Mike Fleming

Sanity prevails! The 2011 Film Independent Spirit Awards are returning to their familiar Saturday afternoon perch on the beach in Santa Monica. The awards show will be held February 26, starting at 2 PM. It has always been one of the most enjoyable Oscar weekend events, but last year, the organization brought the show to downtown Los Angeles on the Friday before the Oscars. It was an awful idea. Everything  that could go wrong did, including problems with the live TV feed. Just as important, Hollywood players were caught between driving all the way downtown or making the must-attend Oscar parties held by WME’s Ari Emanuel and CAA’s Bryan Lourd. The move back to Saturdays was announced September 1, and hopes ran high that it foreshadowed a return to the beach.

LOS ANGELES (October 26, 2010) – Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival, announced today that the 2011 Spirit Awards will return to its traditional Saturday afternoon on February 26 at the beach in Santa Monica. Red carpet arrivals will begin at 11:30 a.m., with the ceremony scheduled to start at 2:00 p.m. The awards ceremony will air on IFC in primetime on February 26 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT. The nominations press conference will take place on Tuesday, November 30, and all past Spirit Award winners and nominees will be eligible to vote for this year’s winners.

Over the past 25 years, the event has been held at various locations in Los Angeles, including 385 North Restaurant, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Beverly Hills Hotel, Raleigh Studios, the Historic Hollywood Palladium, the Santa Monica beach, and in honor of last year’s 25th Anniversary, a Friday night at the Event Deck at L.A. LIVE.

“We are delighted to return to the Santa Monica beach for our 26th Spirit Awards, and look forward to celebrating the afternoon with the nominees and our filmmaking community,” said Film Independent Executive Director Dawn Hudson. “We have assembled a magnificent team with our longtime broadcast partner IFC, dick clark productions, and new executive producer Audrey Morrissey to deliver a fun show that recognizes the bold work of these independent filmmakers.”

“We’re thrilled to once again be the exclusive home of the Spirit Awards,” said Jennifer Caserta, Executive Vice President & General Manager of IFC. “This year’s move back to the beach represents the true indie spirit of the Awards, while IFC’s primetime premiere of the show is well positioned to reach the largest possible audience of viewers who revel in indie film and culture.”

Live Animals’ Audrey Morrissey will serve as the new Executive Producer, alongside dick clark productions and Barry Adelman, who return for a second year. Morrissey, a veteran of MTV, has executive produced award shows, music specials, reality series, music videos and promos. Most recently, she executive produced the 2010 MTV Movie Awards, the 2010 People’s Choice Awards, and the 2009 MTV Latin American VMAs. Before forming Live Animals, Morrissey joined Jimmy Iovine and Doug Morris as the Head of Television for their online music venture, Farmclub.com, where she executive produced 65 episodes of the weekly music series on USA Network. Prior to that, Morrissey spent 9 years at MTV in their music and specials division working on their high profile music series and annual event specials such as Unplugged, VMAs, Movie Awards, Fashionably Loud, Spring Break and the Rock n’ Jock franchise.

“I’m honored to be joining the Film Independent Spirit Awards, a show that I’ve been a fan of for years and one that recognizes the tireless work, unflagging dedication, and strong, vital voices of independent filmmakers,“ said Morrissey.

As the first event to exclusively honor independent film, the Spirit Awards has made a name for itself as the premier awards show for the independent film community. Artists receiving industry recognition first at the Spirit Awards include Joel & Ethan Coen, Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, Ashley Judd, Robert Rodriguez, David O. Russell, Edward Burns, Aaron Eckhart, Neil LaBute, Darren Aronofsky, Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman, Hilary Swank, Marc Forster, Todd Field, Christopher Nolan, Zach Braff, Amy Adams and many more.

Last year’s host was acclaimed comedian Eddie Izzard with major winners including Lionsgate’s Precious, which won Best Feature, Best Director, Best First Screenplay, Best Female Lead, and Best Supporting Female; Fox Searchlight’s Crazy Heart, which won Best First Feature, and Best Male Lead; Fox Searchlight’s (500) Days of Summer, which won Best Screenplay; Abramaorama’s Anvil! The Story of Anvil, which won Best Documentary; Sony Pictures Classics’ An Education, which won Best Foreign Film; Magnolia Pictures’ Humpday, which won the John Cassavetes Award; Oscilloscope Laboratories’ The Messenger, which won Best Supporting Male; and Focus Features’ A Serious Man, which won Best Cinematography.

In addition to celebrating the talented nominees and winners at the ceremony, the Spirit Awards is the primary fundraiser for Film Independent’s year-round programs, which cultivates the careers of independent filmmakers and promotes diversity in the film industry. Year-round sponsors, Spirit Circle members and Industry Circle members receive the option to purchase tickets and tables to the gala beginning today.

This year’s ceremony is sponsored by Premier Sponsors IFC, Netflix, ELLE, Piaget and Jameson Irish Whiskey. WireImage is the Official Photographer of Film Independent and PR Newswire is the Official Breaking News Service of Film Independent.