Although many still see the Independent Spirit Awards as a rehearsal dinner to the Oscar wedding, the hipster kudos show has come a long way since its more humble origins.
The Saturday afternoon ceremony, which airs live on the Independent Film Channel and is repeated on Bravo in primetime, “has changed drastically in the past eight years,” says Diana Zahn-Storey, who has produced the show for just that long. “The first year I did it, we had a banner onstage on this little platform. It was this very simple, fun show but wasn’t really broadcast quality at all.”
Oh how the surge in independent films has changed things. This year, like last, John Waters will host. “John was as close as we felt we were going to get to being like Buck (Henry, who has hosted the show eight different times),” explains Zahn-Storey. She also notes that several of the behind-the-scenes team will also remain the same.
“Last year, we finally got to the point where I hired a big crew,” Zahn-Storey says, citing Emmy-winning production designer Joe Stewart, producer Ron Weed and director Chris Donovan as key members.
The top-notch crew helps the show to at least appear as if it’s still a casual affair, even as it caters to more than 1,300 guests and features many of the same celebrities as the Oscars.
The year’s theme is a beach one — which, given the Santa Monica beach location, has sort of been done before, Zahn-Storey admits, but not to this extent.
Jeffrey Best is overseeing the details of the food, which will “include a picnic-style meal of salmon and brie and pates, with bowls of olives and cheeses and things on the table,” Zahn-Storey says, adding that this year’s invite — film cans on the sand with sunglasses and statues emerging from an ice chest — exemplifies the theme well.
As for any competitive feelings the Independent Spirit Awards may have with its mainstream counterpart, Zahn-Storey insists that the smaller award show only benefits from the timing. “People couldn’t necessarily afford to come into town for independent movies another time of year but because of the Oscars, they’re already here.”