In the ever expanding age of accessible filmmaking, the movie market is experiencing a larger influx than ever. For the first time low budget indie feature films can break through and become just as successful as their Hollywood counterparts. Not only is this an exciting era for budding filmmakers, but it also means that the quality of storytelling is constantly on the rise.
Below are five filmmakers I believe are leading the pack in terms their cinematic merits, storytelling capabilities and style. These are directors who I think will eventually become the next big names of film.
Born in Dublin, Lenny Abrahamson first made an appearance with his feature film debut What Richard Did, a constantly perplexing adaption of Kevin Powers’ award-winning book “Bad Day in Blackrock.” The film experienced decent critical acclaim but it wasn’t until his 2014 feature Frank that Abrahamson truly proved himself as a cinematic master.
Frank was a deep and disturbing glare into the mirror of mental illness and the human condition, all the while exploring the boundaries of art and music. Besides a fascinatingly weird soundtrack, Frank displayed a brilliantly wacky performance from Michael Fassbender and solidified Abrahamson as a face to watch.
One year later Abrahamson released the brilliant Academy Award nominated film Room (not to be confused with “The Room”). Grounded by an incredible Oscar winning performance from Brie Larson, Room acted as a deeply emotional introspection into the constructs of society and proved that Abrahamson wasn’t just a one trick pony. His constant balance of restraint and style enhances his films into a profoundly poignant level and leaves the viewer wanting and feeling more every time.
2. Jeff Nichols
Blasting onto the screen with the explosive feature Shotgun Stories, genre bender Jeff Nichols has seemed at the peak of his form from the very beginning. His empathy towards his flawed characters created a heart breaking and terrifying look into the destruction of violence on the family dynamic.
This was soon followed by the hauntingly understated Take Shelter, a film that remains to this day one of the most conflictingly satisfying endings I’ve ever seen. Michael Shannon delivers a furious performance of Biblical proportions that takes you on a dive into the rabbit hole of paranoia.
Nichols third feature Mud hit the screens in 2014 and once again displayed his knack for empathizing with deeply flawed characters. His films always seem to revolve around the family dynamic and the responsibilities towards the relationships we have with one another.
Nichols traditional style and love for the form clearly shine through in everything he makes. I cannot wait till his latest film Midnight Special releases this year.
After contacting the independent powerhouse director Lars Von Trier and getting permission to spend time on his set, Jennifer Kent went on to create one of the greatest horror films of the last decade… Not to mention of one the greatest directional debuts that I have ever seen.
Funded via Indiegogo, The Babadook took the horror genre and twisted on its head, all the while exploring the facets of grief in a terrifying and touching manner. The film featured a brilliant performance by Essie Davis and displayed Kent’s keen eye for atmosphere and dread.
Besides being extremely proud to see such a great film made by an female Aussie director, Kent proved that horror is very much still alive and well, reminding us that smart, emotional horror films are still important.
Her latest film The Nightingale is currently in pre-production.
When I finished watching Yorgos Lanthimos’ film Dogtooth, I felt as though I had just come back down to Earth after experiencing an alien planet.
Born in Greece, Lanthimos first feature premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and received a slew of mixed reviews. However, it was undoubted that Lanthimos had solidified himself as a unique voice among a sea of others.
Dogtooth was followed by the equally strange Apls in 2012. At this point Lanthimos had gained himself a cult following of dedicated cinephiles looking for something new and boy did he deliver. Violent, weird, artistic and darky comedic are all solid terms that describe Lanthimos’ directional style. His interest in breaking down the barriers of language and reality make for a truly surreal viewing experience. A lot of critics overuse the term “You’ve never seen anything like it”, but Lanthimos films truly do resemble this remark.
2015’s The Lobster was by far my favorite Lanthimos film, a beautiful and bizarre dissection of the modern romantic relationship.
5. Ben Wheatley
Ben Wheatly has made name for himself by being a style chameleon. Starting with an effective crime thriller in 2009, Wheatly went on to make the highly disturbing, ritualistic hitman-horror Kill List and the aggressively experimental A Field in England (a personal favorite of mine).
Wheatly’s ability to throw himself headfirst into his projects no matter the style or genre gives him a sharp edge that keeps all his stories thrilling throughout. Starting out with a focus on crime and violence, Wheatly’s career shifted through genres into the arthouse and the darkly comedic. With each film Wheatly seems to reinvent himself and refine his skills in the process.
Not only can Wheatly utilize style, but he has a talent for stretching budgets and isn’t afraid to take a step backward in order to step forward. Take for example A Field In England, a black and white film shot in 12 days at a single location for a mere $300,000. This was straight after his 15 million dollar comedy Sightseers.
Releasing this year is the highly anticipated High-Rise and if it’s anything like the trailer; it should be an “express elevator to hell.”
I could have extended this list far beyond five; however the five I choose are consistent names that get me excited whenever I hear they are releasing a new film. I find their techniques, style, skill and stories awe inspiring as a filmmaker.