Inside the Spirit Awards Nominations Announcement With Molly Shannon and Gemma Chan

Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic

After the noms announcement for the 34th Spirit Awards, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with actors Molly Shannon and Gemma Chan, and Film Independent president Josh Welsh to talk film, ratings and royalty.

Molly Shannon and Gemma Chan provided a double dose of star power Friday morning to help Film Independent announce the nominees for the 34th Spirit Awards during a press-packed event inside the W Hotel in Hollywood.  

We the Animals documentarian Jeremiah Zagar's narrative debut, based on Justin Torres' 2011 debut novel of the same name, scored the most noms with five, followed closely by Eighth Grade, First Reformed and You Were Never Really Here, which each landed four. (See full list of nominees here.) Not far down the list is Private Life, a movie that features a supporting turn from Shannon, who stuck around after all the nominees were revealed to chat with The Hollywood Reporter.

The actress and Saturday Night Live alum, a Spirit Award winner from two years ago when she snagged a best supporting female prize for Other People, shared that she's been fielding overwhelmingly positive responses from people who've caught Private Life on Netflix. The film stars Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti as a middle-age married couple dealing with fertility and family issues. The Netflix dramedy, released Oct. 5, received Spirit noms including director and screenplay, both for Tamara Jenkins, and supporting female for Kayli Carter.

"I’m always texting [Tamara Jenkins], going, ‘You know, a lot of people are seeing this movie,’ because I can always tell if I go to a party or an airport [by] the amount of people going up to me. I can do my own test market research as to how well [something's] doing," Shannon told THR. "I knew it was going to be special right when she told me about it.”

Some awards pundits, like THR's Scott Feinberg, have questioned the omission of Hahn from the best actress race. Film Independent president Josh Welsh told THR that, yet again, independent film delivered so many great performances that the nominating committee had its work cut out for it.

“When we got into the process this year, it was incredibly hard to come up with the nominations because there were so many strong performances, so many strong films in every category and we have to whittle it down to five. And it was the committee members’ first time saying, ‘Can we please go up? Can we have more than five nominations?’ and in a couple categories we did allow it. We have six actresses up for best female lead.”

Expanding the nominations to six in a category is rare for the Spirit Awards. It’s only been done a handful of times in the organziation's 34-year history. Welsh says how this is on account of “breadth of independent film. There’s not one film dominating the awards this year. There’s so much good work across different types of film.”

One dominating trend across all awards shows are ratings declines, something Welsh is aware of, though he remains positively optimistic about growth. Last year, 95,000 viewers tuned in to the televised show on IFC, though Welsh said they got a boost from a streaming partner. “Our broadcast partner is IFC. We’ve been with them for years. We love IFC. But last year, we also streamed the show live with Facebook Watch. It was a last-minute decision last year to do it," he explains. "At the last minute, we were like, ‘Hey, let’s do this.’”

According to Welsh, over 1.2 million people tuned in on Facebook Watch. “It’s a new world. A lot of people are cord-cutters. I know there’s an audience for independent film, for artist-driven filmmaking and for an award show celebrating it. We’re an irreverent show. We’re fun. We have a great audience, but I really wanna see it grow. So it’s gonna be looking at things like Facebook and other online platforms to supplement what we do in partnership with IFC.”

Meanwhile, Chan showed up to the press conference fresh from Thursday night's AFI Film Festival closing-night premiere of Mary Queen of Scots, in which she stars alongside Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie. "Margot and Saoirse are both so brilliant in the film. It’s a story of two women, two queens, who wanted to be able to coexist but were pitted against each other by the men around them. They were trying to survive and operate in a man’s world. I feel it’s really resonant and really relevant to where we are today."

The Spirit Awards air exclusively on IFC on Feb. 23 at 2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET.