Thursday, April 18, 2024

Indie Spirit Awards Are This Saturday: They’re a Non Profit with Over $5 Mil in Salaries, and Just Under $400K in Grants to Filmmakers


The 2020 Indie Spirit Awards will be handed out on Saturday in Santa Monica. They’re given by the non profit called Film Independent, which has a host of other programs. A boatload of actors, producers, distributors, and indie film people will head down to a big circus tent on the beach for the afternoon program. Last year, about 100,000 people watched the live broadcast on the IFC Channel. Most people will not know the ceremony took place.

Film Independent sounds like a classy name. But a look at the finances for this 501 c3 shows a lot of mysteries.

In 2018, according to their Form 990, Film Independent — which you’d think operated on a shoestring budget– listed around $5 million for salaries. They said their top people earned a total of $578,287. But according to the breakdown included, 7 people share over $900,000 alone.

Meantime, Film Independent’s net balances shrank in 2018 by $1.5 million from 2017, down to $3.2 million. Total revenue was $10.8 million in 2018. But grants to filmmakers, etc came to just $366,000. Revenue less expenses was MINUS $1.5 million. Total functional expenses for 2018 were $12.3 million.

Of course, Film Independent is a valuable resource for indie filmmakers in Southern California. The organization also runs the LA Film Festival, and associated film programs. They also have a prestigious board of directors. This year, one of their own, Kasi Lemmons, can boas that her film, “Clemency,” is nominated for Best Feature, Screenplay, and Lead Actress (Alfre Woodard).

This year might bring a little extra pizzazz to the tent: Jennifer Lopez is nominated for Best Supporting Actress in “Hustlers.” If she wins, she’ll have defeated the likes of Octavia Spencer (“Luce”), Taylor Russell (“Waves”), and Zhao Shuzhen (“The Farewell”). But, you never know these days. The other celebrity from outside the indie world will be Adam Sandler, for “Uncut Gems.” Sandler actually has a shot at winning, as the other nominees are solid but not particularly exciting.

Hedging their bets, the Spirit Awards do give out one big honor, their Robert Altman Ensemble Award, guaranteeing stars on the red carpet. This year the winner is Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” which means the director, Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, and Laura Dern will be in attendance whether they like it or not.



Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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