Winters nabs $50K top prize as winners covet big cash

See winnersThe Los Angeles Film Fest dispensed its top two prizes under looming Target logos at the Wadsworth theater Saturday night.

Paxton Winters pocketed the evening’s top award — the $50,000 Target Filmmaker prize — for his feature “Crude.” The prize is the richest of any major U.S. film fest, according to the organizers, and the amount clearly boggled Winters.

“I’ve never even seen $50,000,” he exclaimed before enthusing about the smell of Target’s toy department.

Bullseye benefactor

The stylish discount chain was an inescapable presence throughout the closing night festivities, with one presenter after another paying tribute to the evening’s benefactor. Besides the $75,000 in prizes, Target funded the gala party following the closing film, “Camp,” under the stars.

“Actually, it’s because of nights like this that I am not at WalMart,” said host Isaac Mizrahi, who has a clothing line appearing at Target stores soon.

John C. Reilly, who presented the top prize to Winters, marveled at the significance of the award for independent filmmakers, noting his wife is one.

“A trophy is nice but 50 grand can buy a lot of film stock,” Reilly said.

A nod for ‘Smile’

Tracy Droz Tragos won the inaugural Target documentary award for her film, “Be Good, Smile Pretty.” Tragos received the $25,000 award from presenter Jake Gyllenhaal.

“I can’t really believe this has happened,” she said.

Earlier Saturday, filmmakers received the jury and audience awards at a luncheon at the Highlands in Hollywood.

Director Tony Bui (“Three Seasons”) kicked off the ceremony by handing out Canon camera prizes to Celia Galan Julve for animated short “Stories of the Desert” and Eric Johnson and Gina Levy for docu short “Foo-Foo Dust.”

Actor Colm Meaney (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”) presented Canon cameras for narrative short to Seith Mann for “Five Deep Breaths” and audience award for best short to Paul Gutrecht for “The Vest.”

Final presenter Maria Bello, star of last year’s “Autofocus” as well as festival closer “The Cooler,” spoke eloquently of indie filmmakers’ “voices that speak from your heart and your soul and your spirit” as she presented the third set of awards. Audience awards were given out for narrative feature to Peter Mullen (“The Magdalene Sisters”) and documentary feature to Laura Gabbert (“Sunset Story”).

‘Camp’ songs

The young performers from the film “Camp” serenaded festgoers during the closing night gala, singing several songs from Todd Graff’s directorial debut about a performing arts camp. Among those in the crowd: IFP exec director Dawn Hudson, Paul Thomas Anderson and Jon Cryer, who attended the camp that inspired the pic with Graff.

The ninth annual L.A. film fest ran June 11 through June 21.

(Billy Gil contributed to this report.)

And the winners are . . .

JURY PRIZE FOR ANIMATED SHORT
Celia Galan Julve, “Stories of the Desert”

JURY PRIZE FOR DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Eric Johnson and Gina Levy, “Foo-Foo Dust”

JURY PRIZE FOR NARRATIVE SHORT
Seith Mann, “Five Deep Breaths”

AUDIENCE AWARD FOR SHORT
Paul Gutrecht, “The Vest”

AUDIENCE AWARD FOR DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Laura Gabbert, “Sunset Story”

AUDIENCE AWARD FOR NARRATIVE FEATURE
Peter Mullen, “The Magdalene Sisters”

$25,000 TARGET DOCUMENTARY AWARD FOR DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Tracy Droz Tragos, “Be Good, Smile Pretty”

$50,000 TARGET FILMMAKER AWARD FOR NARRATIVE FEATURE
Paxton Winters, “Crude”

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