Tag: career

5 Award Winning Directors Who Got Where They Are

Every director once had the dream to make movies when they were younger, and decided to go and chase after it. Starting out as a filmmaker can be terrifying and difficult. Getting your name out can be a long process that takes a lot of effort and patience to get your big break. Every award winning director have gone through this process, but each story is different. Here are some famous film directors who got where they are in the film industry.

Kathryn Bigelow

Before becoming the first woman to receive an Academy Award for Best Director, Kathryn Bigelow started out at the San Francisco Art Institute as a painting student. Before she enrolled in Columbia University’s graduate film program, Bigelow was living in New York as a starving artist for a few years. She began her career with the short film, The Set-Up (1978) that was submitted as part of her MFA at Columbia. Her fascination with manipulating movie conventions and genre began after directing Near Dark (1987), a story of a man who becomes involved with a family of nomadic vampires in his small midwestern town. Most of her films were rated poorly by critics and did not receive much box office revenue until her big break in 2008. Bigelow directed The Hurt Locker, a film that follows an explosive disposal team in the Iraq War and their psychological reactions to combat. The film received much positive feedback and resulted in her winning the Academy Award and New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director. She won the same Critics Circle award again in 2012 for Zero Dark Thirty, making her the first female director to win this award twice.

Damien Chazelle

Although filmmaking was his first passion, Damien Chazelle started out as a musician in his teenage years. After high school, he realised that he did not have much talent as a musician and started to pursue filmmaking again. The French-American director went on to graduate from Harvard University with a filmmaking degree in Visual and Environmental studies in 2007. He wrote and directed his debut feature Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench as his senior thesis project at Harvard. The film premiered at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival where it received various awards. Chazelle moved to Los Angeles after graduation to work as a “writer-for-hire” in Hollywood. His writing career in Hollywood later led him to direct his film Whiplash (2014), which depicts the relationship between a jazz drumming student and an abusive instructor. The film was submitted to the 2013 Sundance Film Festival where it received numerous awards as well as earning five Academy Award nominations, and winning three.

Due to the success of the film, Chazelle was able to attract people to help finance La La Land (2016). The story is a musical about a jazz pianist and an inspiring actress who fall in love while trying to pursue their dreams in Los Angeles. The film opened at the 2016 Venice Film Festival in August and began its release in December of 2016 in the United States. The film received many great reviews and led Chazelle to receive both the Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Director, making him the youngest director to win both awards at the age of 32. Chazelle gave some advice in a 2015 interview for aspiring young artists. “Hopefully, there’s a sort of simple message: Don’t give up. It takes fifty or a hundred or a thousand ‘No’s’ before you hear a ‘Yes.’ Certainly, that applies to both music and my experience as a writer/director”. 

Alfonso Cuarón

Being the son of a doctor and a pharmaceutical biochemist, Alfonso Cuarón travelled a different career path than his parents. Cuarón studied filmmaking at Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos (CUEC) in Mexico. He later began working as a technician for television in Mexico, which later led him to be an assistant director for many film productions in the country. Cuarón landed his first big screen film as a director with Sólo con Tu Pareja (1991). After his success in Mexico with the film, Alfonso was hired to direct an episode for the Showtime series Fallen Angels (1993). Cuarón’s success in both the US and Mexico in the 90s lead him to directing the third film in the Harry Potter Series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004). A few years later, Alfonso directed Gravity (2013), a story of medical engineer and veteran astronaut getting stranded in deep space with no hope of rescue. This film resulted in Cuarón receiving both the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Director. He also won the Academy Award for Best Director again for Roma (2019). In his acceptance speech, Cuarón says “As artists, our job is to look where others don’t. This responsibility becomes much more important in times when we are being encouraged to look away”.

Tom Hooper

British-Australian film and television director Tom Hooper knew he wanted to get into filmmaking since his teenage years. His first professional short, Painted Faces broadcasted on television when he was just twenty years old. Hooper directed plays and television commercials during his time as an Oxford University student, and continued to direct television episodes on British television after graduating. His father introduced him to television producer Matthew Robinson, who gave Hooper his first TV directing work and became his mentor. Hooper began to direct many television shows for BBC over the years, but made his debut with Red Dust in 2004. His debut led him to work for HBO, where he directed the British miniseries Elizabeth I (2005),which covers the final years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Hooper also directed the film Longford (2006), which demonstrates the failures of Lord Longford to secure parole of Moors murderer Myra Hindley.

The success from both of these productions led Hooper to be selected by Tom Hanks to direct the miniseries John Adams in 2008, which won many Emmy awards that year. After directing and releasing The Damned United in 2009, production for The King’s Speech began that same year. Hooper discovered the play from his Australian mother who attended a reading in London. The play covers the relationship between King George the `Sixth and his Australian speech therapist and decided to take action. The film was completed in August 2010. Hooper won the Director’s Guild of America award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures and the Academy Award for Best Director for the film. In a 2012 interview with The Guardian, Hooper states, “The funny thing about being a director is that you are not seeking your own pleasure. Your own pleasure is beside the point – it is deceptive. A lot of the time when you shoot, you are pained. It is quite masochistic – you have to be in touch with your unhappiness because that is part of the early radar system that tells you when something isn’t working. So you go between unhappiness and joy. It is what is in the frame when you turn over, that is all that matters.”

Christopher Nolan

At just eleven years old, Christopher Nolan aspired to be a professional filmmaker. The British-American film director started making films in college while earning his bachelor’s in English literature from University College London. In 1998, Nolan personally funded, wrote, directed, and edited Following. His success with the film resulted in his directing of Memento in 2000, which received many award nominations and was later selected by the Library of Congress in the US National Film Registry in 2017. Nolan became more successful as the years went on, later directing the Batman series Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). This trilogy has won many academy awards, made record breaking box office records, and are considered some of the best superhero films ever made. The success of The Dark Knight  led Nolan to direct Inception in 2010, which ended up grossing over $820 million worldwide. After the end of the Batman trilogy in 2012, Nolan directed, wrote and produced Interstellar (2014). The film won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and received nominations for Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Production Design.

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Here’s How This Year’s Cannes Winners Started Working in Indie Cinema

The 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival ended last month, awarding a lot of brilliant actors and filmmakers. Many of them began their career by making or acting in indie films. Some of them still enjoy short films and make them a part of their current work. Among these talented people, we have chosen four of them and studied their link with independent cinema.


Emily Beecham, Best Performance by an Actress

The Best Performance by an Actress Prize was awarded to Emily Beecham for her role in Little Joe (2019), directed by Jessica Hausner. When Ms Beecham was 23 and freshly graduated, she was cast as Joanna in Jan Dunn’s The Calling (2007), the story of a young woman who decides to join a religious order against her family’s advice. The independent feature film found success and she was awarded the Best Actress Prize by the London Independent Film Festival and the Trailblazer Award by the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2009.

Nearly ten years later, Emily earned the main role in Daphne (2017), playing a character who lives in a superficial world to protect herself. She was nominated in the Best Performance by an Actress category at the 2017 British Independent Film Awards, offering her international recognition. Emily Beecham is synonym of three awards and one nomination out of nine films between 2007 and 2019. Who could say she hasn’t known success thanks to indie films?


Ladj Ly, Jury Prize

For this 72nd edition of Cannes, two films won ex-aequo the Jury Prize – Bacurau, directed by Kleber Mendoca Filho & Juliano Dornelles, and Les Misérables, directed by Ladj Ly. Let’s talk about the latter, who has always experimented with independent short films during his career: Go Fast Connexion produced in 2008, but also a first edition of his awarded film from two years ago.

The synopsis is relatively similar for both version of Les Misérables. A French Anti-Crime Squad works on a deprived estate, between drug dealers, violence and children living in this zone. But in the last (feature) film, things are much more developed: the children stole a lion cub, the policemen make a blunder, and the situation is almost becoming out of control. And do you know what the best thing is? The awarded film is really the evolution of an indie film!


Bong Joon-Ho, Palme d’Or

Mr Bong’s film Parasite was awarded the most prestigious prize at Cannes Festival: the Palme d’Or. Nowadays known as the most famous south-Korean director and screenwriter, Bong Joon-Ho started his career with a short independent movie in 1995. Titled White Man, the story begins with a finger found by an ordinary man on his way to work. This 16 minutes drama – winner of a Shin-young Youth Movie Festival prize – truly launched Bong Joon-Ho’s career. In 2014 he directed Snowpiercer  – adaptation of a French comic  – where the last survivors of the planet are confined in a train, while all people outside died due to a climate change which made the planet freeze. This Korean-American film adaptation was chosen to be part of the top 10 Independent Films of the National Board of Review Awards in the USA the same year.

Dardenne brothers, Best director prize

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne won this year the Best Director Prize for their last work Young Ahmed, dealing with the societal problem of radicalisation. The main character is played by a 13 years old teenager, growing between religious principles and a dawning love. The Dardenne brothers are film directors and also screenwriters and producers.

The Belgian brothers have been working together since 1975. They decided to create their own production company the same year, giving it the name of “Dérives” in order to be independent and to be able to finance themselves their cinematographic projects. The Dardenne brothers are probably the most complete Europeans authors. In 1996 they produced La promesse thanks to the funds of their own company and some public aids. The central themes were conscience and family. Six years later, Le fils, written, directed and produced by the Dardenne brothers – making it an independent film – put social issues and family at the center of the storyline.


To conclude, we hope this article convinced you about the importance of indie films. Almost all of the most famous and talented cinema players started with independent films. Long life to indie cinema!


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