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What constitutes an independent film?
Technically speaking, any movie that is produced outside the Hollywood studio system. And, like it or not, that includes films financed by The Weinstein Co., widely regarded in the industry as a “mini-major.”
The multiple nominations and wins earned by Silver Linings Playbook at Film Independent’s annual Spirit Awards during the weekend drew ire from some who say that David O. Russell’s pic should not fall under the same umbrella as tiny-budget films including Safety Not Guaranteed and Keep the Lights On.
On the red carpet Saturday in Santa Monica, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with nominees and Film Independent execs about the controversy to find out if Silver Linings Playbook — which claimed the top prize of best picture — is, in fact, an indie.
“You could take it either way,” said Chris Tucker, who plays Bradley Cooper’s friend in the film. “It felt like an independent movie. There wasn’t no big production thing going on.”
And although others disagreed on the film’s position at the ceremony, all were in agreement on one thing: They loved it.
“It was literally my favorite movie of the year — but yeah, honestly, it exists in a different planet than these other movies that are made,” said Safety Not Guaranteed writer Derek Connolly, who went on to win best first screenplay. “Our movie was made for $750,000.” (According to Box Office Mojo, Silver Linings was made on a $21 million production budget.)
Said Mark Duplass, an indie veteran who also appeared in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty: “It’s truly an indie spirit, and the story has a big heart and it’s a very beautiful film … [but] if I were on the committee, I would kick out Silver Linings and I’d put a smaller movie in. I think it’s worth it. Silver Linings is doing fine. The little ones could use some help.”
Film Independent co-president Sean McManus felt proud to have Russell’s film included in the day’s festivities.
“Silver Linings Playbook is fantastic,” he said. “It’s an independent film. It’s a film that is based on his own personal experience with his son and mental illness, and look at the wonderful creation that came out of it.”
In addition to winning best picture, Russell also took home trophies for best director and best screenplay, while star Jennifer Lawrence nabbed best lead female. The next night, she followed up with an Oscar for best actress.
Email: Sophie.Schillaci@THR.com; Twitter: @SophieSchillaci
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