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15 Up and Coming Directors To Watch Out For

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With Sundance London rapidly approaching, we get into the indie spirit of things and countdown 15 relatively unknown directors that definitely should be on your radar. 

Since Colin Trevorrow and Gareth Edwards’s rapid climb from indie darlings to big-budget Star Wars alumni, the low-rent filmmaking scene has seen a total rush of talent, with more and more being snapped up for the big jobs than ever before. 

That isn’t to say that all of them have Hollywood on their minds though. Below you’ll find an ongoing list of the most exciting names currently bursting into the business, and hopefully where they’re heading next. The next generation is certainly an interesting bunch!

1. David Robert Mitchell

You May Know Him From: 

Last year’s retro-styled, Carpenter-esque chiller It Follows, which not only swept Cannes and the BFI back in 2014, but also did some mega business on general release too. Young star Maika Monroe even got a place in the new Independence Day sequel out of it. 

What’s Next?

David Robert Mitchell certainly doesn’t look to be a one-hit wonder. Not only did he have the balls to pull together one of the most interesting genre releases of the past few years, but he’s now got his sights set on something equally exciting: a modern noir set in the seedy underbelly of good ol’ Los Angeles, so far titled Under the Silver Lake

With The Nice Guys recently reinvigorating the classic detective thriller, there’s a lot to look forward to here, especially if Mitchell holds on to his slick, neon styling, and with Dakota Johnson and Andrew Garfield already on board for the leads, he’s certainly attracting some decent star power too. 

2. Ana-Lily Amirpour 

You May Know Her From:

2015’s uber progressive critic and crowd-pleaser A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. First crashing through critical buzz at Sundance 2014, it was easily one of the most talked-about, and beautifully stylish releases in a long while.

What’s Next?

A Girl certainly had its own unique, kooky style, and Iranian-American Amirpour certainly doesn’t look to be giving that up any time soon. Her next effort, The Bad Batch, roughly scheduled for release some time in the next year, finds a pretty epic cast of Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey and Jason Momoa caught up in a dystopian love story amongst a community of cannibals. I don’t know about you, but she had me at Keanu. 

3. Jim Mickle

You May Know Him From: 

A whole host of seriously fun genre throwbacks, including 2010’s survival thriller Stake Land (arguably the best vampire movie since 30 Days of Night), hugely tense cannibal remake We Are What We Are and the 80s-esque mystery Cold In July. Put simply, Mickle is yet to make something that isn’t both original and totally ace. 

What’s Next?

The 1980s-set TV show Hap and Leonard, described as a “swamp noir” that finds James Purefoy and Michael Kenneth Williams teaming up with the likes of Christina Hendricks in the American deep south. Expect alligators, and lots of them. 

4. James Ponsoldt

You May Know Him From: 

Arguably three of the most under-appreciated indie releases of the past 5 years: drunk drama Smashed featuring Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s finest performance to date, Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley’s massively cute and heartfelt romance The Spectacular Now, and last year’s Jason Segel-flavoured dramatic revelation The End of the Tour. If you’re yet to be graced by Ponsoldt’s beautifully delicate style, chase these up for sure.

What’s Next?

The ominously titled The Circle, about a woman who finds herself drawn into a bizarre game of intrigue after taking on a job at a powerful tech company. Sound good? Just wait ’til you hear the cast (deep breath): Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Bill Paxton, Ellar Coltrane, Patton Oswalt and Karen Gillan. Yep, Ponsoldt’s definitely hit the big time. 

5. Taika Waititi 

You May Know Him From: 

A hand-full of episodes of both The Inbetweeners and Flight of the Conchords, as well as the ridiculously funny comedy mock-doc What We Do in the Shadows and this year’s huge NZ-hit Hunt for the Wilderpeople which is already setting records in its homeland. 

What’s Next?

A small, but firm step in the right direction with this tiny little emotional drama called Thor: Ragnarok, starring the relatively unknown talents of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston. Oh, and Cate Blanchett, Mark Ruffalo, Jeff Goldblum, Karl Urban and Anthony Hopkins. What I’m saying is, grab hold of Waititi now, before he becomes another member of the well-known Marvel braintrust, and you lose all hipster bragging rights. 

6. S. Craig Zahler 

You May Know Him From: 

Mostly his random collection of well-received western novels and heavy metal music projects, but most recently the wild-west horror treat Bone Tomahawk starring Kurt Russell, which is arguably the greatest unofficial Predator movie in existence. 

What’s Next?

The (hopefully) similarly uber dark action thriller Brawl in Cell Block 99, which finds Vince Vaughn as a former-boxer who ends up thrown in prison after a drug deal goes wrong. We’re assuming said boxing skills come in mighty handy when that ‘brawl’ starts… Either way, if Bone is anything to go by, this is a genre champion on the edge of something really, really great. 

7. Marjane Satrapi

You May Know Her From: 

A whole host of massively interesting left-field releases, like the Oscar-nominated French animation Persepolis (based on the graphic novel of the same name) and most recently, the super brave Ryan Reynolds black comedy The Voices (arguably one of the most insane and brilliant American releases all year). 

What’s Next?

A supposed ‘drama’ currently titled The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir, which finds an Indian man convincing his entire village that he has super-powers so that they will pay for him to fly to Paris. All so that he can go to IKEA. Nope, that last bit isn’t a joke. 

Starring the collected talents of Alexandra Daddario, Gemma Arterton and Uma Thurman, here’s hoping Satrapi’s multinational roots shine even more brightly in this one, since it certainly looks like she’s still backing plenty of weird-and-wonderful stories. 

8. Jeremy Saulnier

You May Know Him From: 

Sundance triumph Blue Ruin, a slick and darkly funny revenge thriller, and the recently released uber-violent slasher (and 2016 highlight) Green Room, which is totally still out in cinemas up and down the UK and well worth hunting down. Basically, Saulnier really knows how to craft a small, but massively effective thriller. 

What’s Next?

Nothing directly on the cards since he’s technically still running around on the Green Room press tour, but in our recent interview he talked about possibly one day rounding off his own three colours trilogy of thrillers, and it’s likely he’s got another small-ish project ready to start on soon too. 

9. Adam Wingard

You May Know Him From: 

2011’s runaway horror hit You’re Next which certainly put Wingard firmly on the map, the more recent Dan Stevens-starrer (and general John Carpenter fanboy film)The Guest, as well as terrific segments in the first The ABCs of Death and both original V/H/S movies. Put simply, this is a man that knows how to have fun with genre. 

What’s Next?

Wingard is very much shuffling into the big-time. His next collaboration with writer Simon Barrett is another low-rent horror treat in the form of the much-talked about The Woods, which should see a release in the back-half of this year, whilst he’s also planning decent-sized American remakes of two huge Asian hits: Death Note and I Saw the Devil. Colour us firmly intrigued. 

10. Shane Carruth

You May Know Him From: 

A series of actually genuinely interesting ‘arty-farty’ indies that many critics have used to label him as the second coming of Jesus/Terrence Malick. Upstream Colour didn’t quite find a particularly big audience, but boasted plenty of neat ideas, whilst his micro-budget, legendary Sundance sci-fi Primer is still widely regarded as one of the most complex and confusing movies ever made. 

He also produced a script currently still floating around on the internet for what can only be described as a massively far-out ‘drama’ that’s had film academics all over the world bursting at the seams. A Topiary technically hasn’t been made, but to be honest, a lot of people (quite rightly) assume that it’s unfilmable - either way, it’s worth hunting down and reading/visualising. 

What’s Next?

Sadly, much like a certain Mr Malick, Carruth is insanely secretive with his projects and general methods. Word on the street is though that his next, The Modern Ocean, a round-about tale of piracy and “war at sea”, will be a little different. Already boasting a far larger budget and a ridiculous cast of: Daniel Radcliffe, Anne Hathway, Keanu Reeves, Chloe Moretz, Tom Holland, Jeff Goldblum and literally so many more, Carruth has certainly upped the ante. 

Here’s hoping he holds on to his immense of amount of control though, as one of few directors left in the industry that still take on everything from camera-work to composing. 

11. Corin Hardy

You May Know Him From: 

Last year’s super practical creature feature The Hallow, which we’ve banged on about plenty in the past, but just in case it’s not quite clear, is quite possibly one of the most underrated little gems of the past however many years. It sets Hardy apart as a massively embracive master of his craft, like some sort of young(er) Guillermo del Toro.  

What’s Next?

Oddly enough, during production on The Hallow, Hardy somehow won himself the job of directing the mega-money remake of Alex Proyas’s The Crow, which seemed like a match made in Heaven. Since then though, things have been very back and forth on a production that had been in hell for several years before Hardy even climbed aboard, so it’s sadly looking less and less likely. If his Twitter is anything to go by though, Hardy certainly has plenty of other projects waiting in the wings, ready to get fired up. 

12. John Maclean

You May Know Him From: 

The BAFTA award-winning, Michael Fassbender-starring short Pitch Black Heist AND as a former core member of the ace Scottish indie group The Beta Band (y’know, that one John Cusack name-checks in High Fidelity). He also made last year’s ridiculously entertaining western hybrid Slow West, also starring the Fassbender himself, as well as Kodi Smit-McPhee and future Star Wars villain Ben Mendelsohn. 

What’s Next?

With Slow West having only just finished its insane festival world tour, nothing’s been set in stone just yet, but it’s certainly an idea to keep an eye on upcoming director-less Fassbender projects, considering the pair’s winning relationship so far. 

13. Jennifer Kent

You May Know Her From: 

The massively popular Australian horror sensation of 2014 that was The Babadook, a multi-layered and ultra tense supernatural fear fest worked into a central struggle between a single mother and her son. Whether you’re a horror fan or not, it’s difficult to not be impressed by it, even just for delivering one of the genre’s most recent iconic big-bads. 

What’s Next?

Something of a detour from creepy kids books, Kent’s next cinematic outing is apparently lined up as The Nightingale, a bloody revenge story set in 19th-century Tasmania, that finds a young convict woman teaming up with a male Aboriginal to avenge the deaths of her family. It’s reassuring that Kent hasn’t sold out just yet, then. 

14. Ti West

You May Know Him From: 

Friend of Adam Wingard and Eli Roth, and horror maestro behind retro chiller The House of the Devil, fan-favourite The Innkeepers, cult-focussed mock-doc The Sacrament and some of the best segments from The ABCs of Death and the very first V/H/S anthology. 

What’s Next?

Much like his pal Wingard, West seems to be gearing up for the big time, debuting a big name western, In a Valley of Violence at this year’s SXSW festival. Boasting the star power of Ethan Hawke and John Travolta, as well as the rapidly rising Karen Gillan and Taissa Farmiga, West’s latest seems to be a gigantic punt in the right direction for setting him up as one of America’s most interesting upcoming filmmakers. 

15. Fede Alvarez

You May Know Him From: 

Arguably one of the most well-received remakes of all time: 2013’s super shocking and stomach-churning Evil Dead. His YouTube short Panic Attack! certainly turned a few heads too, but the grace and detail Alvarez threw into his reimagining of the Sam Raimi classic easily makes him a filmmaking star in the making. 

What’s Next?

Another SXSW graduate - his latest Don’t Breathe, again starring his Evil Dead lead Jane Levy, has already been mopping up heaps of praise. An ultra-tense thriller about a trio of thieves who find themselves facing off with a blind man after breaking into his house, it’s clear that Alvarez is the director to beat when it comes to keeping modern horror cheap, but interesting. It should be out over here by the end of the summer if all goes well. 

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