17 Short Filmmakers to Watch: Tribeca Film Festival Narrative & Documentary

New Machine Magazine names 17 narrative and documentary short filmmakers with careers on the rise.

It is fair to say that we are in the middle of a golden age of documentary filmmaking. Ready access to vast research material via the internet coupled with the availability of low-cost camera equipment has resulted in young filmmakers choosing this genre to tell stories in record numbers. New York has always been a major center for international documentary so it’s fitting that the Tribeca Film Festival tends to celebrate this genre more than other major film festival events, outside of documentary specific ones such as DOCS NYC.

New Machine’s editor’s reviewed the filmmakers selected to screen as part of the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival shorts categories including Narrative and Documentary. Below we have signaled out 17 filmmakers, 9 of them documentarians, which seems to reinforce the notion that the genre is stronger than ever. New Machine will publish the list of animated filmmakers to watch in the next week.

Overall the TFF is known for showcasing new talent to the NY-based industry, which was one of founder Robert De Niro’s goals in establishing the Festival. Winners of the Tribeca Film Festival’s Best Narrative Short award and Best Documentary Short award will automatically be eligible in the Short Films category at next year’s Academy Awards.

The Tribeca Film Festival runs between April 19-30. More information can be found at the festival website.

From left, Benjamin Cleary, TJ O’Grady-Peyton, Timothy Michael Cooper, Noah Pritzker, Joey Ally

Narrative Shorts

1. & 2. Benjamin Cleary, TJ O’Grady-Peyton

Oscar winning director Benjamin Cleary is screening his new short Wave with co-director TJ O’Grady-Peyton. Benjamin and TJ’s new film is a sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking story of a very isolated person, Wave tells the story of Gaspar Rubicon, who wakes up from a coma speaking a fully formed but unrecognizable language, baffling linguistics experts from around the globe. Benjamin, who is a graduate of the London Film School, won a Best Live Action Oscar at the 88th Academy Awards for his 2015 short Stutterer, which also notched multiple awards during its year-long festival run including LA Shorts Fest and DC Shorts. His 2015 short Love is a Sting earned major film festival awards, notably the Grand Prix Irish Short at Cork Film Festival that year. TJ is also a graduate of the London Film School and was shortlisted for the Young Director Award at Cannes Lions International Festival in 2013 and again in 2015.

Ben’s portfolio site.

Follow TJ on Twitter.

3. Timothy Michael Cooper

Concierge:The Series writer and director Timothy Michael Cooper is premiering his first short comedy Lemon as part of the New York Shorts program. Timothy is a prolific comedy writer and playwright, based in Brooklyn. He is a regular at UCB in New York as well as a founder of Blueprint Screenwriting Group. Timothy has previously been nominated for a Writers Guild New Media Award in 2011 for Concierge. Lemon is about when a new bride is stunned to learn that her new husband fudged nearly everything about his past, his family, and his accomplishments—but his revelations force her to come clean about a few shocking secrets of her own.

Follow Timothy on Twitter.

4. Noah Pritzker

Approaching a Breakthrough from Noah Pritzker has its world premiere at Tribeca. His new short is about Norman Kaminsky who, back in New York after a stint in Los Angeles, has a terrible argument with his girlfriend just before running into a string of characters from his past – and despite his best efforts, Norman can’t seem to run away from his problems.

The American filmmaker’s debut feature Quitters earned him a nomination at SXSW in 2015. His previous short Little Dad was nominated for a SXSW Narrative Short Grand Jury Award in 2012. Noah, who is a graduate of Columbia University in New York, grew up in San Francisco and is now based in Los Angeles.

5. Joey Ally

Joey Ally’s Joy Joy Nails is about Sarah who manages Joy Joy Nails with a cheerful iron fist – but she gets her manicured claws out when Chinese Mia, a manicurist trainee, looks to be stealing the boss’s son’s affections, soon discovering that under the varnish, everyone’s a victim. Joy’s previous short Partners was nominated for a short film Grand Jury Prize at SXSW in 2015.

From left, Evan Ari Kelman, Laura Moss, Zoe McIntosh, James Burns, Rubika Shah

6. Evan Ari Kelman

Where’s There’s Smoke is from American filmmaker Evan Ari Kelman. Evan returns to the Tribeca Film Festival after being nominated for a Student Visionary Award in 2015 for the short Bandito, a film that also won him the Wasserman Award for Directing at the First Run Festival that same year. His new short follows a firefighter who must convince the city commissioner he’s able to return to the line of duty after a terrible accident. Evan is an NYU grad, his first film Delicate, won Best Director at NYU Campus Movie Festival. He is now based on New York, often doing commercial work for Nickelodeon, Converse and Viacom.

Follow Evan on Facebook or Twitter.

7. Laura Moss

Up-and-coming comedy and horror filmmaker Laura Moss has recorded significant awards in recent years including rising talent accolades from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in 2017 and IFP New York in 2013. She returns to Tribeca with the crime comedy Fry Day, about a teenage girl who comes of age against the backdrop of Ted Bundy’s execution in 1989. Her previous comedy short Rising Up: The Story of the Zombie Rights Movement scored Best Director Short Film at the Boston International Film Festival in 2009. She is a recent graduate of NYU and is in pre-production on her first feature Gordon.

Follow Laura on Instagram or Twitter.

8. Zoe McIntosh

Kiwi filmmaker Zoe McIntosh’s The World In Your Window came away from the recent Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival with a Youth Jury Prize in the International Competition. The World in Your Window tells the story of eight-year-old Jesse and his grief-stricken father, squeezed into a tiny caravan, in limbo, existing more than living – until an accidental friendship with a V8-driving transsexual unlocks the means for Jesse to liberate his father and himself. Zoe’s 2010 short Day Trip was nominated in the Best Narrative Short Category and her 2013 followup The Deadly Ponies Gang was nominated at the New Zealand Film and TV Awards that year.

Follow Zoe on Vimeo or Facebook

Documentary Shorts

9. James Burns

Documentarian James Burns’ Revolving Doors screens as part of the Human Condition documentary shorts program. The 52-minute short (yes, it’s still a short!) was shot over two years and follows three men in Baltimore, forever marked as convicts in the United States justice system, who walk a fine line between recidivism and their hope for a better future

His previous short We Live This won first prize for Best Documentary Short at Rhode Island International Film Festival and earned a Special Mention at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it was also nominated for Best Documentary Short in 2015. James, who is largely a self taught filmmaker, is based in Brooklyn and is currently producing video content for Vice.

Follow James on Facebook, Instagram or on Twitter.

10. Rubika Shah

UK filmmaker Rubika Shah returns with another music-themed film documentary after her popular short Let’s Dance: Bowie Down Under was nominated for a Crystal Bear at Berlinale in 2015. This time Rubika’s new work, White Riot: London, chronicles the 1970s punk music scene. The 9-minute short is an experimental music documentary that explores how a generation united against the neo-Nazi National Front through a punk fanzine in 1970s Britain, with black and white coming together through popular culture at a terrifying time of turmoil and division. Rubika has a background in journalism and the music industry and is currently developing a documentary feature version of White Riot with producing partner Ed Gibbs.

Follow Rubika in Facebook, Instagram or Twitter

From left, Elizabeth Lo, David Darg, Jessica Devaney, Geeta Gandbhir

11. Elizabeth Lo

Documentary filmmaker Elizabeth Lo has made an impression on festival juries in recent years, winning awards and honorable mentions for her previous work Hotel 22 and Treasure Island. This year she presents the world premiere of her latest documentary short Mother’s Day, which examines the impact of mass incarceration on a generation of youth. This is explored through an annual Mother’s Day charity bus journey that takes children from across California to visit their mothers in prison. Elizabeth is based in Los Angeles and has been featured as one of the ‘25 New Faces of Independent Film’ by Filmmaker Magazine and in the New Directors’ Showcase at Cannes Lion, both in 2015.

Follow Elizabeth on Twitter.

12. David Darg

The Rugby Boys of Memphis is the latest short documentary from Oscar-nominated filmmaker David Darg. David earned his first Academy Awards nomination last year for Body Team 12, a short documentary piece that explored the human impact of health workers during Liberia’s Ebola epidemic. The short also won accolades at Tribeca, such as the Jury Award for a documentary subject in 2015. Overall, Tribeca has been good for David, he won a Special Mention for Baseball in the Time of Cholera in 2012 and a Jury Award for Sun City Picture House in 2011. Rugby Boys in Memphis follows the rise of an inner-city Memphis high school’s first rugby team and sees the ways in which, for these boys, the unlikely sport is much more than a game.

Follow David on Twitter.

13.& 14. Jessica Devaney, Geeta Gandbhir

Love The Sinner is the 15-minute documentary from Geeta Gandbhir and Jessica Devaney that examines the evangelical roots of homophobia in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016. Geeta’s previous feature documentary A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers won the Jury Award at the RiverRun International Film Festival in 2015 as well as being nominated at the Atlanta Film Festival and DOCS NYC that same year. Geeta’s Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro, Sr earned a Sundance Documentary Short Film Grand Jury Prize in 2014.

From left, Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, Jeremy Newberger

15., 16. & 17. Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, Jeremy Newberger

It’s not often you find 3 directors with a consistent history of working together on individual projects but that is the case for Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger who have worked on multiple documentary projects as a team. The trio returns to Tribeca with their latest short documentary Woody’s Order, which follows actress Ann Talman as she finally performs the solo show she wrote for her muse: her brother with cerebral palsy. The directors have scored numerous accolades in the nearly 10 years of working together including multiple News & Documentary Emmy nominations for previous works like The New Recruits (2010) and The Linguists (2008).

Follow Seth on Twitter.

Follow Jeremy on Twitter.

2 Comments

  • […] The 16th annual Tribeca Film Festival screened 98 feature-length titles and 57 shorts, not to mention various TV, interactive and alternative works. This year’s event also saw a combination of record high submissions and a reduced screening program, resulting in the most competitive lineup in the festival’s history. The 10 short film competition programs, which included five narrative, four documentary and one animated, was again highly selective and based on a massive 4,385 submissions. Basically being selected to screen was a win in itself. Read our review of short filmmakers to watch at Tribeca 2017. […]

  • […] The 16th annual Tribeca Film Festival screened 98 feature-length titles and 57 shorts, not to mention various TV, interactive and alternative works. This year’s event also saw a combination of record high submissions and a reduced screening program, resulting in the most competitive lineup in the festival’s history. The 10 short film competition programs, which included five narrative, four documentary and one animated, was again highly selective and based on a massive 4,385 submissions. Basically being selected to screen was a win in itself. Read our review of short filmmakers to watch at Tribeca 2017. […]