×

10 Directors to Watch: Otto Bell Braves Mongolian Extremes to Make ‘The Eagle Huntress’

Bell's background in advertising prepared him for a leap into unknown with 'The Eagle Huntress'

Bell’s year just keeps getting better. His debut film, The Eagle Huntress,” was selected by Sundance, traveled the world, and was recently named to the Oscar documentary feature shortlist. Set against the spectacular backdrop of Mongolia’s Altai Mountains, the Sony Pictures Classics release tells the inspiring story of 13-year-old Aisholpan, who challenges an ancient, male-dominated tradition by training, competing, and hunting with an eagle. This entertaining, real-life adventure tale sold to most major territories and is being remade as an animated feature at 20th Century Fox; Bell will serve as a producer.

The English director was born into a Northumberland farming family and grew up loving the outdoors. But, he says, “Sunday afternoons were always given over to films, mostly Westerns and the classics. I ate them all up.” He earned a scholarship to Oxford, where he studied English literature, which, he notes, “helped cement my lifelong love of storytelling and narrative structure.”

After university, Bell wound up as an advertising creative director. He says, “I eventually landed at Ogilvy in New York where I helped set up their entertainment division. It’s there that I started producing and directing short documentary-style films for blue-chip brands like IBM and Philips. I’m very grateful for that decade in advertising, it made me a more precise director and taught me how to squeeze high production standards out of limited budgets.”

The extreme physical and logistical challenges of capturing Aisholpan’s story didn’t faze this tough northerner. “I’ve always gone wherever the story is: Vietnam, Uganda, Siberia, Patagonia, wherever. I relish a stellar backdrop and sympathizing with a real place and actual people.”

What’s next for the intrepid Bell? “Well, I’m really proud of Courageous, the filmmaking team I’ve built at CNN, but I’m keen to direct a narrative feature next. To that end, I’ve started looking at scripts. That would be a happy culmination of all my experience structuring storylines.”

Age: 35
Influences: Ridley and Tony Scott. “They’re from the same part of England as me and have always been my hometown heroes.”
Reps: N/A

More Film

  • Jennifer Lopez Owen Wilson

    Jennifer Lopez-Owen Wilson Film 'Marry Me' Moves Back to Universal From STX

    The Jennifer Lopez-Owen Wilson romantic comedy “Marry Me” has moved from STX back to its original home, Universal Pictures. STX previously took over the project in April. Kat Coiro is directing from a script written by John Rogers and Tami Sagher, with a rewrite by Harper Dill. Colombian singer/rapper Maluma has joined the cast and [...]

  • Austin Butler to Star as Elvis

    Austin Butler to Star as Elvis in Baz Luhrmann's Biopic

    Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic has found its king of rock ‘n’ roll. After numerous screen tests, Austin Butler has been tapped to play Elvis Presley in Luhrmann’s next feature film for Warner Bros. The studio tested with a handful of actors in full hair and make-up at the end of June to see who [...]

  • 'The King's Man' Trailer Debuts With

    'The King's Man' Trailer Showcases Secret Service's Origins

    Disney is promising plenty of sword-fighting, gunplay and devastation in its first teaser trailer for the Fox spy comedy prequel “The King’s Man.” The studio unveiled a first look Monday that sets the stage for an origin story of the private British  intelligence service, portrayed in the two previous films in the franchise: 2014’s “Kingsman: The [...]

  • Emma Stone Damien Chazelle Babylon

    Emma Stone Eyes Damien Chazelle's Next Film 'Babylon'

    “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle is heading back to Hollywood for his next feature film “Babylon,” and Emma Stone is in early talks to star. Sources say Chazelle has met with a handful of suitors over the past couple weeks, and Paramount and Lionsgate are both vying to land the project. While Chazelle previously [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez

    2019 Imagen Awards Nominations: Jennifer Lopez, Antonio Banderas and More

    Jennifer Lopez and Antonion Banderas are among this year’s Imagen Awards nominees, which span a range of categories including informational programming, on-air advertising, outstanding individual performances and prime time programming in film and television. The Imagen awards were first established in 1985 upon recommendation from TV veteran Normal Lear in an effort to recognize more [...]

  • "Crazy Alien"

    China's Enlight Projects at Least 95% Fall in Net Profit in First Half of 2019

    Beijing-based Enlight Media, one of China’s most prominent production companies, said Monday it expects a steep decrease in net profits of up to 96% in the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2018 — an indicator of the deep turmoil in the Chinese industry, which has been hit by regulatory [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content