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Top Five Up and Coming Directors

At the moment the film industry is giving fresh directors a shot at the big time. Just look at the recent monster movie, Godzilla. Most people would have never heard of Gareth Edwards a few years ago – now he is an acclaimed director with plenty of films on his plate; but once there was a time when he had to shoot his films on a micro budget, use locals for supporting roles, and edit special effects in his bedroom. Edwards started from almost nothing and became a name that will be remembered for his real eye for keeping monster movies grounded. So who will be the next Gareth Edwards?

Here are my top five (in no particular order) up and coming directors to watch out for:

1. Josh Trank

Born on the 19th of February in 1985, this Californian director surprisingly first made an impression on our small screens with the Spike TV drama The Kill Point, which he wrote, edited and directed. It was his first attempt, which earned modest reviews at the time. However, that was just a learning curve and a vision tester for his 2011 debut picture: Chronicle.

The film was about a group of high school seniors who formed a bond as they gained telekinetic powers. They first used their powers for mischief, then we watched as their powers spiraled out of control. The film also used the now over-used hand held footage convention. The hand held trope along with mischievous teens could so easily have turned into a clichéd mess about brainless teens committing senseless acts to amuse zombie audiences. As it turns out, we were in the hands of Trank’s talented direction, as he kept the film grounded and gritty, with the film also taking a satisfyingly dark turn in its second act.

Chronicle showcased the darker side of having too much power at a young age, just like fame can overcome young film stars. The theme gave Chronicle an edge over other superpower genres. It also raked in over 120 million dollars worldwide, showing that the passionate auteur, Josh Trank, is a name to remember. Up next for him is the reboot of the Fantastic Four franchise along with a Star Wars spin off movie. So remember the name.

2. Ryan Coogler

Another Californian; born on the 23rd of May, 1986, Coogler started as a screenwriter, before moving on to training as a counselor at the age of 21. After that the lure of Hollywood was too great, so he tried his luck at directing which presented his talent for creating deep and emotional pieces of cinema. This was first realized when he won an award for his three short films Locks, Gap, and Fig.

Now, he has gone on to make his remarkable debut film, Fruitvale Station. The story starts in the early hours of 2009, January 1st. A group of friends were returning home from a New Year’s Eve party in San Francisco on the Bay Area Rapid Transit. When our main protagonist, Oscar got involved in an altercation with someone on the train, police were called to the scene, meaning Oscar was detained by a cop. However, the cop pulled a gun and shot him in the back, resulting in Oscar dying later in hospital.

Not many directors would chose to make a film on a tough subject material like this let alone tackle it in their first film; but Coogler’s empathy for the main character really paid off with the film’s touching scenes and solid direction.

Fruitvale Station earned him the award for AFI film of the year, along with warm comments from acting legend Forest Whitaker: “I’ve worked with a number of truly unique voices, true auteurs; and I can tell when I’m talking to one”

Clearly Coogler is a name to keep an eye on; as I’m sure his name will be tossed around future projects in Hollywood.

3. Richard Ayoade

Born on the 12th of June, this London-raised director is, up until recently, best known for his role as IT nerd Moss. With his geek-like humour and quirky performance, no-one would have put a bet on Ayoade or sorry, Moss, becoming a renowned director who has accomplished two very underrated but gorgeous and smart feature films.

The first being 2010’s Submarine, about a 15 year old named Oliver Tate who had two objectives: To lose his virginity before his next birthday, to extinguish the flame between his mother and an ex-lover who had resurfaced in her life.

It proved Ayoade’s vivid imagination with Submarine being funny, stylish, and ringing with adolescent truth. It was also not too cocky, nor trying to be too clever.

All these tropes would be used again for a second feature that is so different from Submarine but keeps Ayoade’s style in check. This year’s The Double was his second outing. The film followed a clerk named Simon who worked for a government agency. We watched as he lost his mind when his doppelganger secured a job at the same place he worked. His double was everything he was not: confident, composed and a smooth talker.

It’s no doubt a familiar genre, but just like what Trank did with Chronicle, Ayoade used a unique industrial setting that made The Double feel eerie, along with a well written sense of humour to elevate this fun film from normality. It earned Ayoade the BAFTA for best upcoming British director.

We will have to wait and see if Ayoade can go on to create career as a veteran filmmaker who is more remembered for his directing than for being Moss. Why not? He’s got the talent.

4. Joe Cornish

Born on the 2nd of December, 1968, Cornish is another London raised director, who started as a radio presenter for his film show Back Row. He has gone on to take credit for co-writing 2011’s The Adventures of Tintin. However, that didn’t get him the recognition he deserved, but his film debut later in 2011 called Attack the Block did.

The film was about a teen gang in South London, who defended their block from an alien invasion. The fun and thrilling film kick-started the career of its lead, John Boyega, who is now set to star in the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII.

Attack the Block felt unique, because most of the time in movies a teen gang are shown to be nothing more than cowards and drug addicts. Cornish gave us a different perspective that made the teen gang likeable with their courage and sense of humour. It also made it even more unique for American audiences as Cornish decided to set the film in a tower block in London which would feel ‘alien’ with many audiences in other countries.

Cornish has a great future ahead of him, with the thriller called Section 6 up next; and no, it isn’t an alien movie of any sort, it’s about a British war veteran who is tasked with a secret mission in 1919 to prevent a diplomatic catastrophe by recovering a coded assassination order in Russia. So something a bit different for Cornish to get his head around; there is no doubt he can pull it off though.

5. Jeremy Saulnier

We’re not entirely sure when or where Saulnier was born, other than his film projects are mostly based in Brooklyn, New York. He perhaps is the least known of all the directors on this list; however, I predict he will probably go the furthest in terms of art house cinema. You only have to look at his first feature, Murder Party, which proved Saulnier to be keen on micro budget horror comedies that were probably more aimed at art house audiences than mainstream. However, Murder Party was merely the warm up for this year’s eerie thriller, Blue Ruin. The film captures a revenge tale, which follows a mysterious outsider’s quiet life as it is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family.

Blue Ruin is stunningly well told, with critics consistently praising the film for its suspense, which never lets up. There are pinches of black comedy to elevate the nightmarish mood Saulnier manages to put us in. To be able to balance drama with comedy is a hallmark of a great director and writer – Saulnier certainly is becoming one. A control of pace and strong visuals all make Blue Ruin a mesmerising debut which is up there with the Coen Brothers’ 1984 debut, Blood Simple.

We’re not sure what is up next for Saulnier, even though there have been strong rumours that he may direct the second season of HBO’s True Detective.

All these directors have such great futures ahead of them. Let me know below which director you will be looking out for in the coming years.

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  1. tgruver

    I’d say the Russo brothers are definitely rising in there ranks after Captain America. Sure hope Josh Trank is as good as they say, because Star Wars sure needs a fine director guiding it about now post-Abrams.

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