2015 Film Independent Spirit Awards official rules & regulations (PDF)

Are there any changes for the 2015 Spirit Awards?

Yes, international documentaries that meet all eligibility requirements may be submitted.

How do I submit my film?

We accepted submissions for the 2015 Spirit Awards between mid-August and mid-October 2014.

What if I want to attend the awards ceremony?

We’d love to have you — contact Jen Murby regarding ticket and table sales at 310.432.1253 or jmurby@filmindependent.org.

Whom can I contact regarding press credentials for the ceremony?

Applications for media and publicist credentials are available on the Press page of this site.

What’s the deadline for 2015 Spirit Awards submissions?

Regular Deadline: Tuesday, September 16, 2014. Final Deadline: Tuesday, October 14, 2014.

Are there extensions on entries?

Late entries will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Inquiries can be made by emailing spiritawards@filmindependent.org or calling 310.432.1249.

When are nominations announced for the 2015 Spirit Awards?

The 2014 Spirit Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, November 25, 2014.

What makes a film eligible for a Spirit Award?

A PDF of the 2015 Spirit Awards official rules and regulations is available via the link at the top of this page.

Who decides what films are nominated?

Experts in the field.

Three nominating committees are made up of members of the film community — one each for American Narrative films, Documentary films and International Narrative films. Committees may include film critics, film programmers, actors, producers, directors, writers, cinematographers, editors, past nominees and winners, and members of Film Independent’s Board of Directors.

There are three additional committees for our Piaget Producers, Kiehl’s Someone to Watch and Lenscrafters Truer Than Fiction grant awards. For these Awards, three nominees, including the winner, will be selected by a committee of experts in the field.

What are the Piaget Producers, Kiehl’s Someone to Watch, and Lenscrafters Truer Than Fiction grant awards?

These are Film Independent’s grant award programs designed to support emerging filmmakers.

I’m a filmmaker. Can I apply for these filmmaker grant awards?

The Piaget Producers, Kiehl’s Someone to Watch and Lenscrafters Truer Than Fiction grant awards are closed submissions only. Filmmakers and/or their representatives cannot submit for these awards. For more information about the grant awards, please email: spiritawards@filmindependent.org.

What is the nomination process?

It’s a rigorous process. All eligible submitted films are distributed to the appropriate committees and are discussed at regular meetings throughout the fall. Final meetings are held prior to the nomination announcement where committee members discuss the films at length and determine the nominees in each category.

How do the Nominating Committees determine if a film is “independent”?

The Spirit Awards Nominating Committees apply the following guidelines in making their selections:

- Uniqueness of vision

- Original, provocative subject matter

- Economy of means

- Percentage of financing from independent sources

Films that are made with an “economy of means” AND are fully financed by a studio or an “indie” studio division may still be considered independent if the subject matter is original and provocative. In other words, Film Independent does not — as of 1994 — define “independent” strictly on the basis of financing. (The first studio film we honored was Darnell Martin’s I Like It Like That from Columbia Pictures in 1994.)

What does “economy of means” mean?

Films that are made with lower budgets (often microbudgets), up to $20 million. For example, this range includes Tarnation ($220,000) and House of Sand and Fog ($18 million).

Didn’t the budget ceiling for nominated films used to be lower?

The Film Independent Board of Directors never actually set a budget ceiling for Spirit Award films prior to 2006.

The task of setting a budget ceiling — of deciding which films to include in our nominations and which films to exclude — was given each year to the Spirit Awards Nominating Committees. Some years, as in 1995, the committees nominated films with budgets as high as $22 million (Bullets Over Broadway).

Typically, the ceiling has hovered between $16-$18 million. The Board of Directors was reluctant to set a hard-and-fast limit in the past, but at the request of the Spirit Awards Nominating Committees to give the committees more specific direction, the Board fixed the budget ceiling at $20 million in 2006.

Do you accept short films?

No. All submitted films must be at least 70 minutes long.

Do you accept animated films?

Yes, if they meet all other eligibility requirements, animated films may be submitted.

What are the categories for nomination?

Please click ‘Nominees’ in the drop-down menu below ‘About’ in the navigation menu at the top of the page to view the current categories.

I screened my film in a commercial theater as part of a film festival, does that qualify as a commercial theatrical run?

No. Unless the film qualifies through one of our six designated film festivals, it must have screened on its own for at least one week in a commercial theater in the US, beginning in the 2014 calendar year.

What are the six qualifying film festivals for the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards?

The Los Angeles Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, New York Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, and Toronto International Film Festival.

How does the Spirit Awards define an “American” narrative feature?

The Spirit Awards defines an “American production” as:

A film in which U.S. citizens or permanent residents are credited in at least two of the following categories of responsibilities: director, writer or producer. This can be fulfilled by one person with multiple duties or by separate individuals


The film is set primarily in the United States and at least 70% financed by companies whose principal offices are in the U.S.

How does the Spirit Awards define an “international” film?

Every narrative film that isn’t a U.S. narrative feature as defined above will be considered an international film, eligible only for the Best International Film and Best Documentary categories.

Does an international film entry qualify for any categories other than Best International Film?

Yes. International films are eligible for Best International Film and Best Documentary.

Why are features made by first-time directors and features made for under $500,000 sometimes nominated in the Best Feature category? Don’t they have their own categories to compete in?

The Spirit Awards American Narrative Nominating Committee first selects the Best Feature nominees from the entire pool of qualifying independent films, no matter what the budget level or the experience of the filmmakers. After those features are chosen, the committee considers only films directed by first-time directors for the Best First Feature category, and only films made for budgets under $500,000 for the John Cassavetes Award category.

The same process applies to Best Director and Best Screenplay. No film may be nominated for both Best Feature and Best First Feature (i.e. no double-dipping). The underlying philosophy is to spread the wealth among nominees while still guaranteeing that the Best Feature category represents the best overall in independent film.

I submitted my film last year, and it meets the requirements for this year. May I resubmit?

Yes, as long as your film was not nominated in any category in previous years.

Who votes on the winners of the Spirit Awards after the Nominating Committees make their selections?

Eligible, registered voting members of Film Independent and IFP vote on the Spirit Award Nominees to determine winners. Voting takes place online through a secure third-party website.

How are winners selected?

Eligible, registered Film Independent and IFP members have secure access to online ballots. Only one ballot is counted per person and all ballots are confidential. Ballots are submitted online (deadline TBD February 2015). All ballots are tabulated by Integrity Voting Systems.

Who can become a member and vote on the Spirit Awards?

Film Independent is a non-profit arts organization. Its voting Members include filmmakers, film industry leaders, and film lovers.

Anyone passionate about the art of film can join as a Member and vote for the winners of the Spirit Awards. We invite you to visit filmindependent.org/membership and become a Member today.

PLEASE NOTE: You must be a registered Film Independent Member no later than December 5, 2014 to be eligible to vote AND receive DVD screeners; no later than January 16, 2015 to be eligible to vote WITHOUT receiving DVD screeners.

What happens if I don’t see one of the nominated films? Can I still vote in all the categories?

You should only vote on categories in which you have seen ALL of the nominated films. Your ballot will still be valid even if you do not vote in every available category.

How do voting members see the nominated films?

Film Independent and IFP work together to host free members-only screenings in Los Angeles and New York prior to the Spirit Awards ceremony. Film Independent also invites nominees to participate in a DVD screener mailing initiative that allows voters to receive nominated films by mail.

If you are a 2015 Spirit Award Nominee and would like to participate in this program, please email Evan Ward-Henninger at eward@filmindependent.org.