30 UNDER 30: A selection of 30 young & promising filmmakers

LAFA is proud to present the annual 30 UNDER 30 list: a celebration of promising up-and-coming filmmakers. Follow their inspiring work.



Meng Yu


Meng Yu is a Los Angeles based writer, director and editor. As a student at New York Film Academy, Meng Yu has made several short films, including "Magic Radio" and "Mea Culpa".


In "Magic Radio", a magic radio gives a high school student ability to experience the future within 10 seconds, however nothing can change his life but himself.


In "Mea Culpa", Mia plans to rob her sister's grocery store to get the insurance money, but everything goes wrong...


Magic Radio won Best Comedy at LAFA (January 2017), and Mea Culpa won an Honorable Mention: Comedy, and Best Editing (May 2018).


Follow Meng Yu: Website | LinkedIn



Chris Delforce


Born and raised in Australia, currently living in Melbourne. Founded animal advocacy organisation 'Aussie Farms' in 2014, dedicated to ending commercialised animal cruelty by informing the public about modern farming and slaughtering practices. First documentary, Lucent, released late 2014, revealed the hidden atrocities considered to be legal, standard practice within Australia's pig farming industry. 8 months after the film was released, Chris's home was raided by police in an effort to quell the dissemination of further footage. Second documentary, Dominion, expanded the scope of investigations to explore the myriad of ways humans use and abuse animals, focusing in particular on animals used for food but also covering clothing, entertainment and scientific testing.


The film won Best Documentary Feature, as well as Best Director at Festigious (July 2018). The lead judge, Nami Melumad, described it as "an eye-opening film that many people don't want you to see. Director Chris Delforce, luckily, does, and he created an incredible documentary to expose the ongoing atrocities committed by... modern animal agriculture. The film includes some difficult-to-watch footage taken by drones, hidden and handheld cameras to expose some of the darkest sides of our humanity. Delforce was also able to recruit Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Sia, Sadie Sink and Kat Von D to narrate it - which certainly contributes to the already moving experience of watching this film. Dominion will make you question not only the morality and validity of humankind's dominion over animals, but also yourself as an individual, and how you contribute to the lack of animal rights."


Dominion also won an Honorable Mention: Documentary Feature at LAFA (August 2018), and was nominated for Best Picture award as of the highest rated films of the month.


Follow "Dominion": Facebook | Website



Molly Ratermann


For Molly, directing was not her first venture in the film industry. She bounced back and forth throughout high school doing college level film making classes and acting courses at places such as Academy of Art San Francisco and New York Film Academy. Ultimately, she pursued acting first and has had a successful career in the independent film industry having her work being shown in many prominent film festivals and even winning Best Actress for her dramatic performance in "A Night With Eve" at CMF Festival. Although she is still an actor, she couldn't help being pulled behind the camera. Even though she has directed a few short, experimental comedies before, she considers "Suicide" as one of her first real shots at directing.


"Suicide" won Best Picture at LAFA in September 2016. The lead judge, Casey Ruggieri, described it as a "whimsical and satirical look at how we in modern society maybe seek too much attention for all the wrong reasons... A wonderfully playful yet poignant film".


Follow Molly Ratermann: Facebook | Website



Jordon Prince-Wright


At only 19, Jordon already has an abundance of recognition for his talent and a wealth of experience that belies his age. Selected as the Young Australian Filmmaker of the Year in 2014, is only one of the many awards he has received over the past few years. He has taken on roles as a director, writer, producer and executive producer – beginning his adventures in the industry whilst he was still a high school student.


Having completed a Certificate III in Media and gaining 100% in his year 12 Media Production and Analysis WACE exams, Jordon has sought further training as a director at both the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (W.A.A.P.A) and Edith Cowan University. These tertiary institutions are recognized internationally for their role in shaping some of the countries most talented artists.


Aside from his impressive education background, Jordon has amassed an inspiring résumé on which has formed the foundation for WA’s largest independent film company, Prince-Wright Productions. It is clear from the tremendous feedback from various veteran film production companies, crew and actors with whom he has worked, that Jordon will undoubtedly be held in equally high regard in the very near future.


Jordon's feature film (co-directed with Axel August) "The Decadent and Depraved" won 6 awards at LAFA, including Best Indie Feature. Starting as a student 'fun' project to being considered as Western Australia’s largest independent feature film, “The Decadent and Depraved” is set in the late 1880s in a remote and dark place in the outback of Western Australia telling the story of Leon Murphy who leaves his wife and child in a bid to ensure their safety. He is a wanted man but plans to surrender himself into the hands of Her Majesty’s army to be hanged. Unbeknownst to Leon, shortly after his departure his wife is murdered in cold blood. Moreover, their daughter Lillian is captured by a bunch of evil bounty hunters, led by the cruel and gruesome priest, Maitland.


"Ultimately, we wanted to expand the types of stories told here in Western Australia and showcase the beauty of this magical state. We are honoured to be able to share the local talents, history, landscapes and stories and present them to an international audience", Jordon says.


Follow Jordon Prince-Wright: Website | Facebook



Claire Imler


Claire Imler is a 19 year old aspiring filmmaker based in Orange County. She grew up as a competitive dancer, but always loved playing around with her parent's camcorder and making imovie trailers with her friends. "It wasn't till my sophomore year of high school that I truly discovered my passion for filmmaking, and I have been making films ever since", she says.


Currently a film production student at Chapman University, Claire plans on emphasizing in cinematography. Claire is a gifted storyteller and a passionate artist, whose recent documentary "Esperanza Y Futuro" (shot in Guatemala) won Best Inspirational Film at LAFA (July 2018). "I enjoy creating documentaries and short films, and I love sharing stories that can impact and inspire the people who watch them", Claire says.


Follow Claire Imler: Vimeo | Website



Conrad Faraj


Conrad Faraj is a 27-year-old Honduran/American filmmaker based out of Cleveland, OH whose past credits include "The Colours of Desire" and "The Wind is Watching." His passion for filmmaking started during his early teens, and since then he has worked diligently to create his own unique voice in cinema.


Conrad's feature film, "Fighting the Sky", is a beautiful and ambitious Dramatic Sci-Fi. Synopsis: Strange other-worldly sounds are echoing around the world. A group of young researchers, led by expert ufologist Lorraine Gardner, begin an expedition to analyze and track down the point of origin from which the sounds emerge. Yet as their journey deepens, they begin to discover more than they bargained for.


The film won Best Sci-Fi and Best Young Actress (Jinette Faraj) at LAFA (May 2018).


Follow "Fighting the Sky": Facebook | Twitter


Cindy Xin


Cindy Xin is an independent filmmaker from Nanning, China. She lived in China, Florida, California, Michigan before moving to New York in 2017. She has been to over 50 cities in the world and lived in many different cultures. Those experiences have inspired her to begin her storytelling and filmmaking journey. Cindy Xin graduated from the University of Florida with degree in Telecommunications. While at Florida, Cindy discovered that she wanted to become a filmmaker. She is interested in relationships, specifically sexual relationship, and experimental film. She developed and made her first film called Lost in Love, which won the 54th Annual National Undergraduate Student Electronic Media Competition Grand Prize in Short Film.


This year, Cindy will get her master's degree at SVA. Her thesis film "Staff Pick", is a beautiful short about Cora, a lonely girl in search of connection, who discovers a movie rental store that delivers films based on how she feels. The movies lift her up and make her feel less alone but soon she wants more than the films, she wants to know the person behind the locked door of this strange store. "Staff Pick" recently won Best Student Film at LAFA (May 2018).


Follow Cindy Xin: LinkedIn

Andreas Olenberg


Andreas Olenberg, born on 30 April 1990, grew up in Espelkamp with Daniel Littau. At the age of 13 (summer 2003), they founded the film team “Camcore”, where Andreas took charge of direction and cinematography and gained his first experience in video editing and writing film scripts. After his Abitur at Söderblom Gymnasium in 2009 Andreas moved to Bielefeld in order to study Computer Science in Media and Design. During his studies he proved to be creative and to have technical knowledge in cinematography and film editing processes. It was not less than four times that he and his team won the first prize at the film festival UniVideoMagazin. Three more films ranked second and third. Andreas soon proved to be successful outside university. At the Camgaroo Award in Munich, films such as Snake Eater, Halbnah or Maniac were among the first three places, six times in total. He was given the third place for Sweet Sweet Clara at the Shocking Shorts Festival by 13th Street Universal and Sky. In 2014, his so far most successful short film Revolve was presented at Cannes Film Festival. In the same year, Andreas is awarded with Der Deutsche Kamerapreis. At the age of 24 at that time is the youngest award winner since the first award ceremony in 1982.


In autumn 2016, Andreas and Daniel wrote the script for „Phantomschmerz“ (Phantompain). Although it was initially planned to be a short film, they developed the idea further and produced their first feature film. Despite the refusal of financial support, “Phantomschmerz” was produced on their own, reinforced by a team of keen colleagues. The film won Best Indie Feature at LAFA (February 2018).


Follow Andreas Olenberg: Website | Facebook




Ozlem Altingoz


Ozlem Altingoz was born in 1996 in Turkey. In 2015 she graduated from Private Marmara Vocational High School (radio-tv), and in 2016 she started film school at New York Film Academy in Los Angeles.


Passionate about all types of horror movies, Ozlem has written and directed several short films. Her thesis film, "Birth", earned her two awards at LAFA: Best Horror and Best Original Story.


Follow Ozlem Altingoz: LinkedIn | Instagram

Niklas Berggren


Born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden. Moved to Los Angeles in 2014 to attend New York Film Academy in the BFA Filmmaking program, and pursue his dream of becoming a Film Director. He has worked in several different areas on set such as Sound Mixer, Grip, Electrician, Key Grip, Gaffer, Assistant Camera, and DoP. His dream/goal is to become a strong visual story telling director.


Berggren's short thriller "Faithful" won 3 awards at LAFA in December 2017, including an Honorable Mention: Director.


Follow "Faithful" on Facebook

Follow Niklas Berggren on Facebook


Alexander Paspa


Filmmaker and Music Producer from Hickory, North Carolina, Alexander attended school at University of North Carolina Asheville where he received a degree in Music Technology. After overcoming his battle with drug addiction of several years, he moved to New York City to start a new life and make his dream of being a great film director a reality.


Alexander's Sci-Fi-Fantasy short film Malefica won Best Fantasy Film at LAFA (March 2018). Malefica tells the story of a man who suffers on his hunt of the relentless Demonic Witch whom has yet to know defeat; A dynamic metaphor for the rising epidemic of drug addiction and a closer look at its harrowing effects on its victims. Malefica is an ode to and all those who are struggling or have struggled with this troubling battle.


Follow Alexander Paspa: Facebook | Twitter



Filippos Tsapekis


Filippos Tsapekis is a Greek filmmaker. He studied Communication and Advertising at the American College of Greece and Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles.


His short film "9to5" won Best Drama and Best Original Story at LAFA (June 2018). This beautiful film, co-written by Katerina Tsoumpa, presents a world in which it is prohibited to be tired.


Follow Filippos Tsapekis: Vimeo | Instagram



Thanika Jenjesda


Dream Thanika Jenjesda is a writer and director from Bangkok, Thailand, and a film grad student at USC. From a very early age (8 years old according to her mother), Thanika wanted to become a filmmaker. Five years ago, she became a professional cinematographer in BKK, but only part time director. Now, 1,000 miles away from her home , Thanika strives to become a full-time director in Hollywood!


Thanika's film, "Mermaids", won an Honorable Mention: Student Film at LAFA in March 2018. This beautiful film tells the story of a grieving young man who struggles to raise his five-year-old stepdaughter who wishes to become a mermaid.


Follow Thanika Jenjesda: Facebook | Website


Paul Bestolarides


Paul D. Bestolarides was born in Stockton, California. He graduated Lambda Pi Eta with a BA in Film in 2014. Paul developed an interest in film making at an early age and continues to write, direct, and produce indie films. His feature screenplay "Waiting In Eternity" was nominated at Indie Fest USA International Film Festival 2015, and Beverly Hills Film Festival 2016.


Paul's film "The Lightkeeper's Story" won 2 awards at LAFA, including Best Fantasy Film and Best Score (Steve Wright). Paul also won Best Director at Top Shorts. The lead judge, Roy Zafrani, wrote about The Lightkeeper's Story: "This film is beautiful in any aspect, from the story, to the cinematography, directing, editing, visual effects and score. I particularly loved the decision to tell such story as a fantasy, and also the performances, led by Mark Ludwig as the adult Jewish refugee. The message in the end was powerful, and made me want to see more. And it definitely has the potential to become a feature".


Follow Paul Bestolarides: Instagram | Facebook

Shida Ciao


Shida Ciao is based in London and Beijing. He has a BA degree in Fashion Design and Production Design from SCAD. Also he studied Special Effect Makeup in Cinema Makeup School in Los Angeles. He recently completed his MA degree in Fashion Media Production at the London College of Fashion.


His latest short film, P3ACE, recently won an Honorable Mention: Original Story at LAFA (May 2018). Our judging team was highly impressed with Shida's original story. It was dark, unsettling, clever and thought provoking.


Shida shares his thoughts about the story: "I wanted to make a short film that was dark and sinister but also at the same time, ambiguous... The sanitized, direct, and predictable outcome is something I wanted to avoid, and that is illustrated by the quirky mixture and oddity of location, set design, costume, and character presentation. The ambiguity of the story is enhanced by all these elements and is deliberately so to challenge audience expectation throughout."


Follow Shida Ciao: Facebook | Instagram


Yingzong Xin


Rachel (Yingzong) Xin is a M.F.A. animation student at USC's School of Cinematic Arts, and she also holds a B.A in animation from Beijing Film Academy .She has a born love and gift for drawing. Living in the countryside surrounding by the mountains, she has cultivated the imagination skill in drawing since childhood.


Yingzong is a two-time LAFA winner. Her film "Contagion" won Best Animation in March 2018, and two months later, her film "Nini" won the same prize at LAFA. Nini also won Best Animation at Top Shorts. The lead judge, Roy Zafrani, wrote in his review: "Innocent and magical. Nini is a beautiful story about friendship and imagination by a super talented artist".


Follow Yingzong Xin: Website | Twitter




Rafe Karen


Rafe Karen is a New York native, and has been working in the film industry since 16 years old. His film D.N.G.U was an official selection at Newfilmmakers in New York. An avid snowboarder, scuba diver and food, he likes to make films of everything he loves.


In July 2017, Karen's film "Deadzone" won Best Picture award at Festigious, as well as Best Indie Film and Best Actress at LAFA. Festigious' lead judge, Casey Ruggieri, stated: "A wry and unusual take on the apocalyptic film that inventively winds to a dark turn, Deadzone puts the viewer smack in the middle of a wintry desolate nowhere and answers little of the unknown in a most engaging way. Standout performance by enigmatic Jewells Blackwell as a young woman who struggles to answer the question, is survival worth the cost if you are ultimately alone?"


Follow Rafe Karen: Instagram | Website

Yiheng Guo


A young and passionate filmmaker who lives in Los Angeles, originally from one of the top food cities in China, Canton. Before moving to Los Angeles, she lived in New York for nearly four years and was involved in multiple film projects both large and small. Nowadays, as a storyteller with experience directing, producing & writing, she is dedicated to make better films and give a voice to even more diverse and under-represented groups, hopefully change the world for the better.


Yiheng Guo's film "Promised Neverland" is a story about a two Mexicans, a sister and a brother, illegally crossing the border into the US. The film won an Honorable Mention: Student Film at LAFA (November 2017).


Follow Yiheng Guo: Website | Instagram

Sam Robles


Samuel Robles