Independent films are productions typically created out of the mainstream film industry, produced as feature films with minimal budget, ranging anywhere between a few thousand dollars and a few million. With the ability to express more freely the personal and artistic vision of the producer, these films have distinct style and character that one might find missing from your typical box office production.
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Although the past year has brought the independent cinema industry to a standstill with mandatory lockdowns, social distancing, and more stringent safety precautions, the indie film making scene is still progressing forward, with many producers taking advantage of the unique opportunity the pandemic has provided for creating and delivering independent films.
Whether you are a professional in the industry or someone looking to stream one of the next best films, here is our list of the top 10 indie filmmakers to watch in 2021.
Fyzal Boulifa 🔗
Based out of the UK, Fyzal Boulifa took a huge interest in cinema and film throughout his life. Despite not attending university to study film, Boulifa pursued filmmaking self-taught on his own. Some of his first productions include Coming Back (2009), Burn My Body (2010), The Curse (2012), and Rate Me (2015), winning awards at various indie film festivals. Boulifa’s first feature film Lynn + Lucy (2019) takes viewers through the lives of two lifelong best friends pressured by the birth of Lucy’s first child. The film was awarded various prizes in numerous international festivals, and a nomination for Critics’ Circle Film Award in 2021.
Kitty Green 🔗
Coming from Melbourne, Australia, Kitty Green is a director, editor, producer and screenwriter making waves in the indie film industry with her “Me Too” production The Assistant (2019). Following, the life of Jane, played by Julia Garner, The Assistant exposes a culture of sexual harassment in a film production company in New York.
In addition to this film, Kitty studied at the Victorian College of the Arts, and has notable productions such as The Face of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul (2015), Ukraine Is Not a Brothel (2013), and Casting JonBenét (2017).
Bong Joon-ho 🔗
Widely known for his production of the multi-award winning film Parasite (2019), South Korean-based Bong Joon-ho could largely be considered in the mainstream at this point, but we felt he still deserved a mention in this list. Some of his other main productions in the past include Okja (2017), Sea Fog (2014), Snowpiercer (2013), Mother (2009), Tokyo! (2008), and The Host (2006), to name a few. Audiences can expect two new scripts from Joon-ho in the future, so be sure to keep an eye out for these!
Trey Edward Shults 🔗
Coming from Montgomery, Texas, Trey Edward Shults is a writer, actor, film producer, and director. His filmography includes three short films such as Mother and Son (2010), Two to One (2011), and Krisha (2014). More notable feature films include the drama Krisha (2015), and the psychological Horror It Comes at Night (2017). More recently the celebrated drama Waves (2019) takes viewers through the lives of a suburban family in Florida, experiencing love, loss, and tragedy.
Hannah Fidell 🔗
As a film producer, director, and screenwriter, coming from Washington, D.C., Hannah Fidell made her directorial debut with the production of A Teacher (2013) and later moved forward with the romantic drama film 6 Years (2015). Her most recent production of The Long Dumb Road (2018), is a comedy taking viewers through the lives of Nat, a hopeful photographer heading to LA to start art school and Richard, a man riddled with past mistakes and uncertain decisions, as they journey across the country in a series of odd encounters and events certain to bring a laugh or smile.
Chloé Zhao 🔗
Although hopping more into the mainstream with the Marvel film Eternals set to be released in 2021, Chinese filmmaker Chloé Zhao has made her career primarily in the American indie film industry. Songs my Brothers Taught Me (2015) was Zhao’s debut as a director, and brought about even more success with her work in The Rider (2017) and more recently Nomadland (2020). With multiple Oscar, BAFTA Film Award, and Golden Globe awards with the production of Nomadland, there is no wonder Hollywood has started taking note of her work!
Julia Hart 🔗
Born to parents with professions as a screenwriter and actress extensively involved in Hollywood, filmmaker and actress Julia Hart has always had filmmaking influences close to her life. Making her debut as a director with comedy drama Miss Stevens (2016), and later producing Fast Color (2018), Hart has garnered quite a bit of attention at the SXSW film festivals. More recently her work has seen the creation of the musical romantic film Stargirl and the crime film I’m Your Woman, both released in 2020.
Carlos López Estrada 🔗
Working as a filmmaker, actor, music video director, theatre director, and commercial director, Carlos López Estrada quickly rose to prominence after his production of Blindspotting (2018), a comedy drama taking viewers through the lives of Casal and Diggs touching on the issues of police shootings and gentrification in the city of Oakland, California. Disney has since hired Estrada for other roles in pieces such as Frozen II (2019), Summertime (2020), and Raya and the Last Dragon (2021), helping bring greater diversity and representation to the company.
Gia Coppola 🔗
As the daughter of film producer Gian-Carlo Coppola, director and screenwriter Gia Coppola has always had the influence of film production in her life. Coppola’s career started with a short film she created for a fashion label, and has since progressed into other films like Palo Alto (2013) and The Secret Life of Lonely Doll (2016). More recently Coppola created the 2020 film Mainstream, following the life of Frankie as she enters into internet fame with the likes of internet star Link.Carrying on the family legacy of the Coppola’s, Gia is definitely one filmmaker to keep an eye out for.
Anthony Maras 🔗
As a producer, writer, and film director from Adelaide, Australia, Anthony Maras has created notable films such as The Palace (2011) winning the AACTA Award for Best Short Film and Australian Film Institute Award for Best Screenplay in a Short Film, and Hotel Mumbai (2019) winning the AACTA Award for Best Editing. In his latest production with the action thriller Hotel Mumbai, viewers are taken through the true story of a terrorist attack on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai in 2008. As a rising star producer in Australian film, Maras is one director we are following closely!