NEW YORK — Emcee Sandra Bernhard paid tribute to the indie spirit at the ninth annual IFP Gotham Awards Wednesday night, spreading both the love and the chutzpah democratically.
“It’s really great that we have independent films because I saw ‘Eyes Wide Shut,’ ” she said to rounds of groaning laughter from more than 1,000 industryites at the fund-raising centerpiece of the Independent Feature Film Market.
Presenting Meryl Streep’s lifetime achievement honor, this year’s Gotham Awards co-chair Harvey Weinstein mused (with a wink) on his early days as Streep’s classmate and mentor at Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio. “We co-starred in the original production of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire,’ ” Weinstein quipped. “Boy, was she awful.”
The joking wasn’t limited to the stage, as audience members — including a table of Fox Searchlight execs all sporting name tags reading “Hi my name is John Malkovich” — seemed more than willing to amuse each other.
Ethan and Joel Coen were on hand to present the composer award to Carter Burwell, whom they said they’ve hired to score all of their films because “we don’t know any other composers — except for that first guy who quit on us.”
“Velvet Goldmine” helmer Todd Haynes handed the producer award to indie pioneer Christine Vachon (“Happiness”); Edward James Olmos gave the Open Palm award to helmer David Riker (“La Ciudad”); and actor Aidan Quinn presented Perry Ellis Breakthrough awards to fellow thesps Dylan Baker (“Happiness”) and Janet McTeer (“Tumbleweeds”).
Indie directors Darren Aronofsky (“Pi”) and Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry”) were in the audience, as were documentarians Michael Moore (“Roger and Me”) and Jennie Livingston (“Paris Is Burning”), thesps Glenn Close and Fisher Stevens, and multi-hyphenate Frank Whaley (“Joe the King”).
Among execs attending were Miramax senior VPs of acquisitions and co production Amy Israel and Jason Blum; New Line TV prexy Robert Friedman; USA Films chairman Scott Greenstein; Good Machine’s Ted Hope, James Schamus and David Linde; Sundance Channel senior VP, programming and marketing, Liz Manne; HBO VP, documentary programming, Nancy Abraham; Next Wave Films prexy Peter Broderick; and Stratosphere Entertainment senior exec VP Richard Abramowitz.
At Thursday’s market the near future was looking bright for Adam Marcus’ Bernadette Peters starrer “Snow Days” after Wednesday’s screening with reps from Miramax, Paramount Classics, Lions Gate, Fox Searchlight and Stratosphere in attendance. According to pic’s rep, attorney Steven Beer, producers expect to ink a deal within the coming weeks.
Rivaling “Snow Days” for popular appeal was Thursday afternoon’s unspooling of Livingston’s feature in progress “Who’s the Top?,” featuring Steve Buscemi.
Gordon Parks Award winning director Zeinabu Irene Davis’ feature “Compensation,” which just screened in the Planet Africa section of the Toronto Intl. Film Festival, also filled its midday showing.
The IFFM wraps today at the Angelika Film Center.