Trio of Spirit finalists named

'Someone to Watch' could be Dignam, Nelson, Saunders

Filmmakers Erin Dignam, Tim Blake Nelson and Scott Saunders were announced as finalists for the Someone to Watch Award at the upcoming Independent Spirit Awards on March 21.

The prize is presented annually to a cutting-edge talent whose work has yet to receive widespread recognition. The prize, sponsored by Swatch, comes with a $20,000 cash stipend.

Dignam, whose film “Loved” is a best picture nominee at the Spirits, is a Stanford U. grad who began directing with repertory theater. Her first film “Loon,” with Robin Wright and Jason Patric, received a limited theatrical release in 1992. A former dancer and tennis player who competed at Wimbledon, her most recent film was acclaimed at such fests as Seattle, Deauville and Toronto but has yet to secure commercial distribution.

Playwright Nelson segued into feature direction with an adaptation of his play “Eye of God.” Released theatrically by Castle Hill, it had a brief run late last year following exposure at Sundance, Tokyo and other fests. His other plays include “The Grey Zone” and “Anadarko,” and he has appeared as an actor in such films as “Donnie Brasco” and “Amateur.”

Saunders’ “The Headhunter’s Sister” received awards at several U.S. fests last fall but has been unable to tag a distributor. A founding member of Film Crash with Matthew Harrison and Kar Nussbaum, he previously directed “The Lost Words” in 1994.

Past winners of the juried award include Lodge Kerrigan, Christopher Munch and Larry Fessenden. Fessenden, who directed “Habit,” credited the award for elevating his picture’s profile and securing distribution via Fox Lorber.

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