“We are so honored to be recognized with our tribe,” said producer Mollye Asher, acknowledging the community of Film Independent. She shares the award with Dan Janvey, Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, and director Chloé Zhao, who won best director earlier in the evening.
Backstage, Spears shared some insight into the early development process. “When we first read the book, Frances and I, and optioned it, it was a period piece obviously, it took place in 2008, the story — but also something about it felt really prescient about something that was going on in a bigger way in the country, and only more so since we started to make the movie and the subsequent years,” he explained. “It was not something we ever could have known if we could have looked into a crystal ball, but as the years and months unfolded it just seemed to become more and more a story that was really resonating with people in a different way.”
He continued to say, “It was something that was brought to us by Chloe, the idea. When we optioned the book we thought it would be more of a straightforward adaptation where Frances would play a version of Linda May, and it was only when we met with Chloe after we had seen The Rider that Chloe suggested to us perhaps a different way of doing it, which would be a hybrid, much in the way she had made The Rider.”
Zhao added backstage, “I’m really lucky to be able to do what I love for a living, and if these nominations mean it could help more people like me to live their dreams, then I think they’re wonderful.”
Considering indie films versus mainstream blockbusters, such as Marvel movies, Zhao expressed interest in hopping back and forth. “I would love to be able to do both if possible,” she said.
The film, which is a contender for best picture at the 93rd Academy Awards, beat out First Cow, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Minari and Never Rarely Sometimes Always.
For her lead role, McDormand was nominated for best actress, but lost out to Carey Mulligan for Promising Young Woman. Nomadland’s cinematographer Joshua James Richards won the Spirit, while Zhao was recognized for her editing on the film.
Earlier in the show, director Darius Marder accepted the best first feature award for Sound of Metal, which is also in the running at the 93rd Academy Awards.
The 36th annual Independent Spirit Awards took place in a virtual format instead of its traditional location in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica, and aired in a primetime ceremony on IFC and AMC+ three days before the Oscars.
The event was hosted by Saturday Night Live castmember Melissa Villaseñor, while Judas and the Black Messiah director Shaka King served as honorary chair.