Spiral Spirit

Dallas indie filmmakers score important grant and Spirit Award nom

Dallas indie filmmakers score important grant and Spirit Award nom

Dallas-Fort Worth filmmakers Toby Halbrooks and James M. Johnston, who are making waves in the indie film world, won a prestigious grant from Los Angeles-based Film Independent.

The duo won the Piaget Producers Award, a $25,000 grant that honors up-and-coming producers who make independent films with limited resources; Johnston and Halbrooks won out over three other finalists.

Film Independent, which produces the nationally televised Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival, presented Halbrooks and Johnston with the Piaget at an event in Los Angeles on January 11.

In his acceptance speech, Johnston, who founded Dallas-Fort Worth vegan restaurant Spiral Diner with his wife Amy McNutt, was quoted by Variety issuing an exuberant exclamation that "we just got in from Texas, and now we've got all this money!"

Johnston and Halbrooks gained acclaim for their 2013 film Ain't Them Bodies Saints, a romantic crime drama starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck and directed by Dallas filmmaker David Lowery.

Johnston has also been nominated for a Spirit Award for Pit Stop, a film he made with a team of Texas filmmakers, including co-producers Jonathan Duffy, Eric Steele and Kelly Williams; writer David Lowery; and director Yen Tan. The film is up for the James Cassavetes Award, and winners will be announced at the Spirit Awards on Saturday, March 1, which will be broadcast at 9 pm on IFC.

Johnston and Halbrooks are in Park City, Utah, this week for the premiere of their film Listen Up, Phillip at the Sundance Film Festival.

James Johnston, Toby Halbrooks
James Johnston and Toby Halbrooks won the Piaget Producers Award, a $25,000 grant that honors up-and-coming film producers. Photo courtesy of James Johnston