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By Admin | March 3, 2011

Why the f**k wasn’t I nominated for a Spirit Award?

This is a question that comes up every year, and yep, this year I had this conversation with several more frustrated filmmakers, all who released their films last year, went through the process of submitting to the Spirit Awards, but like many times in the past, they did not win Spirit Awards, and they were not nominated.

Here is a list of reasons why your film might not have been selected yet again:

  1. Your film stars Charlie Sheen, (yeah, whatever, I had to jump in).
  2. Your film didn’t play in theaters or in the places where you need to play to submit your film (there are strict rules about this, go to, read up).
  3. Your film didn’t have any well-known names in it, (Ok, fine, neither did Winter’s Bone).
  4. Your film sucked. (Hm, wondering if this is why I wasn’t nominated.)
  5. Your film wasn’t original enough. (This sounds super lame, but it’s true.)
  6. You didn’t do any major festivals last year. (This would’ve just put you on the radar of the selection committee, plus some festivals enable you to submit.)
  7. Your film was handheld. (Really just talking about my own films.)
  8. Your film was too long or too short. (Yep, pay attention to those rules.)
  9. You didn’t submit your film for consideration. (You’d be surprised how many people think you don’t have to submit.)
  10. You’re an a*****e. (Fine, sometimes this doesn’t matter, but sometimes it does.)
  11. You haven’t paid your dues. (Not talking about Film Independent membership dues. Talking about the fact that this might’ve been your first film and no one knows who you are yet.) (Yes, there are categories for first-time filmmakers, but even those people have done the festival circuit, have agents or managers, and have gotten to know people at least over the last year.)
  12. You used to write a blog for Film Independent. (Fine, that’s about me too.)
  13. You turned down the LA Film Festival. (Not sure who would be dumb enough to do this, or that anyone has ever even done it, but they are tied together in a way, so some of the people overlap. If people get to know your at the LA Film Festival there is a chance they will remember you for the Spirit Awards.)
  14. You treated festival staff like s**t when you did the LA Film Festival. (Who knows if people were really kicked out of the running for this, but it can’t be helping you to piss off people who are working with the Spirit Awards people.)
  15. You’re a very public alcoholic. (This might actually get you nominated if you’re at least entertaining. Who doesn’t want to see someone be a fool on stage?)
  16. You ARE Charlie Sheen. (Sorry, there’s just so much footage of him on TV today, I can’t escape it.
  17. Your film isn’t actually indie. (Yes, I know the line is very blurry, but if Winter’s Bone can get nominated the way it did, we all have some kind of a shot.)
  18. You’ve annoyed Dawn Hudson at some point in your career. (Have I mentioned that Dawn Hudson is my hero yet?) (She actually is.) (But I’m not afraid to point it out here for brownie points.) (Hi, Dawn!)
  19. You haven’t even made a film yet. (Duh.)
  20. You’re lazy. (There is a whole series of things you can be doing to get your film out there, get it screened around the globe, get reps who can help you with your film, get programmers and selection committees to pay attention to you. Why aren’t you doing those things right now?)

Yeah, you get the point. I do all these things too. Am doing many of them as I write this. Now, hurry, we all have less than a year left to get our next films out there and submitted for next year’s Spirit Awards!

Please send me your questions and follow me @HeidiVanLier on Twitter!

Heidi Van Lier is a filmmaker living in Los Angeles. She has made three indie feature films, CHI GIRL, MONDAY, and AMERICAN DECAF. She is the author of the book The Indie Film Rule Book (available on, which is also a textbook at film schools. She has been a part of the selection committee for the Slamdance Film Festival for the last 12 years, and she is on juries at festivals around the country all year long. (Oh and she’s divorced and happy about it, dammit.)

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