Rocky Road to Cred and Clout
10 years ago, there were questions and missteps that were addressed and Gothams are a powerhouse
SINCE BECOMING THE Independent Film Project’s executive director in late 2009, Joana Vicente has made her mark. In addition to increasing IFP’S grant support, she also helped found the Made in NY Media Center and transitioned IFP from a film-based foundation to an org that supports various media.
But perhaps Vicente’s most recognized achievement is her transformation of the Gotham Awards. Once known as a low-key, New York- centric event, the annual kudosfest is now seen as a credible Academy Award bellwether for independent films.
Held in late November, the Gothams are the first stop on the long and winding road of awards season. But only recently, under Vicente’s leadership, has the kudofest become a critical early campaign event for underdog contenders.
From 2014 through 2016 the Gothams honored “Birdman,” “Spotlight” and “Moonlight” respectively. Each film went on to garner an Oscar for best picture. Last year, Jordan Peel’s “Get Out” took home the screenplay Gotham before garnering the Oscar in the same category.
In 2013, Matthew Mcconaughey won the lead actor Gotham for “Dallas Buyers Club.” Prior to the ceremony, Leonardo Dicaprio and Bruce Dern were favorites. Post- Gothams, Mcconaughey became the Oscar frontrunner and eventually won.
“When [Mcconaughey] won the Oscar, that was a very important moment for us,” Vicente says. “It changed the level of the talent attending the show and how distributors looked at us.”
This year’s 28th Gotham Awards on Nov. 26 marks Vicente’s final show as exec director. In August she was named executive director and co-head of the Toronto Intl. Film Festival.
In addition to Mcconaughey’s win, Vicente's proudest Gotham memories include two lead actress acceptance speeches from Brie Larson and Isabelle Huppert in 2013 and 2016 for “Short Term
Proud Perch Saoirse Ronan takes the stage to accept the best actress award for "Lady Bird" at last year's IFP Gotham Awards in New York.