Spirit nominee Crash had a $7 million dollar budget, and Brokeback Mountain's was $14 million. I realize these don't quite compare to Scorsese's $90 million re-make, but as far as I'm concerned, these three films are exactly the same: The overwhelming majority of indie filmmakers will never, ever make a movie with anywhere near any one of those budgets, so why are any of them up for "indie" awards?
One reason: IFP and FIND are starfuckers.
But I don't blame either organization. I blame the media, the advertisers, and the public.
The shows understand that the press wouldn't cover them and the advertisers wouldn't support them if they just featured a bunch of unknown films with no one famous in them. But more importantly, neither would these independent film purists who are now demanding Michelle Byrd's head.
If people really cared about low budget films, why don't they go to them? Why do filmmakers have to deliver "names" in order to get anyone off the internet and out of their houses? Likewise, why do film organizations like IFP and FIND have to fill their panels with the biggest stars in the indie community? Does Joe Filmmaker really need to hear about foreign co-production deals, gap financing, and how to make a movie with only a million in equity? He's gonna make his film with a roll of duct tape, a credit card, and a Costco membership. They do it because no one wants to hear anything that will really help them. They just want to hear something from somebody who gets their picture taken.
I realize this may sound disingenous coming from someone who works for the organization that represents the most obvious objects of starfucking. But the vast majority of the members of SAG are not stars. Like the true indie filmmakers, they're just a bunch of artists who want to tell stories and do good work. A lot of them could win awards... if they could just afford to shoot more than one take per set up. It would be nice if films could stand on their merits alone. But you just can't compare an independent film with all the resources to an independent film with none. The indie awards shows (and the film festivals, for that matter) should be all about the people who struggle and have some small success. But they aren't... because no one would come.
So don't get down on IFP. We're all responsible.