Like many directors, Amma Asante began her career as an actor, appearing on the long-running British show “Grange Hill” while still in her teens. She made her directorial debut in 2004 with the award-winning “A Way of Life,” which centered on a single teen mother.
In recent years, some of the boldest cinematic voices from the U.K. have hailed from the world of fine arts. Like Steve McQueen, director Clio Barnard is art school-trained and first galvanized attention with short films and installation works.
For Anthony Chen, who won Cannes’ Camera d’Or prize for his debut “Ilo Ilo,” the support didn’t end on the Croisette. The Singapore-born director was touched when Camera d’Or jury president Agnes Varda and several of her fellow voters showed up to attend the Parisian premiere of his unassuming yet deeply affecting film, which has been selected to represent his home country in the Oscar-foreign language race.
Ask Ben Falcone about his directorial debut, and he’s quick to deflect the conversation to his wife and star, Melissa McCarthy, who co-wrote “Tammy,” based on a character she played at L.A.’s Groundlings Theater. Falcone will rave about the rest of the cast, which includes Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates and Dan Aykroyd. Even the crew. Everyone but himself.
When Maya Forbes unveils “Infinitely Polar Bear” at Sundance next month, people may be surprised to see exec producer J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot logo at the front of her debut. The film, inspired by Forbes’ memories of being raised by a bipolar dad in a mixed-race household, couldn’t be more different from “Cloverfield,” “Super 8” or other Abrams projects.
“Liberation inspires me,” says Finnish filmmaker Dome Karukoski. As someone who “doesn’t control himself,” Karukoski, the director of the neo-Nazi family drama “Heart of a Lion,” lives the same way he likes his cinema: without compunction.
“Remember when black movies didn’t necessarily star a dude in a fat suit and a wig?”
With that pointed query, Justin Simien kicked off his successful Indiegogo crowd-funding push for his debut feature, “Dear White People,” in June 2012. He immediately hit a nerve: His witty concept trailer went viral and soon the filmmaker, whose publicity skills were sharpened in the marketing offices of Focus and Paramount, was responding to the buzz on CNN. Now he’s headed to Sundance.
On the set of “The Road Within,” debut writer-director Gren Wells told her crew, “The only thing I require is that when you come talk to me, you have to curse. If you don’t, I’m gonna fucking fire you.”