10 Of The Most Promising Up-And-Coming Filmmakers You Should Keep An Eye On

It’s a fact. We have more filmmakers than we ever had in history and their numbers would only increase from now on. Film schools become more and more popular as well as the film festivals around the world.

Fifty years ago it was very hard to own all the required equipment to create your own good piece of material, let alone produce and share it. Now, with the modern digital revolution, you can shoot, edit, color correct and leave the social media do the distribution for you in just hours. Because of that, surely, the amount of poor quality content increases dramatically but it becomes easier for the talented people to be discovered among the unworthy.

The article includes most of the up-and-coming filmmakers that worked their way up to fame and big budget possibilities in the past decade or two. Some of the names on the list are already releasing their filmmaking power while others are still casting their initial wondrous film spells on the audience. They all have one thing in common – bringing joy and inspiration to filmgoers. Unless some of them flops like Michael Cimino of course. But let’s not be that apocalyptic about those hard-working and talented people.

The following list would either make you gently envious or fuel your frozen ambition. One thing is for sure. You’ll have something to look forward to.


1. Benh ZeitlinWhy He Is Great: He can direct everything that moves.

Career Kickstarter: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Memorable Movie Moment: Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) is being chased by a herd of giant pigs with auroch horns. Soon she stops running and confronts them in front of her father’s eyes. Her acting, particularly in that scene where she comes to terms with nature’s way, is heart-breaking.

In an interview for Sundance, Benh Zeitlin said that while he was in college (Wesleyan University), someone told him that he shouldn’t film on the water or with children, or with animals. That’s a fairly good advice, but if said to such an ambitious person it may turn out to inspire the exact opposite. It also says a lot about his courage and determination that his first feature was with “children and animals on boats”. Beasts of the Southern Wild was a magnificent success, earning four Oscar nominations and more than sixty awards internationally.

Among Zeitlin’s inspiration is the chaotic and distinctive style of Emir Kusturica, which comes as no surprise when you see all those animal set-pieces scattered around the film. The only thing we know about Zeitlin’s next film is that it would be a “psychotic adventure” in which “a young girl gets kidnapped onto a hidden ecosystem where a tribal war is raging over a form of pollen that breaks the relationship between aging and time”.


2. J.C. Chandor

Why He Is Great: Risk taker, writes compelling characters.

Career Kickstarter: Margin Call

Memorable Movie Moment: Eric (Stanley Tucci) delivers a short but staggering “unsung hero” speech about a bridge he made 22 years ago. It comes so spontaneous and unexpected that after it is over you’ll find yourself paying much more attention to… bridges.

To have Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons and a bunch of other A-list actors on your set and under your control is a gift for every filmmaker, but for those of younger age or yet to craft their debut piece is a dream coming true. J. C. Chandor is one of those very hard working guys.

After graduating in 1992 from Ridge High School in Bernards Township, he received his bachelor’s degree in 1996 from The College of Wooster. For 15 years he labored and struggled with commercials, documentaries and, of course, horrific failures. But when Margin Call was completed Chandor earned himself an Oscar nomination for writing the screenplay. What more could you ask for from your feature debut? Well, only an Oscar in your hand probably.

Speaking of which, Chandor’s second film All is Lost was once again among the main contenders for the golden statues but The Academy swiftly ignored it. Still, critics loved it, people liked it and Robert Redford received a loud round of applause for his laudable agility.

Chandor’s next project is called A Most Violent Year and it features Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain. One can only hope that it would be scored by Alex Ebert who did a fantastic job in All is Lost.


3. Cary Fukunaga

Why He Is Great: Exceptional achievement in directing for TV.

Career Kickstarter: Sin Nombre

Memorable Movie Moment: In a brutal showdown, Casper (Edgar Flores) runs into Smiley (Kristyan Ferrer) and shoots him down. Smiley’s gang catches up and continues the execution by emptying their magazines on Casper’s dead body.

The former competitive snowboarder is another bold director who knows how to handle a challenge. It seems that with every next project Cary’s visual style becomes more and more powerful and hypnotic.

While in Jane Eyre, Wasikowska and Fassbender do a perfect job in captivating the audience on their own, in True Detective Fukunaga does a great deal for McConaughey and Harrelson and their instant classic performance. The long takes, the panoramic shots from the sky and the frame composition all give an example of how the shooting process for television gets approached in recent days and future.

Cary Fukunaga attended graduate film school at NYU. His upcoming projects include Beasts of No Nation with Idris Elba and an adaptation of Stephen King’s It.


4. Richard AyoadeWhy He Is Great: Versatile, clever and funny

Career Kickstarter: Submarine

Memorable Movie Moment: The scene where Oliver (Craig Roberts) meets Jordana (Yasmin Paige) under the bridge, hands her the camera and everything goes all Guy Ritchie from there.

Probably the most recognizable face on the list, Richard Ayoade has just recently released his second feature film called The Double. It stars Jesse Eisenberg playing a clerk in a government agency who meets his worst possible doppelganger. The film is loosely based on Dostoevsky’s book by the same name. Ayoade’s first film Submarine closely resembles something of an early Wes Anderson but with darker color palette.

Ayoade studied law at Cambridge Univercity. Later he became the president of the Cambridge Footlights club which is a very popular amateur theatrical club. It is really fresh and interesting to see a young British filmmaker who fits so good in American pop culture. For example, the transition from The IT Crowd to The Watch is quite surreal. His next project is The Boxtrolls where he would voice one of the characters.


5. Duncan Jones

Why He Is Great: Very talented video game aficionado

Career Kickstarter: Moon

Memorable Movie Moment: Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) confronts the on-board computer Gerty (voice by Kevin Spacey) about his own origins and the horrible truth behind it.

David Bowie’s son is directing the Warcraft movie. Only few things sound more colorful than this. Actually Duncan Jones has been an avid gamer almost all his life and that passion can be seen reflecting in his second feature Source Code with Jake Gyllenhaal. Jones graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from The College of Wooster (same as J.C. Chandor). He then pursued a PhD degree in the same field of study at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, but left before completion to attend London Film School, where he then graduated as a director. He had also received a scholarship to go and play soccer in Ohio.

Beside video games Jones is also a huge sci-fi fan and his debut feature was inspired by a number of his favourite films in that category. Moon’s multi-million dollar look is very sparingly funded and is entirely a British production. Duncan’s next project, as mentioned above, is the long-awaited Warcraft movie. In the last edition of EMPIRE there were a couple of very curious photos from the set which would serve as a pleasant tease for every fan.