Mike Ott, director of Litttlerock, which tells of two Japanese siblings who find themselves in a small California town, received the 17th annual Acura Someone to Watch Award on Saturday as Film Independent held a luncheon for nominees of its annual Spirit Awards.
The prize, which recognizes a talented filmmaker who has not yet received major recognition, includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Acura.
The other finalists were Hossein Keshavarz for Dog Sweat and Laurel Nakadate for The Wolf Knife.
Film Independent, the indie nonprofit which also produces the Los Angeles Film Festival, feted its nominees at BOA Steakhouse in West Hollywood, where Sandra Oh and Terrence Howard served as hosts.
Another grant award went to Anish Savjani, producer of Meek's Cutoff, who received the 14th annual Piaget Producers Award, which honors emerging producers. The other finalists were In-Ah Lee for Au Revoir Taipei and Adele Romanski for The Myth of the American Sleepover.
Jeff Malmberg, director of Marwencol, received the 16th annual Aveeno Truer Than Fiction Award, which is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features. The other finalists were Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor for Sweetgrass and Lynn True and Nelson Walker for Summer Pasture.
Marwencol also received the inaugural Jameson Find Your Audience Award, which makes it possible for one Spirit Award-nominated film to find a broader audience. The grant, a $50,000 marketing and distribution grant funded by Jameson Irish Whiskey, was designed to help independent filmmakers get their films out into the marketplace. It was selected by a committee that consisted of Warner Bros. head of worldwide marketing Sue Kroll, producer Effie T. Brown, CEO of Landmark Theatres Ted Mundorff and producer Gail Mutrux.
The Spirit Awards, at which the group’s other awards winners will be announced, will be held Feb. 26 on the beach in Santa Monica and will air on IFC. Joel McHale will serve as host.