Top Indie Filmmakers to Look Out For

by jaime-furrows | created - 18 Feb 2018 | updated - 18 Feb 2018 | Public

Here is my list of top independent filmmakers to look out for that I believe will break out into the mainstream if not already doing so from a number of factors ranging from awards to popularity or projects they are attached to. Example: I didn't list certain directors such as Greta Gerwig because she has already been pushed into the mainstream for her film Ladybird that is up for an Oscar. Same with greats like Rian Johnson because when you direct a Star Wars film, you are no longer considered an independent filmmaker. Also, I did not focus on television work.

1. Christopher Smith

Director | Triangle

Christopher Smith was born in 1970 in Bristol, England. He is a director and writer, known for Triangle (2009), Severance (2006) and Black Death (2010).

2. Tom McCarthy

Producer | Win Win

Tom McCarthy is an American film director, screenwriter, and actor. He is best known for direct and write The Station Agent (2003), The Visitor (2007), Win Win (2011), and Spotlight (2015), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and was nominated for Best Director.

McCarthy...

4. Samuel Maoz

Director | Lebanon

Samuel Maoz was born on May 23, 1962 in Herzliya, Israel. He is a director and writer, known for Lebanon (2009), Foxtrot (2017) and Manybuy (2013).

5. Lynne Ramsay

Director | You Were Never Really Here

Lynne Ramsay was born on December 5, 1969 in Glasgow, Strathclyde, Scotland. She is a director and writer, known for You Were Never Really Here (2017), We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) and Morvern Callar (2002). She was previously married to Rory Stewart Kinnear.

6. Jeff Nichols

Writer | Take Shelter

Jeff Nichols was born on December 7, 1978 in Little Rock, Arkansas, USA. He is a writer, known for Take Shelter (2011), Midnight Special (2016) and Loving (2016).

7. Ben Wheatley

Director | Free Fire

Ben Wheatley was born in May 1972 in Billericay, Essex, England. He is a director and writer, known for Free Fire (2016), Kill List (2011) and Down Terrace (2009).

8. Carlos López Estrada

Director | Blindspotting

Carlos López Estrada is a director and writer, known for Blindspotting (2018), Legion (2017) and Billie Eilish: When the Party's Over (2018).

9. Alonso Mayo

Director | The Story of Luke

Alonso is a Film & Journalism graduate from the University of Lima, Peru, and the Film Directing program at the American Film Institute. His thesis film Wednesday Afternoon (2004) won the Student Academy Award (Gold Medal - Narrative, 2005). He's directed the documentaries Viva la causa (2008) and ...

10. Anthony Maras

Producer | Hotel Mumbai

Anthony Maras is a producer and director, known for Hotel Mumbai (2018), The Palace (2011) and Azadi (2005).

11. Claire McCarthy

Director | Ophelia

Director, writer, producer and visual artist, Claire has a diverse slate of feature film projects at various stages of development.

As a directing graduate of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (2001), she also holds a Bachelor of Design / Communications (Hons) from the University of ...

12. Ishai Setton

Producer | The Kitchen

Ishai Setton is known for his work on The Kitchen (2012), The Big Bad Swim (2006) and Empire (2015).

13. Ash Christian

Producer | Fat Girls

Ash Christian is an Emmy Award winning producer with over 15 feature films & series to his credit.

Recently Ash produced the SXSW hit film "1985" written and directed by Yen Tan and starting Cory Michael Smith, Virginia Madsen, Michael Chiklis and Jamie Chung. The film garnered rave reviews, many ...

14. Susanne Bier

Director | Hævnen

Though Academy Award®, Golden Globe Award and Emmy Award winning writer and director Susanne Bier's films often play out against a wide-reaching global backdrop, their focus is intimate, carefully exploring the explosive emotions and complexities of familial bonds. This unique combination is part ...

15. Shane Carruth

Composer | Primer

Writer-director Shane Carruth, a former software engineer, burst onto the independent movie scene with his extremely low-budget science-fiction film Primer (2004) in 2004. Carruth also played one of the two leads in the film and composed its music. "Primer" won the Grand Jury Prize and the Alfred P...

16. Carl Bessai

Director | Normal

Carl Bessai is a director and producer, known for Normal (2007), Repeaters (2010) and Sisters & Brothers (2011).

17. Jonathan Dayton

Director | Little Miss Sunshine

Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have built an impressive body of work by perpetually seeking innovative projects in a variety of mediums.

After introducing bands such as R.E.M. and Red Hot Chili Peppers on their ground-breaking MTV show The Cutting Edge (1992), Jonathan and Valerie continued to ...

18. Valerie Faris

Director | Little Miss Sunshine

Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have built an impressive body of work by perpetually seeking innovative projects in a variety of mediums.

After introducing bands such as REM and The Red Hot Chili Peppers on their ground breaking MTV show The Cutting Edge, Jonathan and Valerie continued to work in ...

19. Benh Zeitlin

Director | Beasts of the Southern Wild

Born in New York City and raised in Sunnyside, Queens and then Westchester County, Benh Zeitlin began his career as a film-maker at the tender age of 6 years when he and a friend made a Batman movie. He continued making films as a child before attending Wesleyan University, where he majored in film...

20. Jim Hanon

Director | Beyond the Gates of Splendor

Jim Hanon is an award-winning narrative and documentary filmmaker who has filmed on every continent but Antarctica. With an extensive background in illustration, art directing, and advertising, Jim was a Vice President of Leo Burnett in Chicago before transitioning to a more community-driven street...

21. Lisa Cholodenko

Director | The Kids Are All Right

Lisa Cholodenko earned an MFA at Columbia University Film School where she made an award-winning short film Dinner Party (1997) Her feature High Art (1998) won the National Society of Film Critics award for Ally Sheedy's performance and The Waldo Salt Screenwriting award at Sundance. Both "High Art...

22. Ben Lewin

Writer | The Sessions

Ben Lewin's career as a writer and director is spread across three continents and includes award-winning documentaries, feature films, TV movies, mini-series and episodic programs. Born in Poland in 1946, he migrated to Australia with his family in 1949. As a young man, Lewin showed great passion ...

23. André Øvredal

Director | Trolljegeren

André Øvredal is a director and writer, known for Trollhunter (2010), The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) and Tunnelen (2016).

24. Brady Corbet

Actor | Funny Games

American actor Brady James Monson Corbet was born on August 17, 1988, in Scottsdale, AZ. Brady made his film debut as Mason Freeland in 2003's "Thirteen" and later had roles as Brian Lackey in "Mysterious Skin" and as Alan Tracy in "Thunderbirds." He also has guest starred on the television shows "...

26. Martha Coolidge

Director | Valley Girl

Martha Patterson Coolidge was born on August 17, 1946 in New Haven Connecticut. She studied illustration at Rhode Island School of Design, but changed majors, becoming the first film major at the school. She attended and graduated from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where she ...

27. J.D. Dillard

Director | Sleight

J.D. Dillard is a director and writer, known for Sleight (2016) and Sweetheart (2019).

28. Derek Cianfrance

Director | Blue Valentine

Derek Cianfrance began making movies at age 13. He later attended The University of Colorado where he studied under avant-garde film legends Stan Brakhage and Phil Solomon. His first three films, 'Five O'clock Shadow', 'Raw Footage', and Brother Tied (1998), won consecutive Goldfarb Awards for best...

29. Anne Fontaine

Writer | Coco avant Chanel

Anne Fontaine was born on July 15, 1959 in Luxembourg as Anne Sibertin-Blanc. She is an actress and writer, known for Coco Before Chanel (2009), The Innocents (2016) and Reinventing Marvin (2017). She is married to Philippe Carcassonne. They have one child.

30. Mia Hansen-Løve

Director | L'avenir

Cinema came into Mia Hansen-Løve's life when she was eighteen, as Olivier Assayas made her start as an actress in Late August, Early September (1998). Two years later, he gave her the part of "Aline" in his Les destinées (2000). Their artistic collaboration was coupled by a union in real ...

31. Daniel Scheinert

Director | Swiss Army Man

Daniel Scheinert is a director and actor, known for Swiss Army Man (2016), The Death of Dick Long (2019) and DJ Snake and Lil Jon: Turn Down for What (2014).

32. Hannah Fidell

Writer | A Teacher

Hannah Fidell was born on October 7, 1985 in Washington, District of Columbia, USA as Hannah Margalit Fidell. She is a writer and producer, known for A Teacher (2013), 6 Years (2015) and The Long Dumb Road (2018). She has been married to Jake Longstreth since September 23, 2017.

33. Gia Coppola

Director | Palo Alto

Gia Coppola was born on January 1, 1987 in Los Angeles, California, USA as Giancarla Coppola. She is a director and actress, known for Palo Alto (2013), Mainstream (2020) and Somewhere (2010).

34. Robert Eggers

Director | The VVitch: A New-England Folktale

Robert Eggers is a production designer and costume designer, known for The Witch (2015), The Lighthouse (2019) and The Tell-Tale Heart (2008).

35. Kelly Reichardt

Director | Wendy and Lucy

Kelly Reichardt was born and raised in Miami-Dade Country, Florida, to a family of police officers. She had an interest in photography from a very young age. She started by using her father's camera, which he used for photographing crime scenes. She went to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in ...

36. Andrew Dominik

Director | Chopper

Andrew Dominik was born on October 7, 1967 in Wellington, New Zealand. He is a director and writer, known for Chopper (2000), Killing Them Softly (2012) and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007).

37. Laura Moss

Director | Fry Day

Laura Moss is a production designer and director, known for Fry Day (2017), Rising Up: The Story of the Zombie Rights Movement (2009) and Allen Anders: Live at the Comedy Castle - Circa 1987 (2018).

38. Jafar Panahi

Director | Taxi

Jafar Panahi (Born 11 July 1960) is an Iranian film director, screenwriter, and film editor, commonly identified with the Iranian New Wave film movement. After several years of making short films and working as an assistant director for fellow Iranian film-maker Abbas Kiarostami, Panahi achieved ...

39. Kelly Fremon Craig

Writer | The Edge of Seventeen

Kelly Fremon Craig is a writer and director from Whittier, California. She made her directorial debut with The Edge of Seventeen. James L. Brooks' Gracie Films acquired the project in 2012, and developed the screenplay with Fremon Craig. She graduated from UC Irvine with an English degree. Fremon ...

40. Gurinder Chadha

Writer | Bend It Like Beckham

Gurinder Chadha was born in Kenya, and grew up in Southall, London, England. She began her career as a news reporter with BBC Radio, directed several award winning documentaries for the BBC, and began an alliance with the British Film Institute (BFI) and Channel Four. In 2001, Chadha set up her own...

41. Ana Lily Amirpour

Director | A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Ana Lily Amirpour was born on July 25, 1976 in Margate, Kent, England. She is a director and writer, known for A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), The Bad Batch (2016) and A Little Suicide (2012).

42. Andrea Arnold

Director | American Honey

Andrea Arnold was born on April 5, 1961 in Dartford, Kent, England as Andrea P. Arnold. She is an actress and director, known for American Honey (2016), Fish Tank (2009) and Red Road (2006).

43. Jack Fessenden

Actor | Stray Bullets

Jack Fessenden, recently cited as one of "11 Filmmakers 30 or Under You Need to Know" (Indiewire, June 2017) at age 17, is a filmmaker based in New York City. He finished his first feature film, Stray Bullets, during his sophomore year in High School. The film premiered at the Oldenburg ...

45. Nicole Holofcener

Director | Enough Said

Nicole Holofcener was born on March 22, 1960 in New York City, New York, USA. She is a director and writer, known for Enough Said (2013), Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) and Please Give (2010). She was previously married to Benjamin Allanoff.

46. Xavier Legrand

Director | Jusqu'à la garde

Xavier Legrand was born in 1979 in France. He is an actor and director, known for Custody (2017), Just Before Losing Everything (2013) and Escape from Raqqa (2019).

47. Chloé Zhao

Director | The Rider

Chloé Zhao or Zhao Ting (born March 31, 1982) is a Chinese film director, screenwriter, and producer. Her debut feature film, Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015), premiered at Sundance Film Festival. Her second feature film, The Rider (2017), was critically acclaimed and received several accolades ...

48. Rebecca Miller

Writer | Personal Velocity: Three Portraits

Rebecca Miller was born on September 15, 1962 in Roxbury, Connecticut, USA as Rebecca Augusta Miller. She is an actress and writer, known for Personal Velocity (2002), Maggie's Plan (2015) and Angela (1995). She has been married to Daniel Day-Lewis since November 13, 1996. They have two children.

49. Julia Hart

Writer | Fast Color

Julia Hart is a writer and director, known for Fast Color (2018), Miss Stevens (2016) and I'm Your Woman (2020). She is married to Jordan Horowitz. They have one child.

50. Leslye Headland

Writer | Bachelorette

Leslye Headland was born on November 26, 1980 in Los Angeles, California, USA as Leslye Ann Headland. She is a writer and director, known for Bachelorette (2012), Sleeping with Other People (2015) and Russian Doll (2019). She has been married to Rebecca Henderson since September 18, 2016.

51. Joanna Hogg

Director | The Souvenir

Joanna Hogg was born on March 20, 1960 in London, England. She is a director and writer, known for The Souvenir (2019), Unrelated (2007) and Archipelago (2010).

52. Mike Mills

Director | Beginners

Mike Mills was born in 1966, Berkeley, California. He graduated from Cooper Union, 1989.

He works as a filmmaker, graphic designer and artist. As a filmmaker, Mike has completed a number of music videos, commercials, short films, documentaries, and the feature film Thumbsucker (2005). Architecture ...

53. Anna Rose Holmer

Director | The Fits

Anna Rose Holmer was listed as one of Filmmaker Magazine's "25 New Faces of Independent Film" in 2015. Her narrative directorial debut, The Fits (2015 Venice International Film Festival, 2016 Sundance Film Festival), is a selection of the Venice Biennale College-Cinema 2014/2015 and the Sundance ...

54. Laura Poitras

Producer | Citizenfour

Laura Poitras was born on February 2, 1964 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. She is a producer and cinematographer, known for Citizenfour (2014), The Oath (2010) and My Country, My Country (2006).

55. Cristian Mungiu

Producer | 4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile

Cristian Mungiu was born on April 27, 1968 in Iasi, Romania. He is a producer and writer, known for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007), Beyond the Hills (2012) and Graduation (2016).

56. Andrea Arnold

Director | American Honey

Andrea Arnold was born on April 5, 1961 in Dartford, Kent, England as Andrea P. Arnold. She is an actress and director, known for American Honey (2016), Fish Tank (2009) and Red Road (2006).

57. Andrew Ahn

Director | Spa Night

Andrew Ahn is a producer and director, known for Spa Night (2016), Andy (2010) and Dol (First Birthday) (2011).

58. Babak Anvari

Director | Under the Shadow

Babak Anvari is a director and producer, known for Under the Shadow (2016), Two & Two (2011) and Wounds (2019).

59. Anna Biller

Director | Viva

Anna Biller is known for her lavish use of color and her feminist revisions of old Hollywood genre movies. She has completed two features and several short films, and has done her own set and costume design on all of them. She did her undergraduate studies at UCLA in art, and her graduate studies ...

60. Steven Caple Jr.

Director | The Land

Steven Caple Jr. is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is best know for The Land (2016) and Creed II (2018).

Caple also direct the short film A Different Tree (2014).

The Land was his feature film debut.

His directorial debut was in the short film Process of Elimination (2011).

61. Ciro Guerra

Director | El abrazo de la serpiente

Ciro Guerra was born on February 6, 1981 in Río de Oro, Cesar, Colombia. He is a director and writer, known for Embrace of the Serpent (2015), The Wind Journeys (2009) and Birds of Passage (2018).

62. Kirsten Johnson

Cinematographer | Cameraperson

Kirsten Johnson graduated from Brown University in 1987, with a BA in Fine Arts and Literature. After two years in West Africa working on local fiction and documentary film projects, she attended the FEMIS (the French National Film School) in Paris. Her film "Cameraperson" premiered at Sundance ...

64. Trey Edward Shults

Director | It Comes at Night

Trey Edward Shults is a director and writer, known for It Comes at Night (2017), Krisha (2015) and Krisha (2014).

65. Sophia Takal

Actress | Green

Sophia Is An Astonishing Filmmaker & Actress Her Work Is Seen Through A Variety Of Lens Including All Kinds Of Genre Work. In Her Early Days In The Start Of Her Beginning In The Entertainment Industry She Worked On Several Short Films Some Of Which Were Weighed Upon By Viewers Since There Release. ...

66. Justin Tipping

Director | Nani

Justin Tipping is a director and writer, known for Nani (2012), Kicks (2016) and Harbinger.

67. Alice Winocour

Writer | Mustang

Alice Winocour was born on January 13, 1976 in Paris, France. She is a writer and director, known for Mustang (2015), Proxima (2019) and Disorder (2015).

68. Elizabeth Wood

Director | White Girl

Elizabeth Wood is a director and actress, known for White Girl (2016), Spiritual Crisis and Autopilot (2010).

69. Elite Zexer

Director | Sufat Chol

Elite Zexer is a director and writer, known for Sand Storm (2016), Tasnim (2010) and Take Note (2008).

70. Maren Ade

Producer | Toni Erdmann

Maren Ade was born in Karlsruhe on 12 December 1976 to a couple of teachers.She studied cinema at Munich's Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film. As of 2001 she co-founded, together with Janine Jackowski, a fellow graduate from HFF, the "Komplizen" film company. It is through Komplizen that Maren would...

71. Xavier Dolan

Actor | Tom à la ferme

Xavier Dolan was born on March 20, 1989 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada as Xavier Dolan-Tadros. He is an actor and writer, known for Tom at the Farm (2013), I Killed My Mother (2009) and Heartbeats (2010).

72. J.C. Chandor

Producer | A Most Violent Year

J.C. Chandor was born as Jeffrey McDonald Chandor. He is a producer and director, known for A Most Violent Year (2014), Margin Call (2011) and All Is Lost (2013). He has been married to Mary Cameron Goodyear since 2004. They have two children.

73. Brian A. Metcalf

Producer | Adverse

Brian A. Metcalf (WGA, PGA, DGA, VES, ASCAP) is an Asian-American writer, director, producer and actor. His most recent film, Adverse, is a drama/thriller that he produced, directed, wrote and acted in and stars a large ensemble cast with Academy Award® Nominee Mickey Rourke, Academy Award® Nominee...

74. Isabel Coixet

Director | The Secret Life of Words

Isabel Coixet was born on April 9, 1960 in Sant Adrià de Besòs, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain as Isabel Coixet Castillo. She is a director and writer, known for The Secret Life of Words (2005), My Life Without Me (2003) and Things I Never Told You (1996).

75. Claire Denis

Director | High Life

Claire Denis was born on April 21, 1946 in Paris, France. She is a director and writer, known for High Life (2018), Beau travail (1999) and 35 Shots of Rum (2008).



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