While the Independent Spirit Awards and the 92nd Oscar Awards celebrated 2020’s unusual film season this past weekend, the former ceremony also included new categories celebrating television with Michaela Coel’s (Chewing Gum) HBO series I May Destroy You taking home the evening’s Best New Scripted Series award. Film Independent announced the inclusion of five television categories into their ceremony back in September and Variety remarked that “the Indie Spirits are off to a promising start in recognizing TV” about the award show’s execution of its newest categories.
— IndieWire (@IndieWire) April 23, 2021
While an unconventional movie-going season has given television more of a platform to shine, additionally evidenced by the MTV Movie & TV Award nominations, Variety asserts that “TV is creating and airing some of the most daring, provocative and critically acclaimed entertainment fare out there.” Producer Mynette Louie (The Tale, The Invitation) echoed this sentiment when Film Independent announced its expansion into television in September, via Twitter.
Truth is, it seems to be getting easier to get “specialty” projects made as TV series than as feature films. I’ll always love feature film format most, but these are the times we live in. Glad to’ve been part of this decisionmaking process @FilmIndependent https://t.co/a3DeHuPcHi
— Mynette Louie (@mynette) September 29, 2020
Of the five new categories – Best New Scripted Series, Best New Non-Scripted or Documentary Series, Best Male Performance in a Scripted Series, Best Female Performance in a Scripted Series and Best Ensemble Cast in a Scripted Series – Coel’s HBO drama took home two awards. Variety referred to the Best New Scripted Series and Best Ensemble Cast in a Scripted Series winner as a “deeply personal” story that fully “embraces the independent spirit.”
In this sense, I May Destroy You fulfilled Film Independent’s associate director of nominations, Setu Raval’s, ultimate goal for the television category – “the types of work that we celebrate on the film side, and TV side, they’re going to look very similar” (Variety). Despite the thematic similarities between the categories, the television nominees have different requirements and restrictions than the film section of the Independent Spirit Awards. The ceremony only recognizes series in their first season, a season which requires at least three, eighteen-plus-minute episodes that have aired on an official network or streaming platform in order to be considered.
“The Independent Spirit Awards did manage to find a unique niche in the ever-growing TV awards space,” Variety said of the television categories’ choice to exclusively recognize new series, thus refreshing the pool of nominees each year. However, Variety added that an exact definition of “indie TV” still remains ambiguous after the awards ceremony. I May Destroy You and the television categories’ other inaugural winners – Unorthodox and Immigration Nation – may provide context for how viewers define the concept of indie television moving forward.