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 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).
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.
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".
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.
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.
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).
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, 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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."
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".
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?"
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).
Samuel Robles (born August 23, 1993) is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is the founder of Revolta Films.
His film "Planet Republic" is a hilarious science fiction-fantasy-comedy. In Planet Republic, a failing tabloid magazine reports on unsolved mysteries and conspiracies meanwhile avoiding a secret government agency. The film won Best Ensemble at LAFA (July 2017), as well as an Honorable Mention: Original Story for Sam Robles.
"I could see progress from one short film to the next so I kept doing it. That was my film school." - Read this interview with Sam Robles
Francesco Antonio is a classically trained actor from York University in Toronto Ontario. He is also a musician, live performer, writer, director and father. Francesco brings real life experience as well as his extensive training to the screen in hopes that at least one person is affected and/or encouraged to change as a result of his work.
In Francesco's short film, "Addiction", a young man falls in love, but his crippling addiction prevents him from living a better life. In a mistake he was bound to make he loses it all. Addiction won an Honorable Mention: Indie Film at LAFA in February 2018.
Ariann Laurin is a Canadian writer and director. Her second short film, "Le petit bonheur" (Happiness), starring Jean Drolet, won an Honorable Mention: Inspirational Film award at LAFA (September 2017).
Ayla Spaans (1991) is a director with a surrealistic state of mind. She finds herself in different and surreal worlds, which she develops in film or concepts. She loves the magic of life and many of her ideas have a dream-like quality. From a young age, she was interested in the creative processes of both technical and analogue domains. After completing her fashion study, she came to realize that she wanted to develop herself further in film.
In September 2017, Ayla graduated from The HKU University of the Arts (Bachelor of Arts) in Image and Media Technology. She has now started a new study in Writing Scenario at the Writers Academy in Amsterdam. Ayla works as a director for an advertising agency in Amsterdam. Currently she is working on her first short film ‘Tenacity’, a non-verbal love story based on her own experience that she transforms into a way that fits well with her as a filmmaker. The magic that love and night bring together form a dream world that has always fascinated her. The surrealistic form and the extravagant presentation fit well with the imagination Ayla has.
Ayla's music video "Sunflower Sutra" is about finding your totem in the animal kingdom. The rooster, hare and pig; that stand for the constellations of My Baby's band members, go through different phases where they discover their self during the totem ceremony. The video is divided into three sections: birth, ceremony and rebirth, each represented by a new twist in the track’s pacey sense of snaking momentum. The spiritual animals eventually breaking apart after finding their personal totem and feeling stronger than before. All handmade masks, outfits, and magic settings come together in a new surrealistic prehistoric dance world where it's about finding your spiritual animal.
Sunflower Sutra won Best Music Video at LAFA in September 2017, and was described by the jury as "unique and refreshing. Ayla Spaans is a talented artist who pays attention to the smallest details in her creation. This results in perfect compositions that tell a beautiful and colorful story."
Jill Von D
Jill Von D is a 22 year old filmmaker born and raised in Hong Kong, who at the age of 10 began her ever-growing passion and involvement with film. Being a painter since birth, her love for the visual arts soon translated onto her first camera, in which still images began her voice of storytelling. It was shortly after that she discovered her ability to render marriage between these images and audio elements that her love for filmmaking and motion pictures began. After moving to the United States by herself at 18, she took on every filmmaking and photography society at the University of Texas at Austin as well as interning at South by Southwest Music and Film Festival where her first screening of short films there made her fall in love with the film festival scene. Visual creation is her biggest passion and language in this world, as she continues to strive in filmmaking after relocating to Los Angeles last year.
In Jill's short sci-fi film "Rebirth", a young woman gets her beauty and vanity taken by a masked figure. Rebirth won Best Experimental Film at LAFA (May 2018).
Ari & Josh Flaherty
Ari and Josh Flaherty grew up in New York City, and at the ages of 21 and 23 had written, directed, produced, and starred in their very first pilot, "Tavern".
In Tavern, ex-Marine Scott Tavern is forced to reunite with his unlawful brother after their father goes missing. "Our goal was to create a captivating pilot about the relationship between a family with a dark past. At the same time we wanted to show as filmmakers that with only $25,000 we could incorporate fight scenes and stunts that serve the story into a well structured, entertaining script that will leave the audience eager to see the next episode", they say. And the LAFA judging team loved the pilot. The film was nominated for Best Action Film and Josh Flaherty won Best Actor in an Indie Film in January 2018.
Follow The Flaherty Brothers: Vimeo
Asia LeMasters was born in a small town in Illinois, but did most of her growing up in Florida after moving at the age of 13. She was a part of TV Production throughout her high school years; producing weekly sketches, reporting the news around school, and even running it her senior year. She moved to Orlando to attend Valencia State College after being accepted into their prestigious film program. She graduated with a degree in Film Production Technology, but had already started working in the film industry while still attending. In 2013 she moved to Los Angeles, where she still currently resides. Asia has the most experience as a script supervisor, but in recent years, has focused more on producing and production management. She’s been writing screenplays, fiction, and poetry since she was a teenager, and her short film “EVOKE” is her directorial debut. Her years of interaction with many different directors has helped her develop her own directing style, and gain the understanding of how to approach different types of actors.
"Evoke is a story about all of us", she states. "It is a story about the power of love. A story for anyone who’s ever felt lost after a relationship’s dissolution. Evoke explores what we mean to each other in a partnership, the impact we have on those who love us, and the ways the ones we love push us to great extremes when we’re left without a choice. My main goal of Evoke is to provoke relatable memories from any viewer, anywhere."
This powerful short film earned Asia the First Time Director award at LAFA (February 2018).
Max Koerner was born in Germany in 1991. During his time at school Koerner discovered his passion for filmmaking and founded a working group movie. In four years time, the group produced two seasons of a series, two feature films and a school-news-magazine. After his A levels, Koerner moved to Munich to study "Directing Movies" at the Medienakademie München. During his studies, Koerner founded the movie production company Franconia Films and produced several experimental movies, documentaries and two feature films "Illuminas" and "Nur...", with which Koerner participated at film festivals for the first time (e.g. Int. Grenzlandfilmtage Selb). After finishing his studies 2013, Koerner worked at Saxonia Media, Production "Schloss Einstein" in the PR department until July 2015. He produced several clips for the well-known child- & youth-television series, including interviews with actors, making-of-videos and trailers. During his occupation at Saxonia Media, Koerner studied " Media for children and adolescents" at the university of Erfurt and finished in September 2016 with his master thesis in developing a film course for students at school. Since mid 2015, Koerner produces a weekly news-magazine in his hometown Selb and organizes several movie-projects for youths. Since 2016 Koerner produces and directs the fantasy-serie "Seelenspiel" (Game of Souls).
"Game of Souls" won an Honorable Mention: Web Series at LAFA in February 2018, as well as Best Web Series at Top Shorts in May 2017.
Daniel Perez Morel
Daniel Perez Morel was born in Moscow, Russia. He is a writer, director and actor. "I fell in love with cinema when I first saw the film "Taxi Driver". I have realized that this is exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life and yes, Martin Scorsese is my biggest inspiration.", he says.
Daniel's short film "The Land of Mad Men", is an original story of redemption and fighting for a better life. It tells the story of a young gangster who steals a million in cash in order to retire from his criminal life, but now two corrupt cops are after him and his crew to retrieve what's theirs.
The Land of Mad Men won Best Crime Film at LAFA in March 2018, as well as Best Student Film at Festigious (February 2018)
Laura Bretscher is a senior cinema production major at Ithaca College. She worked as a script development intern at Chatrone (Los Angeles, CA), a freelance photographer and videographer with Haven Universe (Bethesda, MD), and became a production intern for the Galway International Film & Arts Festivals (Galway, Ireland). Laura also has much experience working with individuals with disabilities, such as coaching figure and speed skating at Special Olympics, becoming a teacher's aide at her high school's Autism classrooms, and becoming a part-time caretaker for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. "Ups & Downs" is her second time writing and directing a student film.
Ups & Downs tells the story of a teenage girl with Down Syndrome who decides to run for student body council, despite the pre existing assumptions her peers and teachers have of her.
The film won Best Student Film at LAFA in December 2017, and the lead actress, Emma Dodici, won Best Young Actress of the Year at Top Shorts 2018.
Follow Laura Bretscher: Instagram
Matt Landsman is a Burbank-based filmmaker originally hailing from Washington DC. He received a Masters Degree in Screenwriting from Chapman University in 2014. He's best known for his films, "Sea Monsters" (LAFA Best Narrative Short, May 2017), "Trunk", "The Right Hand of God" and his behind-the-scenes work on "Blade Runner 2049". He is currently working on multiple feature-length projects.
Yuez Zeng is an up and coming Chinese writer and director. After graduating from Beijing Film Academy, Yuez co-wrote and directed "Feeling You", a fantasy-romance feature film. The film tells the story of a man and woman from two different time periods. Through mysterious forces they are interconnected, they share senses of touch and sounds in a love story that transcends space and time. Yuez is an innovative director who constantly explores interesting and novel expressions of film.
"Feeling You" earned Yuez Best Director award at LAFA in April 2018, as well as Best Fantasy Film and Best Actor (Nuo Xu). The lead judge, Jean Vincentelli, stated: "Feeling You is an incredible fantasy film that feels like a dream. Yuez Zeng is a visionary, talented young director. She brings a refreshing fairy tale to the screen, that is intriguing throughout. Feeling You offers all the qualities of a good film: originality of the screenplay, great directing and perfect acting by Nuo Xu and Sizhu Zhou."
Follow Yuez Zeng: Instagram