After his 2006 CalArts graduate thesis film “Analog Days” played festivals, Ott “wasted two years meeting with producer types who are never really going to make a movie,” he recalls. “One said, ‘I forgot my notebook — let’s meet next week.’ I thought, ‘I just drove an hour for a meeting to set up another meeting? (laughs) Then I was just done.”

It inspired him to save his money, partner with three friends to create Small Form Films and helm the short that became “Littlerock,” the low-key chronicle of two Japanese siblings lackadaisically touring a California desert town.

“We made a five-minute version, then once we found Cory (Zacharia), we just made up scenes Cassavetes-style for a short version we ended up throwing out,” Ott recalls. He mainly cast “weird locals” for his partly improvised feature.

As part of its prize package at the Gothams, film unspooled theatrically in New York. Variance Films will release “Littlerock” later this year.

In May, Ott will film Zacharia in the smalltown comic drama “Teenage Wasteland.” He plans more films with the odd, chatty aspiring actor-model in semi-autobiographical roles. Ott’s work reflects the Herzog and Truffaut influences he cites, but when asked about his career aspirations, he confesses, “My dream is to do a TV show like ‘Freaks & Geeks.’ ”

More on the Spirit Awards
Our movies, ourselves | Someone to Watch Award: Mike Ott | Producers Award: Anish Savjani | Truer Than Fiction Award: Jeff Malmberg | The Runner-ups