2011 Young Hollywood—Part 1: The Filmmakers

(Re-posted from limitémagazine.com)

For our second year, Limité presents its two-part “Young Hollywood” series, which honors filmmakers under the age of 35 and actors under the age of 30. The talented individuals featured here bring Limité back to its roots — as a forum for presenting what’s next in the world of popular and underground culture. In this series, we present you with some of the youngest and freshest talent making its mark in film. Some names are established, while others are on their way up. These are the people who will shape the future of film. It’s worth remembering their names and faces.

The film industry is bursting with fresh, young talent. We encourage you to add to this list by leaving a comment, describing which young talent you think deserves recognition.

Richard Ayoade

by Stephanie Dawson

Age: 34

From: London, England

Credits: Submarine (2011), The IT Crowd (TV)

British comedian, actor, writer, and director Richard Ayoade is best known in the UK for his role as Maurice Moss on The IT Crowd, a sitcom based on the trials and tribulations of an under-valued computer technology staff. Ayoade studied law at Cambridge, but his love of performing lead him to Footlights, the University’s famed drama club, for which he served as president for one year. He acted and wrote many shows while there.

Ayoade co-wrote the stage show Garth Marenghi’s Fright Knight and its sequel Garth Marenghi’s Netherhead, which won a Perrier award in 2001. In 2004, the UK’s Channel 4 aired Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, a continuation of the character Ayoade and his partners originated. Ayoade directed and performed in that series, as well as the short-lived The Mighty Boosh.

Ayoade directed music videos for Arctic Monkeys, Super Furry Animals, Vampire Weekend, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. His live concert video for Arctic Monkeys’ At the Apollo won Best DVD at the New Musical Express.

Submarine is Richard Ayoade’s feature directorial debut and is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Joe Dunthorne. Ayoade also wrote the screenplay for the coming-of-age comedy. While the independent film had a modest box office return, it gained some critical acclaim for Ayoade’s imaginative, visionary directing. Ayoade is a multi-threat and definitely one to watch in the coming years.

Neill Blomkamp

by Daniel Quitério

Age: 31

From: Johannesburg, South Africa

Credits: Elysium (upcoming), District 9 (2009)

Though his film credits span less than a decade, South African director Neill Blomkamp has made a considerable impact in a short period of time. His breakout independent hit District 9 was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. And although it was a surprise nomination and considered a long-shot to win, it was an honor that placed the filmmaker top of mind among Hollywood’s brass. The film actually earned four nominations, including Best Editing, Best Visual Effects, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Blomkamp, himself. “Adapted,” because the feature was based on a short film that Blomkamp made just three years earlier, titled “Alive in Joburg.” Both films take a documentary-style approach to telling the story of aliens who have arrived in Johannesburg and the humans’ war-like reaction to their unwanted presence. In both films, Blomkamp carves out a gritty, realistic feel unlike anything that’s typically seen in one of Hollywood’s big budget, special-effects-reliant alien flicks, such as Cowboys & Aliens (2011) or War of the Worlds (2005).

The South African emigrated to Canada with his family when he was 18. It was in Vancouver where he enrolled in film school. Later, he became active in making short films and directing commercials. Halo: Combat, the first part of his 2008 short film/ad trilogy for the XBox 360/Halo 3 video game, went on to win the Film Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions advertising festival — considered by many as the world’s most coveted advertising award. And in 2010, Time named Blomkamp as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world.

The writer/director will next tackle Elysium, a sci-fi feature starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, William Fichtner, Diego Luna, and District 9 lead Sharlto Copley, which is currently slated for a 2013 release. 

Antonio Campos

by Curtis John

Age: 27

From: New York, NY

Credits: Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011), Afterschool (2008)

Antonio Campos is on a wild ride of his own design.

As the director and producer of film festival hits like Afterschool and Martha Marcy May Marlene, respectively, and having had over five films in the past five years that have either premiered or been shown at the Cannes Film Festival, Campos has the creative career that many others would kill, or at least maim, for.

Campos has made his prime films with fellow film school friends/collaborators Sean Durkin and Josh Mond, as they’ve formed a collective in which they write, produce, and edit each other’s films while one takes the lofty director’s chair. This process seems to allow Campos and friends to bring audiences fresh and stimulating independent fare not often seen in American film, especially one right after the other. Such fare shouldn’t be too surprising, based on his heritage; his mother is a movie producer and his father a renowned television journalist from Brazil.

Next for Campos is the hotly anticipated Simon Killer, about a young New Yorker (Brady Corbet, Mysterious Skin) who seeks refuge from the pain of a difficult breakup, travels to France in search of distraction, quickly falls for an exotic woman (Mati Diop, 35 Shots of Rum), and finds himself drawn into the dark underbelly of Paris.

Lena Dunham

by Janice Perez

Age: 25

From: New York, NY

Credits: Tiny Furniture (2010), “Creative Nonfiction” (2009)

Lena Dunham was a month-and-a-half shy of turning 24 when her debut feature film Tiny Furniture won Best Narrative Feature at the SXSW film festival in Austin in 2010. The sleeper hit indie comedy is about a film school graduate’s lack of direction upon returning home to her artist family’s TriBeCa loft from a four-year stint at a Midwest liberal arts college. The film might be a little close to home, as Dunham does really come from a family of artists and had to contend with finding her own voice.

Tiny Furniture also won the 2010 Spirt Award for Best First Screenplay. Dunham, who also starred in the film, has admitted to being overwhelmed at the response of her first project, considering that it took her not even a year to complete from start to finish. Her self-deprecating sense of humor, she says, is attributed to the surroundings in which she grew up, particularly around her artist/photographer mother Laurie and her painter father Carroll.

Dunham’s debut feature eventually lead her to HBO, where execs who were very impressed with the film greenlit her next project, Girls. The TV movie is executive produced by Judd Apatow and will be written, directed, and co-produced by Dunham, herself.

Barry Jenkins

by Morgan Goldin

Age: 31

From: Miami, Florida

Credit: Medicine for Melancholy (2008)

To label Barry Jenkins’s debut feature Medicine for Melancholy as simply a black mumblecore movie would diminish a lot of its power. Don’t let the microscopic budget and improvisational feel fool you. There’s an attention to detail in the cinematography that most mumblecore movies lack, as well as the presence of two articulate leads. The film still captures the nuances and subtleties of actual conversation, which is what writer/director Jenkins was going for.

Winning the 2009 Someone to Watch Spirit Award, as well as being nominated for Best Cinematography and Best First Feature for Medicine for Melancholy, Jenkins tells the story of two African-American 20-somethings in San Francisco who spend the day together after a one night stand. Starring Wyatt Cenac and Tracey Heggins, the film recalls the intimate milieu set in Before Sunrise (1995) and Friday Night (2002), which Jenkins credits French filmmaker Claire Denis as a clear influence on his own work.

Some of the themes include issues of race and class, which became very apparent to Jenkins upon moving to San Francisco. The film, itself, is based on his own experiences relocating to that city. He used a skeleton crew to work on the film, taking the DIY ethos to the extreme. The effort paid off, though. In 2008, Jenkins was nominated for Breakthrough Director at New York’s Gotham Awards. The director is an exciting voice in film, and it will be interesting to follow his budding career.

Sarah Polley

by Janice Perez

Age: 32

From: Toronto, Canada

Credits: Take This Waltz (2011), Away from Her (2006)

Although she has been acting in a slate of films and TV shows since she was four years old, Sarah Polley made her mark in 2007 when her directorial feature debut, Away from Her, was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards. The same film also brought veteran actress and Oscar winner Julie Christie back in the spotlight when she was nominated for Best Actress.

Polley is one of the more prolific Canadian actresses who have broken out in American cinema, with such titles as The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), Go (1999), The Weight of Water (2000), and Dawn of the Dead (2004), to name a few. Although she had been dabbling behind the scenes as screenwriter and director for short films beginning in 1999, Away from Her was the film that really launched her as a serious filmmaker, whose penchant for telling stories about complex relationships in the family unit is probably derived from her own painful experience of losing her mother at the tender age of 11.

She continues to act in major projects, as well, with her role as Nabby Adams in the much lauded and Emmy-winning HBO mini-series John Adams (2008), and the sci-fi film Splice (2009), alongside Adrien Brody. But don’t expect Polley to leave the director’s chair anytime soon. In fact, she recently finished production on her next feature, Take This Waltz, which will star Seth Rogen, Michelle Williams, and Sarah Silverman.

Dee Rees

by John Lee

Age: 33

From: Long Beach, CA

Credits: Pariah (2011), Eventual Salvation (2008)

This year has been a breakout year for filmmaker Dee Rees, and it’s been a longtime coming. Her debut film Pariah, the semi-autobiographical story of an emotionally conflicted 17-year-old Bronx girl who lives a dual life between her conservative family and her gay friends, premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It was a runaway hit with audiences and critics, quickly capturing the attention of Focus Features, which will distribute the film this fall.

The path to Sundance had been a long, interesting one for Rees. Pariah started out as an acclaimed short film, though rather than expand her short into a full-length feature, Rees did the opposite. She shrunk the feature-length script she wrote while interning with director Spike Lee (who serves as executive producer on Pariah) on his film Inside Man (2005). For her NYU thesis film, she decided to condense her script and only use the first act and the ending. The short went on to screen at several festivals the following years — including Sundance — and won the Audience Award at the LA Film Festival in 2007. She then went on to attend the acclaimed Sundance Writers (2007) and Directors Labs (2008), as well as the first Creative Producers Labs (2009). She revised and perfected her script, and after two years of fundraising, she finally filmed the feature-length version.

Rees is currently writing her follow-up project for Focus Features and there is a renewed interest in her 2008 documentary Eventual Salvation, about her grandmother’s return to Liberia following the country’s civil war. Truly, Dee Rees is just as deserving of a spot on Limité’s annual “Faces to Watch” feature as she is on “Young Hollywood.” Keep your eye on her.

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