The Film Independent Spirit Awards are like the cool, laid back cousin of the Oscars. It’s THE show where the best and brightest of Hollywood get to let loose, have fun, and drink the day away under the sun in Santa Monica. The event typically offers a beautiful beach backdrop on the coast of the Pacific (yes, it is as perfect as it sounds). But when Film Independent found out they’d need a new game plan this year, they partnered with Looped to create a totally engaging, interactive version of the show on April 22.
But this was no easy feat – how could we possibly replicate the spirit (pun 100% intended) of the Spirit Awards virtually? The thrill of being toasted on a beach with all your industry buds and role models by your side? Looped said: challenge accepted. Hosted by Saturday Night Live’s Melissa Villaseñor, the 36th annual Spirit Awards was an undeniable success featuring private co-viewing tables, carefully-curated virtual bars and tents, captivating activities, and drag queens galore.
Who said golden hour can’t go virtual? The entire virtual venue was the epitome of customization, as everything was designed to echo the immaculate beachy vibes that the annual ceremony boasts. The night kicked off with a cocktail party pregame featuring DJ Dan on the beat where guests bopped around “community tents (The Pier, The Bungalow, Carousel, The Quiet Cabana and The Beach) [that] served as conversation hubs where topics ranged from favorite films to quarantine travel,” according to our friends at The Hollywood Reporter.
As the virtual lights dimmed, attendees saw an exclusive pre-recorded spoof of Josh Welsh, the Film Independent president, puttering around the beach in Santa Monica in search of the typical Spirit Awards set up. To his dismay, he discovered via text that the entire event had gone virtual. “He then packed up his beach ball and headed back to a studio where he encouraged folks to take part in Looped features like a virtual photo booth and the karaoke party while paying special attention to content during the commercial breaks,” (The Hollywood Reporter).
The virtual Spirit Awards still had plenty of zeal and spirits (literally) as the event offered a mixologist at The Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Bar and a Napa sommelier at The Wine Bar. After getting their drink on, attendees could also enjoy a silent disco dance party at The Beach or learn some quick film facts at The Cinephile Trivia Tent. Whether showing off their waist-up glam (I see you) and maybe some tipsy selfies (zero shame) at The Blue Carpet photo booth, or scrolling through the Social Wall to see the #SpiritAwards posts from other attendees, “boring” was NOT in anyone’s vocab for the night.
Award presenters included Adam Sandler, Renee Zellweger, Daveed Diggs, Julia Garner, Kathryn Hahn, Annie Murphy and Lulu Wang (soooo yeah, we were starstruck too). Melissa Villaseñor was a hysterical host as she kept it light with on-par jokes and her favorite impressions throughout the show. Villaseñor even made time to stop by the virtual venue to surprise attendees with bonus impressions (Dolly Parton was a fan fave) and enjoy time with her family both in her private suite and on stage.
And as for Adam Sandler? He was sporting a royal blue track jacket and “an extremely hip beard” that apparently just showed up on his face after winning Best Actor for his performance in Uncut Gems at last year’s Spirit Awards. “Was it magic, or was it the independent spirits that did it?” Well that’s a secret he’ll never tell!
Attendees enjoyed the show with each other from private viewing tables, and some tables even got a taste of the limelight as they were pulled up on screen to wave (think Hollywood’s version of a Kiss Cam). As if the night couldn’t get even better, RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni Nina West and Heidi N Closet even crashed our tables throughout the show to keep it fun and fresh! And to top it all off, some brave guests unleashed their inner divas on stage for a killer Karaoke sesh with Jan (the most dragnificent gal for the job) during the Virtual After Party.
This wasn’t Looped’s first award show rodeo (*cough* throwback to The 30th Annual Gotham Awards *cough*), and it certainly won’t be our last either. Check out the full list of this year’s winners below:
BEST FEMALE LEAD
Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
EKWA MSANGI, Director of Farewell Amor
BEST MALE LEAD
Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
BEST NEW NON-SCRIPTED OR DOCUMENTARY SERIES
Executive Producers: Christina Clusiau, Shaul Schwarz, Dan Cogan, Jenny Raskin, Brandon Hill, and Christian Thompson
Co-Executive Producers: Andrey Alistratov, Jay Arthur Sterrenberg, and Lauren Haber
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
Writer/Director: Merawi Gerima
Joshua James Richards, Nomadland
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM
Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Director: Jasmila Žbanić
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
BEST ENSEMBLE CAST IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES
I May Destroy You
Cast: Michaela Coel, Paapa Essiedu, Weruche Opia, and Stephen Wight
BEST MALE PERFORMANCE IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES
Amit Rahav, Unorthodox
BEST FEMALE PERFORMANCE IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES
Shira Haas, Unorthodox
BEST NEW SCRIPTED SERIES
I May Destroy You
Creator/Executive Producer: Michaela Coel
Executive Producers: Phil Clarke and Roberto Troni
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
One Night In Miami
Director: Regina King
Casting Directors: Kimberly R. Hardin
Ensemble Cast: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom Jr.
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
Directors/Producers: Jim LeBrecht, and Nicole Newnham
Producer: Sara Bolder
BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
Director of Pier Kids
BEST FIRST FEATURE
Sound of Metal
Director: Darius Marder
Producers: Bill Benz, Kathy Benz, Bert Hamelinck, and Sacha Ben Harroche
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Andy Siara, Palm Springs
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Yuh-jung Youn, Minari
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