Jake Gyllenhaal leaving the Vanity Fair Oscar party in LA on 27th February 2011
Jena Malone (Jake's co-star in "Donnie Darko") attending The Vanity Fair Oscar Party in LA on 27th February 2011
"Best First Feature category has been a hotbed for filmmakers who quickly make their mark with genre films. Although audiences didn't immediately embrace Richard Kelly's time-travel drama "Donnie Darko" in 2002, the Spirit Awards instantly recognized the qualities that would make it a cult classic with nods in the Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay categories.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Jena Malone as Donnie and Gretchen in the theatre scene from "Donnie Darko" (2001)
Last year, the biggest stir when nominations were announced came with the announcement of Oren Peli's "Paranormal Activity" the surprise box office hit that was made for just around $15,000 by a software programmer and went on to gross $107 million domestically with the simple premise of a couple tormented by supernatural house guests.
Still of Ashley Bell in The Last Exorcism (2010)
This year, another found footage flick found its way into the category with "The Last Exorcism" which also earned a nomination for its star Ashley Bell in the Best Supporting Female category for her portrayal of a young woman that appears to be possessed by the Devil.
Incidentally, the film isn't actually the first from director Daniel Stamm, whose previous mock doc thriller "A Necessary Death" won an audience award at the AFI Fest in Los Angeles in 2008 and brought him to the attention of executive producer Eli Roth after the film's original directors, screenwriters Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland had to leave to direct their other script in development, the comedy "The Virginity Hit." That bit of luck gave Stamm the chance to show his mettle on a substantially larger (but still meager $1.8 million) budget and paired him with Roth, who has injected a much-needed sense of humor into the usually deadly serious arena of horror.
The somewhat tricky nature of Spirit Award paperwork led to a similar nomination oddity in 1997 and 1998, though it was no less prescient when Larry Fessenden picked up the Swatch Someone to Watch Award a year before the Spirit Awards would nominate him again for Best Director - the catch is they were for both for the same film "Habit".
Still, there's no argument here about acknowledging Fessenden, who has gone on to become one of the most prominent and important promoters of independent genre films, both as a director himself on films like 2006's Ron Perlman frightfest "The Last Winter" but as the chief of Glass Eye Pix, which has produced such films recently as "Bitter Feast" and "The House of the Devil", introducing the world to filmmakers like Ti West and Joe Maggio.
Duncan Jones director of "Source Code" (starring Jake Gyllenhaal) was a revelation with his indie debut "Moon", a low budget sci-fi film.
In general, indie filmmakers have long pushed the boundaries that often prevent even most mainstream films from presenting the world as they know it, so it only makes sense that many work in horror and science fiction, where at its best, they can offer effective social commentary in a way few other genres of films can be. That the Spirit Awards chooses to acknowledge it keeps the ceremony on the cutting edge and always ahead of what's next". Source: www.ifc.com