In her 20th year as Film Independent executive director, Dawn Hudson tells Jeremy Kay about the organisation’s core beliefs, moving the Los Angeles Film Festival to its new home and the long-running Independent Spirit Awards.
Tell us about the origins of Film Independent?
The organisation was created in 1980 by a small band of filmmakers including Gregory Nava and Anna Thomas. They held the first meeting for independent filmmakers in Los Angeles, which was attended by a whopping six people. Their vision and commitment helped to sustain this organisation into a body dedicated to helping filmmakers.
How has the organisation changed since you joined?
I came on as executive director in 1991 and that mission to nurture and support independent filmmakers and celebrate their work hasn’t really changed. Our ability to execute that mission in a broader way has evolved exponentially. We are now able to fund filmmaker labs for writers, directors, producers and documentarians. We fund diversity programmes and a variety of workshops and casting rooms and offer affordable rental on high-grade cameras. We have filmmakers retreats, too, so we support this community in myriad ways, which is what artists need. The membership numbers around 4,000 now, but that cannot convey the strength of the independent film community in Los Angeles. The community has grown so much.
Why did you move the Los Angeles Film Festival downtown?
We knew the partnership with [venue] LA Live! and [owners] AEG was exciting because it enables the city to showcase these artist-driven films in the best possible way. It enables us to be a magnet for film lovers across Los Angeles.
When you announced the move downtown some feared that evening rush hour traffic would block key arteries into the area. How did that work out?
We heard the concerns and were nervous prior to the festival that the perception would keep people away. The fears proved unfounded and we managed it beautifully. It really wasn’t an issue and we saw all our Westside friends. Downtown is clean, easy, accessible – they’ve got it down in Downtown.
On Saturday people will descend on the tent on Santa Monica Beach for the 26th Indie Spirit Awards. It’s survived to become a key fixture on the awards circuit.
It has been an amazing journey. The Spirit Awards have grown. The interest in independent film from the mainstream press and audiences has grown, too. Audiences have a huge appetite for original stories and films that are entertaining in an unpredictable way. That appetite has become a signature part of the Spirit Awards.