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30 promising filmmakers you should follow

LAFA is proud to present our 30 Directors-To-Follow-List: a celebration of the inspiring, creative and incredibly talented directors who are making indie filmmaking great right now.

Jarek Marszewski

Jarek Marszewski is a director and screenwriter. He studied directing at FAMU - the Film Academy in Prague. He graduated from the Kieslowski Film Department at the Silesian University. He also is a graduate of the English Department at the Wroclaw University. His short films have been awarded over twenty prizes at the international festivals.

Jarek's second feature film, Bikini Blue, won Best of Fest 2017 at LAFA. Six-time Emmy nominated director and LAFA Premier Judge Jeff Melman described it as "An exceptionally beautiful and complex production, a very suspenseful storyline, extremely well directed with amazing cinematography and excellent performances".

"If you feel you have an amazing story that must be told, don't wait!" - Read this interview with Jarek Marszewski

Arianne Benedetti

Based in Panama, Arianne Benedetti is a writer, director and actress.

Arianne's debut feature film, Beyond Brotherhood, won Best Picture award at LAFA (May 2018). The lead judge, three-time Emmy winner Dave Eichhorn, described it as "a perfectly executed feast of a movie that fits together like a Rubik's cube of storytelling... This movie should affect even the hardest of souls".

Follow Arianne Benedetti on Instagram and Twitter.

Serge Ioan Celebidachi

Serge Ioan Celebidachi is a Romanian writer and director, known for Sergiu Celibidache's Garden (1997) and Taming the Apex (2013).

Serge's recent feature film, Octav, won Best Narrative Feature at LAFA (May 2018). The lead judge, three-time Emmy winner Dave Eichhorn, described the film as "lush and beautiful... rich, well composed cinematography, gorgeous score and Marcel Iures' mature and confident performance are the standouts here".

Sky Wang

Sky Wang is a Chinese-American writer/director, born in Mainland China and immigrated to the West in his formative years. Having lived in the UK, Canada, and the USA, Sky grew up appreciating people and stories of all types and origins. Graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a film degree, and during the time of his studies, Sky directed numerous shorts and received many festival accolades. With one foot in the American film industry, Sky also pursues projects in the Greater China region, where he directed his first Chinese feature film "Lost in Apocalypse" in 2017, for which he won 6 (!) awards at LAFA (July 2018).

"I thought, hmm, it sounds kind of crazy, but I have to make this film!" - Read this interview with Sky Wang

Follow Sky Wang on Instagram and Facebook

Eva Lanska

Eva Lanska is a producer, director, and a screenwriter. She is an author of 5 published novels. She was born in Russia, graduated from the Faculty of Journalism in Moscow, and moved to France in 2000 where she lived and studied for five years. The atmosphere of Paris, French cinematography, literature and art influenced her while she was a student and made it the foundation of all her work. Currently she lives and works in the UK. She is engaged in producing documentary films. After graduating from the London Film Academy in 2017 where she studied Cinematography, Eva filmed her first feature movie "Ok, Mum”, for which she won Best Picture award at LAFA (January 2018). The lead judge, Nami Melumad, described the film as "deeply moving, mature and disturbing... Eva Lanska's directorial debut film sets a whole new standard for short independent films".

Follow Eva Lanska on Facebook and Instagram

Sándor Gál

Sándor Gál is a talented filmmaker and screenwriter, based in Hungary. He made his first official and internationally acknowledged short drama as writer, director and editor entitled Move On in 2015. As he says, the first step to become a great movie maker is to be a great movie watcher.

His latest short film, Long Way Home, won LAFA Best Picture award (December 2017), receiving a particularly high rating from the jury. LAFA lead judge, Shaw Jones, described Long Way Home as "Superb. Film making at its best".

"I watch every film twice. First for fun, and then frame by frame, to learn" - Read this interview with Sándor Gál

Richard Weston

Richard Weston's first feature film The Young earned him Best Director and Best Feature Film at the Wirral International Film Festival.

While training as an actor at East 15 Acing School, Weston learned from directors such as Mike Alfreds and Tim Sandifer. In collaboration with Pelagie-May Green, his docudrama study of body language, Sanctimonia, was exhibited at Histories of Thought in Ghent, 2013.

Weston's latest feature film, The Burying Party, documents the extraordinary life of Wilfred Owen, the greatest war poet. The story is about outsiders, protestors, those who use their talents in order to defy their times, their seemingly hopeless situation.

The Burying Party won 4 awards at LAFA, including Best Narrative Feature (March 2018), as well as Best Picture at the New York Film Awards.

Follow Richard Weston on Facebook and Instagram

Rebecca Gosnell

Rebecca Gosnell is a directing student at the Bournemouth Film School, who has directed a variety of documentaries, shorts, and music videos, and has a great passion for writing and telling stories. An alumni of the BFI Film Academy and National Film and Television School's Craft Residential, she has also previously worked for the BBC, Universal Pictures, September Films and Working Title.

Rebecca's latest film, The Man Up The Stairs, follows the downward mental spiral of Julia- a depressed, disturbed woman who has been grieving and living alone since her fiance cheated on her. After many months of loneliness, Julia decides to rent out her fiance's old room. Her advertisement eventually grabs the interest of Oliver, a young writer. Charming, kind, and handsome, Oliver seems like the perfect tenant- but there's one problem- he looks exactly like Julia's ex-fiance. The film won Best Drama Short at LAFA (March 2017).

Follow Rebecca Gosnell on Instagram

Oliver Yan

Oliver Yan was born and raised up in Shanghai. He graduated from his first university which studied physics in 2002. He made his first short film R that is no dialogue in 2008, screening in Cannes Film Festival short film corner and won Best Foreign Short Film in Washougal international Film Festival that year.​In 2011, He wrote, directed, shot, edited and produced his first experimental feature Flipping (68mins) which is budget 25k USD won Best Foreign Feature and Best Screenplay (nominated) in 2012 Madrid International Film Festival.

In 2017, Oliver’s feature movie Home Away won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematographer, Best Lead Actor, Best Supporting Actor at LAFA (March 2017). The LAFA lead judge, Les Brandt, stated: "From the first scene I could sense the director and all involved had their soul into this piece. I was connected and drawn in by the performances and visual beauty that the camera kept giving me. Oliver Yan is a very gifted story teller and brilliant filmmaker".

"As a director, you have to follow your heart and intuition" - Read this interview with Oliver Yan

Ombeni Katige

Actor, Writer, Producer, Cameraman and Editor, Ombeni Katige studied Video Multimediaand Human Resource Management at the University of South Africa. Ombeni has acquired many certificates and is a full member of Film Contact (South Africa) and the New Brunswick Film Coop (Canada). Ombeni owns "Jireh Media," a in house company that is gaining much recognition. Ombeni has completed various projects and a documentary for the United Nations implemented Partners In Pretoria, he was an integral part of Big Brother Africa 2009 Crew and he worked with FIFA World Cup 2010 football for hope in South Africa. Currently Ombeni Katige was also the President of the New brunswick Intercrural Heritage Association and he has contributed to Rogers TV in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.

Ombeni's short film, Culprits (originally a feature-length screenplay), reflects the tragedy and complexities of human trafficking in Canada and worldwide. The film won an Honorable Mention: Narrative Short at LAFA (April 2018).

Follow Ombeni Katige on Facebook

Maximilian von Vier

Maximilian von Vier was born in Switzerland in 1982 and started his artistic career as a comic book author. A self-taught artist and a seasoned globetrotter, Max follows his passion for visual storytelling across 3 continents. He learns about manga and Japanese comics in Tokyo, European graphic novels in Angouleme, France, and travels to London to study filmmaking at SAE Institute. Max’s numerous works and talents spread over various media: As a screenwriter, Max wrote 7 feature films, each of them receiving “strong enough to be award winning“ reviews from literary agents. As a director, Max directed several short films including The Host (screened at the NewFilmmakers LA Film Festival in October 2012, the 47th Solothurn Film Festival and the 2012 Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival) and Sanctuary (screened at the 2012 Lucerne International Film Festival). As a storyboard and concept artist, Max worked with filmmakers such as Oscar-nominated actor James Franco and Swiss director Ivan Engler to help bring their vision onto the screen.

Maximilian's latest feature film, "Suicide Club", is a psychological thriller about a reclusive young woman who has been locked in her flat for several years, and stumbles upon a mysterious web community. According to an urban myth, the Suicide Club grants death to those wishing for it. Unless these "cyber suicides" are actually murders.

The film won Best Narrative Feature, Honorable Mention: Director, and Best Actor (Adam Newington) at LAFA (November 2017).

Maximilian von Vier - Website

Marco Renda

Marco Renda is an Italian writer and director. His debut feature film, "Edhel", tells the story of a young girl who struggles to survive in a cruel and banal society.

This beautiful fantasy film won 4 awards at LAFA in November 2017, including Best Picture, Best Indie Feature, Best Director and Best Ensemble. In addition, LAFA Premier Judge Jeff Melman selected Edhel as the annual 2nd runner up, describing it as "very compelling with excellent performances and beautifully shot".

Follow Marco Renda on Facebook and Instagram

Lorand Banner Szucs

Loránd Banner Szűcs was born in a small provincial town in Hungary. He is a writer, director and one of the most sought-after casting directors in Hungary with a string of Hungarian and international feature films and commercials to his name.

His recent short film, "Sandwich", won LAFA Best Picture award in March 2018. The lead judge, Joel Hogan, described it as a "brilliantly executed short film of amazing quality. Everything came together wonderfully. The performances were subtle and natural when needed and then bold and intense other times. The overall filmmaking was seamless".

"It’s a great responsibility to decide what we pass onto our kids" - Read this interview with Loránd Banner Szűcs

Loran Perrin

Trained at the ECPA (Cinema and Photographic Center of the Armed Forces), after obtaining a Deug of Audiovisual at the faculty of Paris VIII, Loran Perrin edits numerous programs for various companies and television channels.

As a writer and director, Loran's films allow him to be offered various programs, including the documentary series Babyboom for TF1 or A l'Etat Sauvage for M6. In the meantime, he made several music videos for the DJ Antoine Clamaran or the collective Les Funambules. He's also behind a series project, Legende, of which he co-wrote the pilot and the bible, as well as a documentary project, Les Voix du Rêve, about dubbing in France .

In 2016, Loran wrote, produced and directed the short film "The Red Case", which earned him multiple awards worldwide, including Best of Fest 2017 at Top Shorts, Best Picture at LAFA (October 2017), and was selected as LAFA 2017 1st runner up. The Premier Judge, Jeff Melman, described The Red Case as "a touching story about a nurse and an estranged musician who happen to connect through a series of events and a Red Case. Lovely performances and beautiful direction make this a moving and sensitive film".

"When I was wondering if I still wanted to do this, my wife was there to push me forward" - Read this interview with Loran Perrin

Tiffany Kontoyiannis

Tiffany Kontoyiannis is a young Latina writer, director, actress and filmmaker. She is the daughter of a Greek father and Venezuelan mother, and was born in New York City. She is a published playwright and has been recognized for her work in film.

In 2017, Tiffany written and directed "Borderlines". This is a story that showcases a true, yet very scary stastistic: 80% of women who cross the U.S.-Mexican border are raped.

This film earned her an honorable mention at LAFA (September 2017).

Lee Chambers

Lee Chambers is a director & writer from Ontario, Canada. Besides his passion to create as a storyteller, he always finds the time to teach and inspire other filmmakers at the Confederation College, where he holds a position as a film production professor.

Lee's recent work includes Associate producing duties on 'The Reckoning' and 'Cyborg X'. 'The Pineville Heist', for which he won Best Narrative Feature at LAFA (February 2017), marks his directorial debut in dramatic feature films. The film tells the story of a high school teen who stumbles into the aftermath of a bank robbery gone wrong and finds himself locked inside his school trying to keep himself and his teacher alive as one of the psychotic robbers hunts them down.

Read this interview with Lee Chambers:

Follow "The Pineville Heist" on Facebook and Twitter

Jorge Ospina

Jorge Ospina is a Colombian director, writer and producer settled in Los Angeles. His advanced vision and ability to see the world through the eyes of an artist have made him always look for better opportunities to create original and philosophical films. With a cinematography philosophy in which each shot has to be perfect on its own, like a painting to enhance the story, Jorge Ospina is able to create projects with high visual impact and deep message for the viewers. In 2017 he created his own audiovisual production company called DNX Films looking to explore new types of narratives and technologies.

In one of his recent short films, "Videl", Jorge takes us on a journey to... hell. A narcissistic manipulator called Arthur travels to hell in order to save the love of his life from the Devil´s claws. The film won Best Narrative Short at LAFA (October 2017). The lead judge, Julian Higgins, explained the selection: "Ospina takes us deeply down the rabbit hole using slick editing techniques to enhance the tension, and further shows skill in how much he has accomplishes in Videl with limited resources, raw talent and a well executed concept".

Follow Jorge Ospina on Facebook and Instagram

Willie Ying

Willie Ying is an action director, he has moved to NZ when he was 12, educated by both eastern and western ways, afterwards he had earned a career in the action world of Film/TV industry in China and NZ.

Willie's debut feature, The Final Blade, is an impressive action film, which earned him LAFA Best Director award (January 2018). The lead judge, Nami Melumad, described it as "fantastic and powerful. The pace of The Final Blade is outstanding... The story intrigues you throughout, and presents great character development. When you finish watching this movie, you'll want to become a Jin Guard!"

Follow Willie Ying on Facebook

Joe Zappa

Joe Zappa was born and raised in Cincinnati, OH, and attended the School for Creative and Performing Arts before a brief stint at Northern Kentucky University. He had been directing no-budget shorts when he agreed to direct Sahil Sharma's original short screenplay Clever Girl, and expanded the plot into a continued storyline during shooting to create the Amazon Video series. Brand Old Productions was formed during the development and production of season one.

Zappa's feature film "75", is an important drama ("For us, 75 is not just a movie, but a life-changing mission" - Read this interview with Joe Zappa). A crash victim, a housewife and two repressed teens are connected by hard-working therapist Viola, who helps them battle their addictions while two disillusioned detectives struggle with the mounting war against heroin in Cincinnati.

Recently, the film won four awards at LAFA, including Best Picture, Best Narrative Feature, Best Editing and Best Director. The lead judge, Lisa Roumain, described it as "an arresting, devastating drama... You feel like you're watching an actual documentary footage, and it is horrifyingly painful at times".

Follow "75" on Facebook

Jehangir Irroni

Having been in the Industry for more than ten years, Jehangir Irroni has helmed numerous Documentaries, Ad Films, Television Shows, Corporate Videos and Films. A graduate from Whistling Woods International in 2009, he has directed numerous Television Shows like Fear Files, Heerji Ne Marje, Jai Ho Bharatiya etc and Television Ads for brands like LIC, LIVSAV, READ MY LANGUAGE and many more.

His latest short film The Suicide Company PVT LTD tackles the issues of depression and suicide, which are rarely seen in the Indian cinema. It gives a positive message against depression and mental illness. This beautiful film won Best Narrative Short at LAFA (June 2018).

Follow Jehangir Irroni on Facebook and Instagram

Hande Türkel

Hande Türkel was born in Erzurum, Turkey. After graduating from Eskişehir Anadolu University, she started to work in PTT Films as an assistant director. She started her career as a commercial director in 2010 at Interfilm Istanbul and has directed more than 50 commercials for local and international clients.

Her recent short film, "Akide", won Best Picture award at LAFA. The lead judge, Virag Gulyas, described it as "a movie of emotions. Within 13 minutes, it gently carried me through sorrow, hope, fear, jealousy, guilt - the spectrum of the basic human emotions that are building up the storyline as carefully selected pears."

"Many people thought I could only shoot 'kid films', just because I’m a woman" - Read this interview with Hande Türkel​

Follow Hande Türkel on Instagram

George Karja

George Karja has a wide experience in the audiovisual sector, and in his twenty years of profession he has made several fiction projects, as well as music videos, advertising and promotional announcements, under the name of the production company La Kátana Films, which he founded and directs, as well he is CEO of LKTN Audiovisuales, a small audiovisual content production company with he has carried out several audiovisual projects and has made him highly recognized among groups and musical artists, as well as director and creative of advertising spots.

In Karja's dark fantasy-horror-adventure feature film "Lady of the Damned Forest", a group of friends are climbing the mountain in search of a new adventure. But their trip takes an unexpected turn after the first night, when Martha tells them the legend of the "lady of the damned forest". An ancient tale that belongs to this forest.

The film won 6 (!) awards at LAFA (May 2018), including Best Fantasy Film.

Follow George Karja on Instagram and Facebook

Fabien Dufils

Born and raised in Paris, Fabien Dufils moved to NYC in 2008. He is a director, screenwriter and producer. Since 2000, he has directed over 100 commercials and 150 music videos for several great international artists such as David Guetta and Joachim Garraud to name a few. In early 2001, Fabien produced and directed a music video entitled “French Kiss” for the track “you are my high” by a Sony BMG Artist (Demon) and received numerous awards including an MTV Awards nomination. Fabien has directed numerous high fashion commercials in the Advertising Market for Brands like Olay, Pantene, Clearasil, Vidal Sasson, Ponds, Clear, Chap Stick, Stolishnaya, and Herbal Essence to name a few in addition to different Fashion Houses.

In Fabien's debut feature film "One Buck", we follow the journey of a dollar bill in a remote region of America by highlighting characters in conflict, in need, in violence, struggle, misery, insecurity and vice. The film won Best Picture award at LAFA (February 2017). The lead judge, Jon Campling, explained his decision: "One Buck immersed me in an unpleasant world beautifully populated with a pethora of darkly drawn characters, as it un-picks its edgy tale bit by gritty bit".

"I needed a few months to recover from the experience" - Read this interview with Fabien Dufils

Follow Fabien Dufils on Facebook and Instagram

Dayyan Eng

Dayyan Eng (known as Wu Shixian to audiences in China) is a Chinese-American writer-director with a distinguished international background. He studied film in the US and transferred to the prestigious Beijing Film Academy where he finished his undergraduate studies in directing.Starting his career directing TV commercials for the Asian and global market, Eng first won recognition at Venice, Sundance and Cannes film festivals for his short film Bus 44 (2001), and for his debut feature film, the acclaimed cult-hit Chinese romantic-comedy classic Waiting Alone (2004). This made Eng the first American to direct a Chinese feature film. He also became the first foreign member of the China Film Director's Guild, and made history as the first foreign director to have a film nominated for "Best Picture" at the Chinese academy awards.

His recent feature film, "Wished", is a hilarious fantasy-comedy, that also tackles issues that are very current in China: the disillusionment of the so-called post-80s generation in a rapidly materialistic society. The film won 4 awards at LAFA (February 2018), including Best Director, Best Fantasy Film, Best Cinematography and Best Editing.

Follow Dayyan Eng on Instagram and Twitter

Ryan Egypt

Ryan Egypt is a director, writer and producer whose 2017 short film Chasing Titles Vol. 1 won top honors at more than 20 festivals and award events, including Best Picture at LAFA (July 2017). Chasing Titles Vol. 1, produced by Egypt was shot in West Palm Beach, Florida. It is the story of a dysfunctional father and his fraught relationship with his 12-year-old son, Caleb. Desperate for money, the father, Joe, runs a side hustle distributing drugs while working for an express mail company. When Joe loses his job and screws up his side gig, it puts Caleb in harm’s way, forcing him to make a crucial decision.

A native of New Jersey, Egypt was a highly successful businessman, entrepreneur and author before turning to filmmaking at the age of 30. He says of this decision, “Although I was what we call, successful, I didn’t love what I was doing. And I made the commitment to not do anything unless I love it. I heard this ‘whisper’—as Steven Spielberg described it—to look into filmmaking and, the more I learned about it, the more certain I became that this was it.”Next on Egypt’s slate under his Angels Liv Pictures umbrella is his debut feature film Red Felon, which will be released in 2019. The sequel to his acclaimed short film, Chasing Titles: broken hearts is set for 2020.

"I don’t give a f*** what the rules are, I just want to make an amazing film!" - Read this interview with Ryan Egypt

Follow Ryan Egypt on Facebook and Instagram

Dax Phelan

After graduating from The American Film Institute with an MFA in Screenwriting in 2000, Dax Phelan went to work as the Creative Executive for veteran producer Mace Neufeld at Sony Pictures Entertainment. During his 3-year tenure at Mace Neufeld Productions, Phelan worked with some of Hollywood’s finest screenwriters and directors on such projects as “The General’s Daughter,” “The Sum of All Fears,” and “Argo.” Then, in 2003, Phelan sold a screenplay of his own and worked as writer for hire for the next decade.In 2013, Phelan returned to his independent roots, associate producing the Bret Easton Ellis-penned “The Canyons” for director Paul Schrader (“American Gigolo”). In 2014, together with Academy Award-nominee Oren Moverman (“The Messenger,” “Rampart”).

In 2015, Phelan wrote, produced, and directed his feature directorial debut, “Jasmine,” which premiered at the Hong Kong International Film Festival and won 7 (!) awards at LAFA, including Best Picture.

"I felt like I’d been preparing my whole life to make this film" - Read this interview with Dax Phelan

Beau Fowler

Beau fowler is an actor, director and producer who specializes in action movies. Literally obsessed with film as a child, he could often be found glued to the TV surrounded by piles of VHS tapes. Now an adult, he can often be found glued to the TV surrounded by blurays discs. After buying his first Hi8 camera in his teens, he never looked back. Short Film after short film he pushed the boundaries of what was possible. In 2008 he won best film for ‘Domestics’ at the Media Mela Slough Film Festival, and then won the DirectorMe short Film Competition with ‘Brotherly Love’. He was honored to make it into the world’s leading film magazine ‘Empire’ who reviewed his competition winner and asked ‘Is This the next Scorsese?!’ Beau won best director for 'Chameleon' at the Focus International Film Festival 2016, and whilst continuing to direct shorts, and music videos, is now in development with his debut feature film.

Beau's short film "Express Delivery" won 5 awards at LAFA, including Best Director. The lead judge, Julian Higgins, described it as "a slick, hard-boiled short film that grabs you and doesn't let go from the moment it begins... a thoroughly professional action film that leaves the audience wanting more from these characters and from this director".

"In this industry we’re not in competition, we need to help each other to thrive independent filmmaking" - Read this interview with Beau Fowler

Follow Beau Fowler on Facebook

Yuan Hua

Yuan Hua is a Chinese filmmaker, and the scriptwriter and director of Beijing Huayu Daye Culture Communication.

Yuan's recent feature film "Destiny Among the Mountains" won Best Picture award at LAFA (April 2018), and was described as "a wonderful drama about two lovers who miss their opportunity to be together" by lead judge Jean Vincentelli.

Alexandre Bilardo

Alexandre Bilardo was born in 1979 in Geneva, Switzerland. He is a producer and director, known for Hyper (2016-2017), L'Âme de l'Acier (2011), The Irish Fisherman (2006) and Le Silence (2006).

Bilardo's recent short film, "Soul of Steel" won Best Film Noir and Best Cinematography at LAFA (November 2017).

Follow Alexandre Bilardo on LinkedIn

Wei-Heng Chung

Having earned his degrees in Taiwan and the United States, Wei-Heng Chung’s work has been featured internationally, from Festival de Cannes to Asia International Youth Film Festival.

Chung’s directorial short film Wonderland has won numerous accolades from A-list film festivals. Find Your Pride, Chung’s 2016 Keep On Dancing World Cup promotional video, has also won numerous top commercial awards from around the world.

Chung's feature film Karma, starring Lorene Ren and Daniel Chan, is a super well done horror. The film won 2 awards at LAFA, including Best First Time Director and Best Visual Effects (July 2018).

Follow Wei Chung: Facebook | Instagram


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