under the Roger and Chaz Ebert Fellowships have been such bright luminaries as Stephanie Adams-Santos, Sue-Ellen Chitunya, Christina Choe, Jomo Fray, Melissa Haizlip and Lulu Wang.

While speaking with RogerEbert.com in 2019, filmmaker Gregory Nava reflected on the origins of Film Independent, which stemmed from Sandra Schulberg’s founding of the Independent Feature Project in 1979. “Sandra gathered all these ‘lone rangers’ who were off making their own movies, and she brought us all together,” said Nava. “We had no resources, no funding, nothing, but the idea of getting together and sharing our experiences created an energy that made things happen. I took the idea of the IFP to Los Angeles and along with Anna Thomas, I started the IFP West, which is now Film Independent, the group that puts on the Independent Spirit Awards. It began as a group of six people in our living room, and now it’s got around 7,000 members. All of these efforts originated from a simple idea of elevating the voices of people who needed to have their stories told.”

Gregory Nava continued: “The independent film movement began before Robert Redford got involved, and was characterized by pictures like Wayne Wang’s ‘Chan is Missing,’ Joan Micklin Silver’s ‘Hester Street’ and Claudia Weill’s ‘Girlfriend,’ in addition to his film, ‘El Norte’ and Spike Lee’s ‘She’s Gotta Have It.’ John Sayles came out of that movement as well, and was later followed by people like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.”

(From left:) Dan Stern, Chaz Ebert, Kasi Lemmons and Lulu Wang.

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