Brian Newman recently posted a blog listing 20 film leaders under the age of 40. That inspired me to make my own list, excluding those already on Brian’s and focusing on jobs other than filmmaking – curators, distributors, archivists, etc.
My list is entirely off the top of my head without other input. That influences why half the people are based in New York City; and why the group tilts heavily, though not exclusively, to documentary. Brian lamented not including more people from outside North America. I sympathize as my international contacts tend to be older than 40, but I did manage a smattering of overseas representation. I encourage list-makers based elsewhere to celebrate their own local talent. Readers should feel free to add names and comments to this post.
Here are my 20 to watch. Years from now when they hold positions of power, I hope they give me a job:
Snowden Becker, one of the founders of Home Movie Day, impressed me greatly when I first interviewed her at the Association of Moving Image Archivists conference six years ago. She and her Home Movie Day crew opened a new way for the public to understand film preservation: not just as Hollywood history, but as your family history. I look forward to the day when she runs the Library of Congress.
Laura Coxson of Maysles Films is among a group of young people who have infused new life into the venerable production company after its move to Harlem. Veteran filmmakers take heed from the Maysles example: if you want to ensure your company’s future, you need to train the next generation.
Hussain Currimbhoy, programmer for the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival, has proven to be an indefatigable seeker, supporter and host for filmmakers. He’s been as a key asset in helping Heather Croall to build Sheffield into a worthy fall destination.
Matt Dentler is almost too well established to be on a list of fresh talent. In his twenties, he elevated the profile of the SXSW Film Festival, adding to the prominence of Austin, Texas as a center of taste-making. Now at Cinetic Film Buff, he’s leading the charge into the unknown terrain of digital distribution. Whichever way that goes, we’ll all benefit from the lessons he learns.
Emily Doe & Brent Hoff, the duo behind Wholphin, give short films an elegant home in a quarterly dvd, with the backing of McSweeney’s. Their editorial eclecticism mixes fiction, non-fiction, animation and more. It’s a package you want to own, not just experience digitally.
Amy Dotson, producer of programming at IFP, has an unenviable task of meeting filmmaker needs during a period of rapid change and dwindling support for non-profits. She brings a can-do attitude to the job. Sitting at the hub of New York’s independent film community, she has a broad view of the industry.
Ben Fowlie, founding director of the Camden Film Festival, has put a small town on the map of a crowded festival calendar. In order for film culture to flourish, we could use an organizer like Ben in every small town.
Steve Holmgren is the only person on this list I’ve not met in person. But I’m impressed by the reputation he’s made for the emerging Union Docs series in Brooklyn. As long as he doesn’t muscle into STF’s Tuesday night crowd, we’re cool.
Adella Ladjevardi, grants manager for Cinereach, is an able ambassador for the foundation headed by another young leader Philip Engelhorn. Her background working for for independent doc makers and for the distributor Icarus Films gives her a rounded understanding of all stages.
Mekado Murphy produces content for the New York Times on-line film page. His videos and interactive features give filmmakers a fresh opportunity to reach the paper’s influential audience.
Raphaela Neihausen spent so many years as a management consultant, she thinks “Up in the Air” is a documentary. These days she applies her strategic growth plans to building Stranger Than Fiction as its Executive Director. Call this nepotistic or inside sourcing, but I can attest once she’s put her mind to something, there’s no stopping her.
Dana O’Keefe, the wunderkind sales agent at Cinetic Media, has a passion and intelligence that never quits. Dare to dissent on a film in his catalogue and he will overwhelm you with a torrent of persuasion, citing evidence from the history of cinema and western civilization. Is he a high-functioning meth addict or a genius?
Raymond Pathanvirangoon has a global reach as long as his name, thanks to his experience working in film sales at Fortissimo in Hong Kong and at festivals from Toronto to Rotterdam. For making crucial connections between east and west, Raymond is the man.
David Redmon & Ashley Sabin, founders of Carnivalesque Films, describe themselves as “rugged filmmakers lost in pursuit of their own irrational dreams.” Their distribution label handles other like-minded directors. Even if no one is getting rich off it, the label helps keep dreams alive.
Karina Rotenstein, from her days as the Miami Film Festival’s doc programmer to her current post at Hot Docs, has earned a fan club of filmmakers across the globe. Her omnivorous appetite for film-watching is matched by immense charm.
Rasha Salti, based in Beirut, brings a vital sense of humor to assessing the politics of the Middle East. She has supported filmmakers from that region as the Director of the Cinema East Festival held in New York City; and as an adviser to other festivals. Sometimes she champions experimental work that’s not my cup of tea, but I admire her patience and dedication for voices on the margin.
Dusty Smith describes his job at Roadside Attractions as “copier unjammer”; he’s also among the sharpest wits in distribution. His Facebook updates are a bright spot in any scroll. (A recent favorite: “I feel bad for Doris Kearns Goodwin’s husband. That chick never forgets anything!”). As a young cinephile, he once drove from Ohio to the Toronto Film Festival just to see a new Errol Morris film. Don’t underestimate the desperation to escape Ohio as a key to success.
Monika Wagenberg, dividing her time between Buenos Aires, New York City and points in-between, has been a crusader for Latin American cinema through her work at Cinema Tropical, the Miami Film Festival and other outlets. Along with my colleague Diana Sanchez who programs Spanish-language films for TIFF, she’s a key communicator between north and south.
David Wilson, along with his over-40 cohort Paul Sturtz, has turned the True/False Film Festival into a buzzworthy event – despite the odds of taking place in Columbia, MO in February. David’s only impediment to career ascension that I can think of are recent photos of him wearing Tom Selleck’s mustache.
Jessica Wolfson cut her teeth overseeing feature documentaries at IFC TV before producing her own works and now landing up at Bside. Her boss Chris Hyams was on Brian Newman’s list that got this all started, so we’ve come full circle.