Film Independent Spirit Awards must stop treating television like movies


To effectively celebrate television, the Film Independent must understand what makes the medium special.

Tuesday morning saw the announcement of the second batch of TV nominees for the Film Independent Spirit Awards, and while the accolades represent a truly unique set of winners, the mechanism for selecting these nominees remains painfully flawed.

But first, the appointments.

Film Independent didn’t seem to have any TV favorites this year, spreading love in shows such as HBO Max’s “It’s a Sin”, FX’s “Reservation Dogs”, Starz’s “Blindspotting”, “We Are Lady Parts “from Peacock and” Rutherford Falls “and” The Underground Railroad “and” Them: Covenant “from Amazon Prime Video, all of which received two nominations. HBO’s “Black and Missing,” “The Lady and the Dale,” HBO’s “Nuclear Family” and “White Lotus,” FX’s “The Choe Show”, Netflix’s “Squid Game” and PBS’s “Philly DA” also been nominated.

The organization’s choice to only honor the playoffs in their first year of existence continues to be a kind of double-edged sword. This year has seen less dominance for limited series, which is a bit of a godsend, given that serialized TV is often designed to take multiple seasons to tell its full story, giving limited series an edge in terms of what it is. concerns the delivery of their entire story in one way.

While the intent of the pick is good, ensuring a whole new batch of nominees every year, it belies a fundamental misconception about the fluctuating nature of the medium. For every season 1 of “The Leftovers”, there is often a season 2 of “The Leftovers”. Sometimes the shows get better. Sometimes shows are not on the radar until they start their overall journey. This does not make them any less worthy of recognition. If avoiding repeat winners is a concern, limit a series to one nomination in a single year.

Beyond the “brand new, all the time” philosophy, there is another, more disturbing facet of the Film Independent television review process, one that further belies a fundamental misunderstanding of narrative storytelling.

When submitting for the Spirit Awards, a television program must include only one “representative” episode of the series. On the film side, the entire film is submitted. It is a problem.

The reason this is a problem is that a single TV episode is not a TV season, let alone a TV series. Film Independent presents a selection of nominees, arguably the best of the best, based on a single episode from each series. It’s like asking the film industry to submit only 10 minutes of their film and from there the best independent films will be determined. Can you imagine the uproar? Such disrespect for the film will not be tolerated.

When a new series is launched, networks and the like will often send multiple episodes, or even the entire season, to critics to let their reviewers know. This is because it is fallacious to suggest that the quality of the whole can be determined by such a limited window into the larger story.

Would Film Independent’s nominating committee take significantly longer to review entire seasons of competing shows? Absoutely. But if you are not ready to invest that time, then the prices you are presenting mean nothing. You devalue your own brand and disrespect the industry you claim to honor.

In addition, the inability and / or disinterest of the Spirit Awards to set financial ceilings on the projects submitted goes against its own mission. The independent label, as in, not studio-funded, ceased to be relevant to Spirit Awards films in 1994, when the Film Independent honored Columbia Pictures’ Darnell Martin’s “I Like It Like That”, but the cap film budget – currently $ 22.5 million – remains. Independent television doesn’t really exist at this point, but it’s not really relevant. What’s important is how much money is poured into some TV series compared to others.

The TV industry is notoriously low-budget, but there is still a lot of information that can be gleaned about what some streamers are willing to pay for premium content.

Director Barry Jenkins and Thuso Mbedu on the set of “The Underground Railroad”

Cr. Atsushi Nishijima / Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video is spending around $ 465 million on a season of an upcoming “Lord of the Rings” series. He would have spent $ 80 million for a season of “The Wheel of Time”. It was reported that the streamer was also heavily invested in “The Underground Railroad,” which received two Spirit Award nominations.

From now on, “The Underground Railroad” is undoubtedly one of the biggest shows of the year, otherwise the the biggest. It’s an unequivocal triumph and a testament to Barry Jenkins’ creative oversight and direction. But in May, The New York Times reported that on more than one occasion, daily production costs exceeded almost $ 1.5 million. Say it’s an anomaly. Let’s say the daily production costs were a fraction of that, $ 500,000. “The Underground Railroad” was in production for 116 days. That alone is $ 58 million, not to mention post-production costs which probably weren’t cheap. Not a dollar of that money was wasted, given the quality of the finished product.

The Spirit Awards for TV nominations themselves highlight the bizarre disparity in budgets that is simply not being addressed. It was telling that this year saw several comedies, which often have significantly lower budgets than their dramatic counterparts, including “We Are Lady Parts” and “Rutherford Falls”, make a breakthrough with Film Independent to make something all the more miraculous. given that they go headlong at the top of the playoffs with considerably bigger checkbooks.

For Film Independent, price is not an issue, but only when it comes to television. For television, all that matters is the uniqueness of vision, original and provocative subjects, and diversity and inclusion on all fronts. For cinema, the project must also obtain part of the funding from independent sources, which, as established previously, does not really translate into television, but also, saving of means on the total cost of production and individual remuneration, which could quite translate into television.

Could it be colossal pain? Absoutely. Would that force studios and streamers to disclose financial details they’d rather not disclose? You bet. Could it be done? Sure.

But again, it appears to be a level of effort that the organization is unwilling to invest. And, honestly, that’s good.

The Film Independent does not have to put in place budget caps for television and it does not need to consider anything other than new series and it does not need to watch more than one episode of a show. of TV. But all of these choices, taken as a whole, suggest a fundamental misunderstanding of what television is and a disinterest in understanding it.

Film Independent doesn’t have to do the job. But if they’re not interested in doing it, they probably shouldn’t be giving away any TV awards.

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