Harvey Weinstein was there, so was Michelle Williams and the man weighed down during Awards Season, The Artist's creator Michel Hazanavicius. But in the middle of the big tent in Santa Monica at this year's Film Independent Spirit Awards were two young film makers, happily holding their own - and next year, it could be you.
Alysa Nahmias and Benjamin Murray are the makers of Unfinished Spaces, an inspiring documentary about three Cuban architects who, iin 1961, founded the National Art Schools under the leadership of Castro and Guevara - considered to be one of the great artistic achievements of the Revolution. However, they saw their ideas fall into disfavour, abandonment but, latterly, rediscovery and fresh appreciation from a newer generation. The film has all the colour, vitality, sadness and joy you would expect of such a topic, and punches well above its weight in terms of resources - brought to life by interviews with the three visionary artists themselves.
Unfinished Spaces, which has been shown in Havana and Miami as well as at film festivals across the world, was the recipient of Jameson's Find Your Audience Award, a three-year-old prize which includes a $40,000 marketing and distribution grant. As Jameson's International Communications Manager Jayne Murphy explains, "This grant is designed to meet independent filmmakers’ biggest challenge today: how to get their films out into the marketplace, so we are very proud to support this."
Nahmias and Murray sweated much unpaid toil and love over their film for the last couple of years, and only received news of their award and accompanying booty in January 2012, so everything had been done on a shoe-string budget - the higher profile and cash providing an unanticipated but very welcome bonus.
"As well as the prestige of winning the award itself, the marketing grant is invaluable. It means we can take Unfinished Spaces to a much, much wider audience, beyond the festival circuit," explained Murray. "Which, in turn, can help us go further afield, learn more and position us much better for other projects too.
"It really does mean the difference between carrying on and giving up. It's a creative lifeline, nothing less."
William H Macy put it slightly differently in front of the packed crowd in the tent. He told them, "As anybody in independent film will tell you, whiskey is as important as the camera."
This was his classy way of thanking Jameson for sponsoring the big tent on Santa Monica beach for this laid-back pre-Oscar affair, but it got me wondering... what does an Irish whiskey maker get out of picking up the cheque for this overseas jamboree, as it has done for the last three years? Murphy explained further:
"We were initially attracted to the Film Independent Spirit Awards as they stood out from other LA awards ceremonies," she says.
"They are a not for profit organisation, they support independent films and film makers who dare to be different, and they take place in this really relaxed environment."
Even in a time of austerity, when many marketing campaigns are tightening their belts?
"We've always had a consistent approach to our marketing in which film has always featured. Therefore we continue with this approach identifying compatible film properties that connect with our target consumers and also give back to the film community."
And now you, too, can benefit from Jameson's largesse, by applying for this year's Find Your Audience Award. You can click here for full details of how to submit your film idea (although info may change for this year's submissions), as well as learning about other film development grants from Film Independent for which you may be eligible.
However, here's the trailer for Unfinished Spaces below, just so you realise how good you're going to have to be to take your place next to Harvey, Michelle and Michel in the tent in Santa Monica...
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