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IFP taps 3 finalists to watch

Filmmakers Joe Brewster, Larry Fessenden and Chris Smith have been selected as the finalists for the Someone to Watch award, sponsored by Swatch, to be presented March 22 at the Independent Spirit Awards, it was announced Wednesday.

Presented annually since 1995, the juried prize is given to a feature filmmaker whose work has demonstrated unique talent, but has yet to be recognized in the mainstream. Additionally, nominees have generally been involved with films that don’t fit easily into categories. The past recipients were Lodge Kerrigan for his film “Clean, Shaven” and Chris Munch of “Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day.”

Brewster was cited for his film “The Keeper,” a psychological study centered around a correctional officer. The film has played widely at such fests as Toronto, Sundance and London in the past two years. A graduate of Harvard Medical School, Brewster is a practicing prison psychiatrist who studied documentary filmmaking at the New School for Social Research and had previously made several award-winning shorts.

Fessenden’s film “Habit” originated on video in 1980 when he was a film student.

The theatrical version, his second feature, is an abstract nightmare vision of a man drawn into a spiral of addiction and madness by a stranger. It was screened at the Chicago, Slamdance and L.A. Independent Film festivals.

Smith’s “American Job” premiered at Sundance in 1996 and fictionally chronicled a young man’s progress through a series of low-paying situations. He is presently preparing “The Winner,” a continuation of themes from the earlier film.

‘Unsung heroes’

The Someone to Watch award committee, chaired by Independent Feature Project/West VP Peter Broderick, received some 80 recommendations this year. He characterized it as a spotlight on “unsung heroes who keep creat-ing exceptional work no matter what the obstacles.”

The prize comes with a $20,000 unrestricted cash award. Last year’s winner, Munch, stated that in addition to be-ing “a vote of confidence,” the money he received last year gave him the opportunity to write the script for his next film.

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