2012 Young Hollywood — Part 1: The Filmmakers

(Re-posted from LimitéMagazine.com)

For our third year, Limité presents our annual, two-part “Young Hollywood” feature. Mixing a combination of established and up-and-coming filmmakers under the age of 40 (Part 1) and actors under the age of 30 (Part 2), we seek to highlight some of Hollywood’s freshest talent.

In Part 1, we focus on the filmmakers. This list includes both male and female talents who are creating exciting works that, at times, push the boundaries of traditional Hollywood. This year’s class includes one-third of a female writing collective known as the “Fempire,” as well as the director behind one of 2012′s biggest little films: the festival darling and Oscar favorite, Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Check out Part 2: The Actors here.

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.

ANNA BODEN

by Stephanie Dawson

Age: 36

From: Berkeley, California

Select Filmography: It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010), Sugar (2008),Half Nelson (2006, writer)

Anna Boden is an indie film multi-hyphenate who has consistently delivered engaging stories for the big screen. She and partner Ryan Fleck, who met on the set of an NYU student film, collaborated on the short documentary “Have You Seen This Man?” (2003). The film won audience awards at the Boston and Cinequest (San Jose) Film Festivals.

Boden then produced, co-wrote, and edited the short film “Gowanus, Brooklyn” (2004), with Fleck directing. The film won at the Sundance Film Festival, among other fests, paving the way for a feature version. Primed by the Sundance Labs, the team’s feature debut, Half Nelson (2004), starring Ryan Gosling, newcomer Shareeka Epps, and featuring Anthony Mackie, gained critical notice, including an AFI Film Award, the Locarno International Film Festival Jury Prize, the Nantucket Film Festival Screenwriting Award, and a slew of nominations, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for Gosling.

The duo followed up with Sugar, a realistic tale of a Dominican youth who comes to the US to play minor league baseball. This time, Boden co-directed and once again showed a director’s eye for talent by resting the film on non-actor Algenis Perez Soto.

Boden has proven talents as an editor and director-for-hire on films like Children of Invention (2009) and TV series The Big C. She is a shining element in a new crop of filmmakers who write, direct, and edit and is helping to change the landscape of independent film.

DRAKE DOREMUS

by John Lee

Age: 29

From: Orange, California

Select Filmography: Like Crazy (2011), Douchebag (2010), Spooner(2009)

Filmmaker Drake Doremus hasn’t yet made many films, though he has displayed an uncanny knack for capturing performances that are unique in their authenticity. Credit must be given to the influence of his mother, Cherie Kerr, one of the founding members of the improv group Groundlings. Doremus’s early experiences learning improv would later imbue his work as a filmmaker.

At age 17, Doremus bought a digital camera, and his passion for film began. The lure for him was that, unlike with improv, “You could perfect a moment, you could keep improving and get it right.” Doremus was so excited that he dropped out of high school, and at age 19, was the then-youngest person accepted into the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies.

Doremus followed up his first feature, Spooner (2009), withDouchebag, which premiered at Sundance in 2010. His first dramatic film, Like Crazy (2011), tells the story of a relationship between two young adults that spans two continents and several years. Doremus used personal experiences to shape the story, but as with his previous films, he gave his actors only an outline of the story, relying instead on improvised dialogue. The film premiered at Sundance and won the Grand Jury Prize, as well as a Special Jury Prize for Best Actress for Felicity Jones. The film was picked up by Fox Searchlight and has become Doremus’s biggest commercial success.

The filmmaker’s currently untitled next project will star Guy Pearce (Memento, 2000), Jones, and Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone, 2007).

JEFF NICHOLS

by Saidah Russell

Age: 33

From: Little Rock, Arkansas

Select Filmography: Mud (2013), Take Shelter (2011)

When the President of Sony Pictures Classics refers to you as “one of our great American filmmakers,” it’s safe to say you’re doing something right. The recipient of such an incredible compliment was Jeff Nichols, a filmmaker whose second feature, Take Shelter (2011), won the Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. These accomplishments would seem impressive for any filmmaker, but for Nichols they are even more remarkable considering he’s only 33 and a relative newcomer to the film industry.

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Nichols has an affinity for the American South, even setting his debut feature Shotgun Stories (2007) in Little Rock. Another figure near and dear to Nichols’s is actor Michael Shannon, who starred in both Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter. Shannon also makes an appearance in Nichols’s newest film, Mud, which made its debut at Cannes, where it competed for the Palm d’Or, the festival’s highest prize, and has been described as a tribute to those iconic stories of rural America, namely Mark Twain’sHuckleberry Finn. The film is slated for a 2013 release.

As far as future projects, rumors have been circulating that the director will develop and direct a biopic about Alabama teen Taylor Wilson, who was featured in Popular Science magazine this year for building a nuclear fusion reactor in his parents’ garage. While it’s too early for anything but speculation at this point, given Nichols’s track record, there’s every reason to expect something special.

JASON REITMAN

by Curtis John

Age: 35

From: Montreal, Québec/Los Angeles, California

Select Filmography: Young Adult (2011), Up in the Air (2009), Juno(2007)

Jason Reitman’s movies resonate with audiences of all ages and tastes, and his body of work will make him a household name along the auteur lines of Coppola and Spielberg, and alongside or above his father, mega producer/director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, 1984).

Despite showing aptitude for filmmaking as a teenager, the younger Reitman tried escaping the business he grew up in by attempting a pre-med degree in New York. Eventually giving that up, he returned to Los Angeles to do what came naturally to him, and that meant enrolling in the Cinema/Television program at the University of Southern California.

While Reitman also produces films, like Jeff, Who Lives at Home(2011), all the films he has directed have been dark comedies with serious subjects, like the ills of cigarette addiction (Thank You for Smoking, 2005), teen pregnancy (Juno, 2007), the downturn of the American economy (Up in the Air, 2009), and severe arrested development (Young Adult, 2011). And they all contain main characters that are mostly self-assured jerks, yet very self-reflective because of the heavy situations in which they’ve thrust themselves. These films have lead to critical acclaim for the performances that Reitman brings out in his actors, like Charlize Theron and Aaron Eckhart, as well as Oscar nominations for George Clooney, Ellen Page, Anna Kendrick, and Vera Farmiga. Yet the filmmaker isn’t out to tell you how to think. Reitman stated, “I don’t have a message in any of my movies. [If] I have a message—and hopefully there’s a continuity of that in all my films—it’s ‘think for yourself and come up with your own opinions’ … ”

Next up for Reitman is the Kate Winslet- and Josh Brolin-starring coming-of-age drama Labor Day, an adaptation of the Joyce Maynard novel of the same title.

LORENE SCAFARIA

by Morgan Goldin

Age: 34

From: Holmdel Township, New Jersey

Select Filmography: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012),Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008, writer)

As a writer, actress, director, and musician, Lorene Scafaria is something of a quadruple threat in the industry. Upon realizing her artistic tendencies and penchant for storytelling at a young age, Scafaria started out in theater, exercising her playwriting skills. Around this time, she also took on acting, both onstage and in short films. Shortly thereafter, in early 2005, Scafaria was hired by Focus Features to write an adapted screenplay of Rachel Cohn’s and David Levithan’s book Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

Scafaria became good friends with fellow female scribes Diablo Cody (Juno, 2007) and Dana Fox (Couples Retreat, 2009), all together forming a writing collective called the “Fempire.” Not content to rest on her writing laurels, Scafaria made her feature film directorial debut with Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012), a film that she also wrote. Starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, the film is a romantic comedy set during the eve of mankind’s destruction. Rather than focusing on the nihilistic trappings of similarly themed apocalyptic fare (à la Melancholia, 2011), the film retains a tone of sweetness throughout as it explores people’s existential crises and moments of self-actualization.

Aside from working in film, Scafaria also displays a passion for music. Her original song “28″ appeared during the closing credits of Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut film Whip It (2009). In 2010, Scafaria recorded her record, Laughter & Forgetting, which is available oniTunes. With this much creativity on display, the future for Lorene Scafaria seems boundless.

NACHO VIGALONDO

by Janice Y. Perez

Age: 35

From: Cabezón de la Sal, Cantabria, Spain

Select Filmography: Extraterrestrial (2011), Timecrimes (2007), “7:35 in the Morning” (2003)

In 2003, Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo’s short film “7:35 de la Mañana” (“7:35 in the Morning”) was Oscar nominated in the category of Best Short Film, Live Action. Although Vigalondo did not win that year, his film has gained cult status as one of the most brilliant and highly original short films to have come out of Spain in the last decade. The story, a twisted and dark comedy wrapped around a musical, clearly foretold of the genius that was about to come from Vigalondo in his future works.

His first feature-length film, Los Cronoscrimenes (Timecrimes), a sci-fi film using the time loop story device, was released in 2007 to less fanfare, but eventually earned Vigalondo an offer from Hollywood to have the story remade in English. Dreamworks is now in talks with writer-director Steven Zaillian (All the King’s Men, 2006) to helm the project.

Last year, Vigalondo released his second feature, Extraterrestre(Extraterrestrial), a sci-fi/romantic comedy with a main character that ends up in the apartment of the girl of his dreams, only to find out a global alien invasion is taking place. His next project will probably be his most commercial to date, as the filmmaker has been tasked to adapt comic book writer Mark Millar’s (Kick-Ass) next series, Supercrooks.

BENH ZEITLIN

by Daniel Quitério

Age: 30

From: Queens, New York

Select Filmography: Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), “Glory at Sea” (2008)

Few directors are able to make significant waves in Hollywood after just one film. In those rare instances, though, that movie has to be something pretty special to stand out, especially when it’s a tiny-budget feature among large studio blockbusters. Benh Zeitlin made it work, and he can chalk that up to his own filmmaking abilities and a keen eye for standout acting talent. The Queens native and former Wesleyan University film major made a huge splash this year with his first feature, Beasts of the Southern Wild, which he directed, co-wrote, and scored. Adapted from co-writer Lucy Alibar’s one-act play, “Juicy and Delicious,” Beasts tells the story of Hushpuppy, an intrepid young girl who’s bound to her dying father Wink and their fictional New Orleans-inspired home, called “The Bathtub.”

It’s often said in Hollywood that one should avoid making a film with children, water, and animals, as their unpredictable nature often leads to disastrous results. The spirited Zeitlin paid this no mind and worked with all three, resulting in a fierce, yet delicate movie that is now considered a front-runner in several Oscar categories, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actor—the latter two for nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis (Hushpuppy) and Dwight Henry (Wink), two local non-actors that Zeitlin discovered before shooting around New Orleans. (Both will soon star in Twelve Years a Slave, directed by Precious filmmaker Lee Daniels.) The film went on to win the coveted Camera d’Or award at Cannes and the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. The festival favorite continues to gain attention, particularly among Oscar pundits, and will surely act as a springboard for the young filmmaker’s undoubtedly long and rewarding career.

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