The Independent Spirit Awards (ISAs) began honoring debut filmmakers at the 2nd Annual ceremony in 1987 (honoring films made in 1986) in order to give recognition to independent films which generally are made on low budgets and without much studio support or media exposure. While occasionally the filmmakers became among the most well-known in the film industry, some establish long-term careers making small- or mid-budget films.
For the 15th and 16th Annual ISAs, held in 2000 and 2001 (honoring films made in 1999 and 2000, respectively), there were two First Feature winners: one for a film with a budget over $500,000 and one for a film with a budget under $500,000. With the 17th Annual ISAs held in 2002 (honoring films made in 2001), the category reverted to one winner with no classification by budget.
The films with budgets under $500,000 which were honored (but which are not included in this list) were:
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Chuck & Buck (2000)
The films with budgets over $500,000 which were honored (and which are included in this list) were:
Being John Malkovich (1999)
You Can Count on Me (2000)