by Steven Allison

Top five up and coming film-makers

Steven Allison, our resident film expert, gives us the five film-makers that you should be keeping an eye on

Top five up and coming film-makers Subscript
Do you agree with Steven Allison’s up and coming film-makers list?

As a passionate cinephile, movie journalist, and jury member for Fusion International Film Festivals, I’m well-versed in combing through piles of the latest debut and follow-up features to find golden nuggets of all genres. In the past few months alone, I’ve uncovered some of the best new film-makers from across the globe ever to break onto an increasingly thriving scene. I’ve also unearthed a few who fell prey to the nasty, ole sophomore slump.

Here’s my top five list of up and coming writer-directors from the past year. Whether they’re on their freshman or sophomore efforts, you might want to keep an eye on this lot.

Top five up and coming film-makers Subscript
Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade, written and directed by Bo Burnham

Bo Burnham
With his critically acclaimed Sundance favourite Eighth Grade, Bo Burnham makes a striking feature debut that heralds the dawn of a new era in teen cinema. The gifted Youtube alum delivers a sweet, down to earth comedydrama about awkwardness and loneliness among the seemingly misunderstood, internet-obsessed Generation Z. A wonderfully funny story, Eighth Grade doesn’t speak to post-millennials alone, instead relevant to most young people and adults alike.

Burnham’s stock has now increased tenfold, generating great excitement as to where his impressive skillset may take him in the coming years. Whatever the outcome, it’ll unequivocally be as insightful and touching as this beautiful movie.

Jordan Peele
With his first feature Get Out, Jordan Peele seemed set to be inaugurated into the horror hall of fame. As scary as they come, this film – about a young African-American guy who uncovers a chilling secret while meeting his Caucasian girlfriend’s parents – contains a shedload of insanely penetrating social commentary on racism. Easily one of the best horrors of all time, it led to high hopes for Peele’s follow-up.

As a huge fan, it’s enormously painful to admit his second horror Us failed to acquit itself as well. Focusing on a family tormented by a mysterious group of doppelgangers, smart, fresh, and a little frightening this flick may be, but a triumph it isn’t. Peele finds his creation caught by many a genre trapping, establishing no genuine tension, and completely dropping the ball in the final act.

I’m still rooting for this brilliant writer-director though and absolutely can’t wait to find out what’s next.

Top five up and coming film-makers Subscript
Beneath Us, directed by Max Pachman

Max Pachman
With a tightly written script co-written by Mark Mavrothalastis, Max Pachman comes at us with his smart freshman feature, Beneath Us. This horror-thriller follows a group of undocumented workers in the US struggling for their lives at the hands of a psychopathic, Trump-era couple hoping to make American great again – while also making a buck or two along the way.

Cleverly converting a troubling social problem into a disturbingly tense narrative, Pachman masters the art of black humour. With a few forgivable genre tropes here and there, he turns expectations on their heads from start to finish.

This movie has inexplicably flown under the radar, but there’s no way this film-maker should fade into obscurity.

Top five up and coming film-makers Subscript
Under the Shadow, a film by Babak Anvari

Babak Anvari
Babak Anvari won over horror fans worldwide with his genre busting debut feature Under the Shadow. The story follows a mother and daughter haunted by an insidious force in 1980s war-torn Tehran. The thought provoking horror/thriller/drama had such contemporary relevance, not only stuffed full of timely social subtext, but incredibly terrifying to boot. Sadly, the same can’t be said of Anvari’s sophomore effort Wounds.

Adapted from Nathan Ballingrud’s 2015 novella The Visible Filth, this psychological horror focuses on a series of disturbing events experienced by a barman after finding a mobile phone. The movie may be far from pedestrian, but there’s a lot going on at the same time as nothing.

Without a truly coherent narrative, Wounds is a perfect example of the sophomore slump, but we shouldn’t give up on Anvari just yet. Many writer-directors suffering from the same fate have bounced back with aplomb, so let’s pray he manages the same.  

Top five up and coming film-makers Subscript
mid90s, written and directed by Jonah Hill

Jonah Hill
Everyone knows Jonah Hill for his countless daft roles in comedies like This is the End and 21 Jump Street, but now he’s proven his worth as a writer-director. And with his first feature mid90s – nothing short of a stunning masterpiece, by the way – he certainly hasn’t done it by half measures.

This deeply affecting coming of age drama follows a young boy who falls in with a mostly older group of skaters. Both raw and candid, this moving story will reach the depths of your soul. Something few film-makers can boast, Hill is capable of depicting real, lived experiences without his efforts feeling overly personal. It’s quite something.

This is one phenomenal project; if the next falls flat on its face, I’ll eat my hat.

By Steven Allison

Freelance writer, editor and proofreader

Steven is a Scottish freelance writer and editor living in London. You'll often find him in a cozy corner of some coffee shop or other working on an article or his first novel. He also loves to learn French, sketching, and bake in his spare time.