FIND finds fresh Spirit guides

Film Independent Spirit Awards 2012

Are two heads better than one? Sean McManus and Josh Welsh, the new co-presidents of Film Independent, are happy to have a mutual partner in leading the nonprofit that runs the Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival.

“I look back at what Dawn did, and I’m not sure how she did it alone,” Welsh says.

By Dawn, he means Dawn Hudson, of course. As the longtime exec director of Film Independent, the well-connected Hudson was instrumental in growing FIND into a specialty player powerhouse. When she announced her departure to become CEO of AMPAS last summer, industryites wondered who would be able to fill her heels.

“It was a daunting task,” admits “Six Feet Under” producer and FIND board member Alan Poul, who co-chaired the search committee to find her replacement. “Dawn was such a strong single executive. The idea of dividing the position was something that we approached gently.”

Poul acknowledges that it will take time for the duo to be accepted as the two faces of FIND, “but both of them are so well liked and well respected among the L.A community and they’re both articulate and affable, I have no doubt that they’ll grow into it.”

McManus and Welsh also come from divergent backgrounds and disparate specialties within FIND, making for a strong tag-team dynamic. As FIND board member and longtime indie publicist Laura Kim says, “They are the perfect pairing of skill sets.”

McManus, a USC business school alum, was Hudson’s right-hand man for years as the org’s senior director, overseeing its staffers and playing a key role in expanding its annual budget from $1.6 million to more than $8.5 million. After Hudson’s exit, he operated as interim director. Welsh, who has a doctorate in philosophy from Johns Hopkins, ran FIND’s Artist Development programs for a decade.

But they resist the notion that they represent opposing sides of commerce and art. “Our roles have been focused on complementary areas, but our brains have been on the same page,” McManus says.

While there remains some division between the duo’s responsibilities, between fundraising and filmmaker programs, Welsh says there is extensive overlap.

“We’re not operating in silos,” says Welsh. “We don’t make decisions without the other’s input.”

As an example, Welsh cites the Spirit Awards: The kudocast has afforded Welsh the opportunity to do fundraising development. And for all the artists services the org runs, Welsh says he’s worked closely on getting those programs funded.

“We’re a good team when we go out and pitch our programs,” he says. “I can articulate what we’re doing and how we serve filmmakers, and Sean, as a fundraiser, has the combination of personal skills and savvy that has enabled him to grow this organization financially.”

McManus considers the org’s fundraising successes a team effort. At FIND’s L.A. Film Festival, for example, he notes AEG’s sponsorship was the result of many, including former fest director Rebecca Yeldham, Hudson and Gloria Campbell, as well as himself. For this year’s Spirits, McManus also heralds the arrival of new auto sponsor Audi, a partnership he says took a couple of years to cultivate.

As for the future of FIND, McManus and Welsh thank Hudson for leaving the org in a solid place, not only operating in the black over the past few economically challenging years, but launching up-to-date efficiencies, such as a new website and database. “We are now leading a very mature, stable and strong organization,” claims Welsh. “So we don’t have to completely revamp. It’s a matter of expanding the types of programs we have to offer and deepening the funding for those programs.”

One growing area of development is television. Both co-prexies tout their new Fox Writers Intensive program, a partnership with Fox Broadcasting’s Audience Strategy to find writers from underrepresented communities. Welsh notes an increased focus in their Producers Lab on questions of distribution rather than just getting a movie made.

“That’s an example of the direction that we’re moving,” he says. “We’re keenly attuned to the needs of filmmakers finding and reaching their audience.”

As the org moves forward, McManus refers to “The Five I’s” to define the values FIND represents: Integrity, Inclusiveness, Innovation, Initiative, Inspiration. “They’re our guiding principles,” he says.

And the nominees are:


“The Artist”
Producer: Thomas Langmann

Producers: Miranda de Pencier, Lars Knudsen, Leslie Urdang, Dean Vanech, Jay Van Hoy

“The Descendants”
Producers: Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor

Producers: Michel Litvak, John Palermo, Marc Platt, Gigi Pritzker, Adam Siegel

Producers: Evan Goldberg, Ben Karlin, Seth Rogen

“Take Shelter”
Producers: Tyler Davidson, Sophia Lin


Lauren Ambrose – “Think of Me”

Rachael Harris – “Natural Selection”

Adepero Oduye – “Pariah”

Elizabeth Olsen – “Martha Marcy May Marlene”

Michelle Williams – “My Week With Marilyn”


Demian Bichir – “A Better Life”

Jean Dujardin – “The Artist”

Ryan Gosling – “Drive”

Woody Harrelson – “Rampart”

Michael Shannon – “Take Shelter”


Michel Hazanavicius – “The Artist”

Mike Mills – “Beginners”

Jeff Nichols – “Take Shelter”

Alexander Payne – “The Descendants”

Nicolas Winding Refn – “Drive”


“Another Earth”
Director: Mike Cahill
Producers: Mike Cahill, Hunter Gray, Brit Marling, Nicholas Shumaker

“In The Family”
Director: Patrick Wang
Producers: Robert Tonino, Andrew Van Den Houten, Patrick Wang

“Margin Call”
Director: J.C. Chandor
Producers: Robert Ogden Barnum, Michael Benaroya, Neal Dodson, Joe Jenckes, Corey Moosa, Zachary Quinto

“Martha Marcy May Marlene”
Director: Sean Durkin
Producers: Antonio Campos, Patrick Cunningham, Chris Maybach, Josh Mond

“Natural Selection”
Director: Robbie Pickering
Producers: Brion Hambel, Paul Jensen

FIND finds fresh Spirit guides
Piaget Producer’s Award | Audi Someone to Watch Award |

More Scene

  • Angler Los Angeles

    Angler Is L.A.'s Major New Seafood Destination

    San Francisco transplant Angler is set to make a major splash in Los Angeles, as Joshua Skenes’ innovative seafood-focused restaurant opens in the somewhat unlikely location of the Beverly Center. Angler is the latest and the most ambitious restaurant to join a fresh crop of spots, including Cal Mare and Yardbird, on the recently refurbished [...]

  • Bette Midler

    Bette Midler Set for Special Performance at New York Pride (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bette Midler is set to appear at New York’s Pride Main Event this Saturday (June 29) at the Javits Center. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, she’ll perform a song accompanied by composer Marc Shaiman, of “Hairspray” and “Mary Poppins Returns” fame. Her stage time is set for 11 p.m. Also scheduled to [...]

  • Magic Johnson, Larry Bird

    Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Robin Roberts Honored at 2019 NBA Awards

    The NBA went Hollywood on Monday night, mixing basketball legends with a star-studded list of presenters including Samuel L. Jackson, Tiffany Haddish and “This Is Us” star Justin Hartley at the 2019 NBA Awards. Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal hosted the third annual award show, which aired live on TNT, kicking things off with a surprise [...]

  • Naomi Watts and Gretchen Carlson'The Loudest

    ‘The Loudest Voice’ Stars Naomi Watts, Russell Crowe Talk Roger Ailes

    Roger Ailes may have been the force behind the creation of Fox News, but the late newsman’s legacy will forever be his atrocious sexual harassment of several of the network’s female anchors and producers. Showtime premiered its new limited series “The Loudest Voice,” which chronicles Ailes’ rise and fall, on Monday night at the Paris [...]

  • Billy Eichner Power of Pride Variety

    Billy Eichner on Taylor Swift's 'Calm Down' Backlash

    When Taylor Swift released her “You Need to Calm Down” music video, it seemed like every member of the LGBTQ in Hollywood was included — except for Billy Eichner. “I’m still not gay enough for Taylor Swift — or too gay — I don’t know what it is,” Eichner joked at Variety’s Power of Pride [...]

  • Bebe Rexha

    Mumford and Sons, Sting, Ciara, Bebe Rexha Light Up Cannes Lions

    There was no shortage of excellent music at the 2019 edition of Cannes Lion. The international gathering of creatives drew top music brands – among them: Spotify, Live Nation, iHeartRadio, SiriusXM/Pandora, VEVO and Universal Music Group – and a slew of well-known acts to stages across the Croissette, to villas above the city and onto [...]

  • Patrick Wilson

    Patrick Wilson, Mckenna Grace on Scary Stories From 'Annabelle Comes Home' Set

    Tales of spooky occurrences on the sets of horror movies like “The Exorcist” and “Poltergeist” have circulated for years, and it looks like “The Conjuring” franchise is following in their footsteps in that regard. The cast of “Annabelle Comes Home” shared their unnerving stories from set at the film’s premiere on Thursday night at the Regency [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content