With the revolving door of filmmaker working in today’s movie industry, Hollywood is thankfully being more and more open to the works of independent filmmakers. They’re welcoming self made directors more and more, offering them bigger projects and the chance to prove themselves. While sometimes they can stumble, often times they prove they can access any audience, and stand alongside the cinematic titans of yesteryear. Every year there’s a new success story, and these are only five of my favorite filmmakers working today, all of whom have broken through on their own terms.
Who are some of your favorite filmmakers working today?
5. Ti West
Ti West has gone on to create some of the most simplistic and thoughtful horror films of all time, many of which are misunderstood and incredibly niche. West is a big fan of the slow boil and big bang, and also practices immense subtlety. It’s not too many indie filmmakers that appreciate those qualities these days as most filmmakers are more prone to offering up gory and gruesome pictures, instead.
West has been a constant name in indie horror, delivering the cult classic “The Roost,” and has advanced with every title offering up the fantastic Satanic panic throwback “House of the Devil,” and the excellent ghost picture “The Innkeepers.” In 2013, West delivered the excellent found footage film “The Sacrament” which examined the horrors and infrastructure of cults. West is more about quality over quantity and I look forward to every cinematic entry he gives his fans.
I Recommend: If you’re in the mood for a disturbing thriller that directly confronts the rise to power by Jim Jones, “The Sacrament” is a near masterpiece with top notch performances all around.
4. James Wan
With James Wan you’re almost always guaranteed a thrill and a horror treat. Sure he has his misfires, but he’s a surefire talent who has also earned his way in to Hollywood. After storming the gates with “Saw” in 2004, he’s gone on to direct gems like the exploitation revenge thriller “Death Sentence,” as well as the brilliant and terrifying supernatural thriller “The Conjuring.” He also lent his talents to the fantastic “Insidious” and “Insidious 2” and has also lensed the fun action sequel “Furious 7.” Wan has a dynamic style and a fantastic sense of energy that he injects in every film, no matter the genre. His upcoming “Aquaman” may prove to be the most unique superhero film yet.
I Recommend: “The Conjuring.” It’s a slow boil and heart felt horror film built around old fashioned horror devices and trickery involving sound and shadows.
3. James Gunn
James Gunn is a self made man who worked hard and long to get where he is. He is a former indie director who got his start at Troma. He went on to pen a lot of big movies, and directed a lot of criminally underrated cult films like “Super” and “Slither,” and the hilarious webs series “PG Porn.” He then ended up being one of the masterminds behind the blockbuster science fiction film “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Almost no one had much confidence in “Guardians” and expected an action movie that featured a living tree and talking raccoon to be a mild box office entry with a cult following. And yet not only did it storm theaters, but Gunn’s work of love was embraced by the mainstream, and was even mentioned as one of the very few comic book movies loved by Steven Spielberg. When Spielberg gives you his thumbs up, you have it made in the shade. Gunn took his licks and earned his place as a mainstream director.
I Recommend: “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It is fun, funny, exciting, and packs a lot of heart and awe.
2. Richard Linklater
Richard Linklater is yet another self made man who has spent his life directing passion projects and major movies for big studios. Though he’s had the occasional misfire, Linklater has injected his own sense of unique energy with every film. He’s directed thought provoking art house fare like “Waking Life,” experimental character studies like “Tape,” hilarious moneymaking family fare like “School of Rock,” and awards worthy dramas like “Boyhood.”
He even went on to direct one of the decade defining drama comedies of the nineties with his acclaimed classic “Dazed and Confused.” Linklater has remained a very loyal and down to Earth director over the years who has stuck by his cast of regular performers, many of whom he includes in his projects time and time again. Linklater has only grown as a filmmaker from the time he directed “Slacker” and he promises to grow more and build more visionary dramas and comedies about life, and youth.
I Recommend: Linklater directs one of the very few irritating romance sagas with “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset,” and “Before Midnight.” All three films chronicle the romance and courtship of Jesse and Celine and offer unique takes on life and love.
1. Adam Wingard
Adam Wingard is the closest person we have to John Carpenter making movies today. He makes the movies he wants, he’s a self made man, and he’s finally being embraced by the mainstream. He’s on his way to directing a big screen adaptation of “Death Note,” and is about to release “The Woods,” which is garnering positive press all over. Wingard makes horror cinema his way and has earned a ton of raves for some fantastic horror films. He’s a man who has stuck close to pals like Ti West, AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, and Simon Barrett and has contributed to hit anthology horror films like “VHS” and “ABCS of Death.”
In 2011 he delivered the masterpiece “You’re Next,” a home invasion slasher thriller that reworked the tropes of the sub-genre to offer up what is an exciting and fantastic indie, and followed that up with 2014’s “The Guest,” a marvelous thriller about a psychotic soldier who insinuates himself in to the family of a dead soldier, and begins wreaking havoc on their lives. Wingard is a dazzling filmmaker who is slowly changing the horror genre film by film, and he’s the best there is.
I Recommend: “You’re Next.” It’s a beautiful amalgam of “Straw Dogs,” “Fortress,” and “Ils (Them).”