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The Take: Celebrating indie achievements at the Spirit Awards

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A smiling man in a blue coat stands in front of a hedge.
Actor Harvey Guillén.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

“The Lost Daughter” was the big winner at the Film Independent Spirit Awards on Sunday, with the Netflix adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel winning best feature plus screenplay and director honors for Maggie Gyllenhaal.

The inclusive, big-tent atmosphere of the awards’ return as an in person event was made literal by the fact that the show actually takes place in a big tent, constructed near the beach in Santa Monica. Guests milled about in the sunshine, enjoying cocktails and the company of friends and colleagues reuniting for the first time in two years, since the start of the pandemic.

“The Lost Daughter,” from writer/director Maggie Gyllenhaal, was the big winner at the 37th Film Independent Spirit Awards.

March 6, 2022

The Times spoke to attendees for their take on the state of independent filmmaking, awards shows and a late-winter afternoon by the beach.

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Harvey Guillén (above)

“You see the same actors on television cross over into film and vice versa, where back in the ’80s that would never happen,” Harvey Guillén, best known for the FX series “What We Do in the Shadows,” said of the Spirit Awards’ second year honoring TV alongside film. (“Reservation Dogs” and “Squid Game” were among the event’s big winners.) He was at the ceremony to support his friends involved with “Zola.” “In this time and age a good artist can convey a story on the small screen or on the big screen and in an indie film or a big-budget film. At the end of the day it comes down to the artist and what they can contribute. We’re trying to create stories and tell stories.”

A woman in a tiered dress  holds her purse with one finger over her shoulder.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Jaylen Barron

“It’s such an awesome opportunity,” Jaylen Barron said of her role in the Starz series “Blindspotting,” nominated for new scripted series. “It means that I’m sending out a message of representation of the different cultures, of different backgrounds and seeing strong women in front of the camera.” Attending the Spirit Awards for the first time, she was excited to see some of the other nominated performers, adding, “I’m a fan of quite a few actors who are here, of course, but I haven’t seen anybody yet. Everybody’s hidden around, like incognito.”

A woman in sunglasses and a dark dress with red dots and a big red and white collar.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Shahrzad Davani

Shahrzad Davani was last at the Spirit Awards more than 10 years ago with the nominated film “Obselidia,” which she co-produced. This year she attended as first assistant director of “Zola,” the most recognized film going into the event, with seven nominations including one for director Janicza Bravo. The film won two, for editor Joi McMillon and lead actress Taylour Paige. “I mean, Janicza’s a genius and so it’s much deserved,” Davani said. “I can’t wait to see everything she does.”

A woman wears a Grecian-style dress draped at one shoulder.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
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Isabelle Fuhrman

“It’s my first time here, and to be nominated, I feel like I’m about to have my first kiss. I’m so nervous,” said actress Isabelle Fuhrman, whose nomination for her lead role as a manically ambitious college rower in “The Novice” was one of five for the film. “We made this film for a micro-budget and it was such a small movie and a passion project, and to have five nominations for a tiny boat movie is just so unlikely. And then to be nominated for best actress has been a dream of mine since I was really young. Especially for the Independent Spirit Awards, because independent film is where I love to make movies. I love to be around that passion, the rush, the insatiable thirst to tell a story that only you can tell.”

A man in a dark shirt and hat and a bright orange scarf.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Milan Chakraborty

“I’ve been producing indie films for 14 years, [these are my] first nominations and first time in the tent,” said Milan Chakraborty, an executive producer of “The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain,” which earned nominations for Frankie Faison for lead actor and Enrico Natale for editing. “After the last two years, a celebration of indie films feels so special. We’re back, we’re all together. It’s a nice kickoff to the year.”

A red-haired woman in a black fringed jacket and a brown hat.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Lauren Hadaway

“I’ve wanted be a director since I was 15 years old. I saw ‘Kill Bill’ and then I made a decision I want to do this. So it’s been a dream I’ve been chasing for a long time,” said writer-director Lauren Hadaway. Her film “The Novice” was nominated for five awards, including best feature, director and editing. Hadaway noted the isolation of doing postproduction work during the pandemic, and the great feeling to be out celebrating the film with others. “I left a whole first career, in sound, a successful career, to take a gamble and devote years to making this film. So to be here, nominated with some of the people I’m nominated with, it feels incredible. It’s the dream come true. I’m a redneck from Texas, and I’m standing here right now, so it feels great.”

A woman in a green dress stands outside in the sun.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
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Shatara Michelle Ford

Writer-director-producer Shatara Michelle Ford saw their movie “Test Pattern” nominated for first feature, first screenplay and female lead for Brittany S. Hall. “I made the film four years ago with a bunch of credit cards and money that friends and family were ferrying to me at different points,” Ford said. “It was almost four years ago to the day that I made the film, had absolutely no institutional support, it didn’t get into any festivals. I didn’t really think it was going to have any kind of life whatsoever and miraculously 2½ years after I finished the film Kino Lorber decided to distribute it. And it changed my entire life. So this is very much an accumulation of all that persistence and hard work of just trying to keep pushing the film out there.”

A man in a dark shirt and gray blazer.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

PJ Raval

“I appreciate that it’s celebrating independent, innovative, visionary work. But it’s also among peers in the industry,” said filmmaker PJ Raval of how the Spirit Awards’ final voting is done by Film Independent’s full membership. “So I think it’s great that it’s peer-recognized.”

A woman strikes a pose in a strapless patterned green dress.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Rachel Sennott

“It means so much to have a life in a pandemic that was such a slow burn and to feel so supported by young women watching the movie and the indie filmmaking community,” said Rachel Sennott, star of “Shiva Baby,” which played in theaters for months during the pandemic thanks to positive word-of-mouth for the anxiety-inducing comedy. “It just means a lot.”

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