But they gushed praise for filmmaker Russell.
"Your brilliance as a filmmaker is without peer. Your spirit of collaboration knows no bounds," said producer Jonathan Gordon.
Russell said backstage that he was thrilled to go the Oscars, or as he called it, the "World Series," but he also has no illusions about winning there.
"Thank God, Monday, I'm going back to work," Russell said. "That's how you avoid the postpartum depression."
Hawkes won the supporting-actor Spirit Award two years ago as Lawrence's co-star in "Winter's Bone," a role that also earned him an Oscar nomination. He missed out on an Oscar slot this time but said that independent film is a "big part of my life, and I'm really happy for that. ... 'The Sessions' is a truly independent film made for very little money and shot very quickly."
Austrian writer-director Michael Haneke's old-age love story "Amour" won for best international film, a possible prelude to the Oscars, where his film is the favorite to win the foreign-language prize and is nominated for best picture.
"I have the impression I am the oldest man in the room," the 70-year-old Haneke joked in a room filled with young filmmakers.
The ceremony was hosted by Adam Samberg at the awards' usual venue, a tent along the beach in Santa Monica just west of Los Angeles. It is presented by Film Independent, a group of filmmakers, industry professionals and cinema buffs. The show was aired later Saturday on IFC.
Among other winners:
— Best first film: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," from director Stephen Chbosky, who adapted the picture from his novel.
— First screenplay: "Safety Not Guaranteed," Derek Connolly.
— Cinematography: "Beasts of the Southern Wild," Ben Richardson.
— Documentary: "The Invisible War," directed by Kirby Dick.
— John Cassavetes Award for best film made for less than $500,000: "Middle of Nowhere," directed by Ava DuVernay.
AP Movie Writer Christy Lemire contributed to this report.