It’s a great time to be an up-and-coming filmmaker in Hollywood as studios are increasingly investing in newbie directors. Sony handed its Spider-man franchise to indie filmmaker Marc Webb, and Disney and Marvel are about to hand their second Thor movie to television director Alan Taylor. Here’s a handful of talents who are about to light up the Hollywood radar.

Julius Onah credit Matthew MendelsonJulius Onah

Noteworthy Project: God Particle for Paramount Insurge with J.J. Abrams producing

There are few better or more coveted mentors to have in Hollywood than Producer/Director J.J. Abrams. Julius Onah seems poised to be the next Matt Reeves, whom J.J. helped propel to A-list director status when he hired him to direct the sci-fi hit Cloverfield. Onah grabbed J.J.’s attention with his award-winning and groundbreaking shorts as well as his first indie feature exec-produced by Spike Lee, The Girl is in Trouble. Paramount plans on making God Particle through it’s low-budget Insurge division for $5 million to $10 million. The Nigerian born Onah is no stranger to low budget, experimental filmmaking, having shot one of his shorts entirely on a phone.  Working with the scripting talent of breakout Black List writer Oren Uziel on Particle, Onah is set up for success.

Rep Info: Agent Billy Hawkins/ Brian Kend – CAA, Manager George Heller – Apostle Pictures

Doug Sweetland

Noteworthy Project: Storks for Warner Bros. Animation

Doug Sweetland

If Doug Sweetland isn’t already on your radar, he should be. He spent most of his career at Pixar as an animator and his name is associated with all the studio’s classic early films. He has already been nominated for an Oscar for his animated short film, Presto, which premiered in front of Pixar’s Wall-E. He then migrated to Los Angeles and set up shop at Sony Animation where he developed what should have been a tent-pole feature, The Familiars. But when that project faltered, he found himself working with A-list scribe Nick Stoller at the newly formed Warner Bros. Animation Creative Consortium on the big idea project Storks instead. Adept at story, animation and directing, Sweetland can do it all and most likely will very soon.

Rep Info: Agent Jason Burns, Keya Khayatian – UTA

Jonathan-Reid-Edwards-PR-PORTRAITJonathan Reid-Edwards

Noteworthy Project: Hadley TK – 421 short

Reid-Edwards is a relative unknown but thanks to filmmaker websites like Short of the Week and hungry young managers, he’s about to become very known.  Reid-Edwards is a graduate of the Drama Centre London, but his darkly comedic Mad Men era short, Hadley TK-421, certainly doesn’t seem like a student film. Set in the British 1960s workplace, the story centers around two rival co-workers whose relationship takes a horrible turn after one gets promoted over the other. Expertly acted and shot, Reid-Edwards mixes drama, comedy and satire like the pros.

Rep Info: Manager Russell Hollander found Reid-Edwards on the Short of the Week website and signed him immediately.  Film agent Phil D’Amecourt at WME came shortly thereafter.

Craig Johnson

Noteworthy Project: The Skeleton Twins starring Bill Hader and Kristen WiigCraig Johnson

Johnson’s first film, True Adolescents, premiered at the SXSW film festival in 2009.  He was then chosen to be one of the first participants in 20th Century Fox’s newly formed writers studio and began the process of “making the rounds” in Hollywood.  Johnson’s sophomoric effort, Twins, has the support of the star from his first film, Mark Duplass (Jeff Who Lives At Home, Cyrus, The Puffy Chair) as producer, which along with a stellar script by Johnson and his co-writer Mark Heyman (Black Swan), helped to land his A-list cast. More news about this rising comedy helmer and the distribution plans for his star-studded indie comedy are eagerly awaited.

Rep Info: Agent Dan Rabinow – CAA, Manager Emily Rose – Mosaic

Radio SilenceRadio Silence

Noteworthy Project: Unwanted for producer John Davis and 20th Century Fox

Radio Silence is a group of four filmmakers, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez and Chad Villella. The group is best known for directing the final segment in the feature film V/H/S, which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.   But they are about to make an even bigger splash. Premier producer John Davis and 20th Century Fox have quietly hired Radio Silence to direct their female found-footage movie, Unwanted. Davis Entertainment bought the project as a pitch only last year from hot new female writer, Lindsay Devlin, and has a start date of March 2013.

Rep Info: Agent Jon Cassir – CAA, Manager Brad Petrigala – Brillstein Entertainment Partners

Ringan Ledwidge

Noteworthy Project: Glimmer for Dreamworks StudiosRingan Ledwidge pic(1)

Another found-footage project, this time from Dreamworks and producers Mark Sourian and Adam Kolbrenner, looks to launch another hot director’s feature career.  Named by Campaign magazine as the UK’s top commercial director for the past three years, Ringan Ledwidge is now poised to make his feature film debut with this teen time travel adventure set to start production in May of this year. Dreamworks plans the project as their first micro-budget film and Ringan plans to stay on your radar.

Rep Info: Agent Charlie Ferraro – UTA, Manager Chad Hamilton – Anonymous

Morten-TyldumMorten Tyldum

Noteworthy Project:The Imitation Game for Black Bear Pictures

Norwegian director Morten Tyldum made his mark with 2011’s gritty and intense film, Headhunters.  He’s now about to bring that action to Hollywood, having just signed on to direct The Imitation Game, the story of scientist Alan Turing, who singlehandedly helped crack the German “Enigma Code” during World War II, helping the Allies stave off defeat. Writer Graham Moore’s script topped the 2011 Black List and initially sold to Warner Bros. in a huge deal with Leonardo DiCaprio to star. WB tried to get the movie off the ground quickly by hiring another hot director, J Blakeson, to direct but the project reverted back to Moore. Black Bear nabbed it up and plans to finance the film itself and shop for distribution later. Imitation Game is such a highly anticipated project that Tyldum is bound to be household name in due time.

Rep Info: Agent Jerome Duboz and Cliff Roberts – WME, Manager Bard Dorros and Keith Redmon – Anonymous Content

Timo Vuorensola

Noteworthy Project:  Jeremiah Harm for comic book company Boom! Studios.Timo Vuorensola_ credit Essi Suomela(1)

Director Timo Vuorensola and his producer partner Tero Kaukomaa are a hot team, having pulled off crowd-funding a portion of the $11 million Finnish film Iron Sky. The filmmakers plan to do the same with Jeremiah Harm, the 2006 comic book series from Boom! Studios about an inter-galactic bounty hunter sent to Earth to bring back a trio of the galaxy’s most villainous criminals. Together with producer Arnold Rifkin and Boom’s Ross Richie, Vuorensola and Kaukomaa plan to raise the financing based on a promo teaser and are also looking for fan participation to help create the aliens. There’s nothing like a good social media campaign to generate buzz and this dynamic team certainly seems to know their fan base. That knack for crowdsourcing, social media savvy, and storytelling brio add up to a fortuitous career ahead for Vuorensola.

Rep Info: Agent Jerome Duboz – WME, Manager Stephan Crawford and Andrew Deane – Industry

Kealan O’Rourke

Kealan O'Rourke DirectorNoteworthy Project: The Houdini Box for Chernin Entertainment and 20th Century Fox

Irish filmmaker Kealan O’Rourke has nabbed numerous awards for his beautifully animated short films, most notably The Boy in the Bubble, narrated by Alan Rickman.  He has since gained momentum in the big studio animation space, signing on to direct and develop the big screen adaptation of the graphic novel Bolivar for Warner Bros. and producer Akiva Goldsman. However, O’Rourke is most recently associated with the high profile adaptation of author Brian Selznick’s (Hugo Cabret) book, The Houdini Box, which centers on a young boy who idolizes the famous magician, meets him by chance, and then receives an invitation to go to Houdini’s house where he learns that the magician has recently died and left the young boy a mysterious box. Teaming up with Chernin Entertainment and scoring the deal at Fox makes O’Rourke a smart bet to become one of Hollywood’s up-and-coming successes.

Rep Info: Agent Trevor Astbury – Paradigm.  Manager Jairo Alvarado – 3 Arts Entertainment

Kasra Farahani

Noteworthy Project:  Noon for Chernin EntertainmentKasra Farahani

Kasra Farahani is a concept artist and art director by trade, working on such films as Spider-Man 3, Men in Black 3 and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.  Having worked around such blockbuster films has finally paid off.  Farahani set up his original sci-fi idea Noon at Chernin Entertainment.  So dedicated was Farahani to selling his idea that he wrote the entire script and then shot one scene in full to get his vision across.  Peter Chernin was so impressed by Farahani’s storytelling abilities that he bought the project out of his discretionary with the intent of developing the idea internally and then shopping to a studio.  This kind of commitment does not go unnoticed.  Be on the lookout for more from this promising director.

Rep Info:  Agent Jason Burns – UTA, Manager Jill McElroy – Management 360

SSN Insider Staff

SSN Insiders are industry insiders and analysts.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Martha

    And not a woman among them.

    One person of color.

    Clearly the same old same old.


  2. Linda Knowlton
  3. Susan

    Couldn’t find a single woman to include in the list? Even though half the films in competition at Sundance this year were directed by women? Disappointing.

  4. Jay

    Now THIS is great content. Really appreciated it – it’s seemingly little stuff like this that is making SSN a go-to site.

    I read less & less of the trades and use SSN more and more.

    Never expected to write you guys a mashnote, but it’s earned.

  5. Ray

    Why do all these guys’ projects sound like snorefests? Considering some of these directors are responsible for the terrible b-movie “VHS,” I’m skeptical of the prospects. And where are the ladies? Are you inferring that women suck at making movies in 2013?

  6. Michael A Norton

    “This one goes to eleven…”

  7. Arthur Vincie

    “So dedicated was Farahani to selling his idea that he wrote the entire script and then shot one scene in full to get his vision across.”…

    Uh, I hate to say this, but that should be the MINIMUM for selling your idea, not anything above and beyond. Not to take away from his accomplishments, but we shouldn’t be setting the bar too low.

    And yes, it’s rather depressing to see (yet again) that there are no women.

    Having said that, it’s interesting to see who’s coming from where and under what circumstances.

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