Now in its 28th year, the Film Independent Spirit Awards is an annual celebration honoring artist-driven films made with an economy of means by filmmakers who embody independence and originality. The Spirit Awards recognizes the achievements of American independent filmmakers and promotes the finest independent films of the year to a wider audience.
The Spirit Awards were the first event to exclusively honor independent film, and over the past 28 years, has become the premier awards show for the independent film community, celebrating films made by filmmakers who embody independence and originality.
The 2013 Chaz and Roger Ebert Fellowship, which is awarded to a filmmaker in Project Involve, Film Independent’s diversity mentorship program and includes a cash grant of $10,000, was given to Melissa Haizlip, director of the documentary Mr. SOUL!. Haizlip is a Film Independent Fellow participating in Project Involve 2012-2013. Her film, which is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, was screened at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 41st Annual Independent Film Series in 2011.
This year’s major category winners were Silver Linings Playbook, which won Best Feature, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Female Lead and The Sessions, which won Best Supporting Female and Best Male Lead; The Perks of Being A Wallflower, which won Best First Feature and Safety Not Guaranteed, which won Best First Screenplay; Beasts of the Southern Wild, which won Best Cinematography, Magic Mike, which won Best Supporting Male and Middle of Nowhere from AFFRM in partnership with Participant Media, which won the John Cassavetes Award; Sony Pictures Classics’ Amour, which won Best International Film and Cinedigm Entertainmet Group’s The Invisible War, which won Best Documentary; A Special Distinction Award was given posthumously to Cinematographer Harris Savides.
Born Goapele Mohlabane in Oakland, CA, the celebrated recording artist (Closer, Even Closer, Change It All) is featured on the soundtrack of Ava Duvernay’s MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. I spoke to the R&B singer-songwriter about her expanding career–
Talk2SV: What has been revelation to you about your journey thus far?
Goapele: I’d say the revelation has been, if you put in the work, stay dedicated and dream big, your world will keep evolving.
Talk2SV: How soon did you learn that lesson?
Goapele: I think the longer I’ve been able to support myself through music the more I have faith that my creativity will sustain even when it seems that I feel uninspired. If I keep showing up then I will keep creating what I need to; having a supportive team that encourages me is really helpful. Since the beginning I’ve always believed you should follow your dreams; it’s just keeping the faith and staying motivated that can be the ongoing challenge and lesson.
Talk2SV: What is the source of your faith?
Goapele: I believe that the universe will provide –energy put out will come back to you– that’s my main thing.
Talk2SV: What is your view of Duvernay’s film, MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, the story of a woman at a crossroads in love whose husband is in prison and a new lover enters her life?
Goapele: Yes, it feels emotional but it’s not glorifying violence in any way. It’s not stereotypical in any way and I feel you’re witnessing the life of a couple and how circumstances change. I think it portrays the variety of African Americans in modern day life.
Talk2SV: As an artist, what aspect of the creative process challenges you the most and what do you spend the most time on developing and perfecting?
Goapele: I would say I spend the most time trying to perfect how to keep developing my songs. Song writing is such an important part of what I do. I keep trying to experiment with different ways that I can share my story and share my creativity. I also write through the eyes of others and see how I can keep writing stronger songs. I would say that’s been my continuous work in progress. The most challenging part is when I want to work on a new piece of music and I haven’t captured the idea yet. Once I capture the idea or I’m on a vibe it’s easier from that point because of the natural flow.
Talk2SV: Your career is expanding into film acting (Sparkle, The Door)…
Goapele: I really look forward to film opportunities and it’s been very refreshing for me to expand into different creative platforms. I’ve wanted to be involved in films for a long time and took some acting classes for fun but always hoped I would get some opportunities to act. Doing music for film and getting to match the music, emotions and lyrics with other people’s visuals is a unique opportunity that’s really exciting because it’s a collaboration to make a moment special.
Talk2SV: Any closing words about MIDDLE OF NOWHERE?
Goapele: I have to say as someone who has been an independent artist, off and on, I am lucky to have Sideways, my family label, involved the whole time; I am excited to see independent, good quality film getting the attention that it deserves. I want as many people as possible to see this film and that it be judged on a larger platform.
Talk2SV: Looks like Goapele’s expectations for MIDDLE OF NOWHERE are being realized! Congratulations to filmmaker Ava Duvernay, cast and producers on your Independent Spirit Award.
More on Film Independent:
Film Independent is a non-profit arts organization that champions independent film and supports a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation, and uniqueness of vision. Film Independent helps filmmakers make their movies, builds an audience for their projects, and works to diversify the film industry. Film Independent’s Board of Directors, filmmakers, staff, and constituents, is comprised of an inclusive community of individuals across ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation. Anyone passionate about film can become a member, whether you are a filmmaker, industry professional, or a film lover.
Film Independent produces the Spirit Awards, the annual celebration honoring artist-driven films and recognizing the finest achievements of American independent filmmakers. Film Independent also produces the Los Angeles Film Festival, showcasing the best of American and international cinema and the Film Independent at LACMA Film Series, a year-round, weekly program that offers unique cinematic experiences for the Los Angeles creative community and the general public.
With over 250 annual screenings and events, Film Independent provides access to a network of like-minded artists who are driving creativity in the film industry. Film Independent’s Artist Development program offers free Labs for selected writers, directors, producers and documentary filmmakers and presents year-round networking opportunities. Project Involve is Film Independent’s signature program dedicated to fostering the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry.