Hosted by the Austin Film Society, the gala honored Heard, 27, with the film group's Rising Star Award, given to a breakout young Texas actor.
"No one told me I'd have to speak," Heard, a native of Austin, said as she took the stage to accept her award. "This is where I'm from. I'm humbled and honored to be here tonight."
At the fete, a montage of Heard's films played onscreen, including The Rum Diary, with Depp, 50. The two are set to costar together again in the upcoming London Fields.
The event, emceed by actor Luke Wilson and held at the Austin Studios Stage 7, raised more than $500,000 for the Austin Film Society and also saluted the night's other honorees, including filmmaker David Gordon Green (who directed Heard in the Pineapple Express); singer-songwriter Mac Davis, who received his award from presenter Priscilla Presley; lifetime-achievement award winner Louis Black; and Robert Rodriguez, whose cult film From Dusk Till Dawn is being adapted into a television series on Rodriguez's own network, El Rey.
"I was a little kid who identified more with the prince than the princess," Heard said earlier Friday at a press conference hosted by Variety. "Girls often identify with a male character, and when we make a movie with a female lead, it is often to appeal to a female audience. I like variety [in roles]. It is just about staying hungry and curious, and looking at things that are new."
Film producer Ryan Kavanaugh, who presented Heard with the Rising Star Award, said her selection for the honor was "an easy" one.
"Here's someone in her young 20s who has done a dozen-plus movies and produced movies," he told PEOPLE. "She is extremely bright, she is extremely involved in a lot of philanthropic endeavors. She was an easy choice."
Heard's parents were on hand to enjoy the evening's celebrations as she sat at a table with Depp, who gave her a congratulatory kiss after she received her award.
The Texas Film Awards kick off Austin's SXSW Festival, which runs from Friday through March 16.