Even though it occupies the same town that produces the seemingly never-ending Pirates of the Caribbean series, the annual Los Angeles Film Festival has long garnered a reputation for elevating new talent, thanks to its principle benefactor Film Independent. It is not uncommon to see members of the next generation of American filmmakers emerge from the U.S Fiction competition that has seen notable films like Little Miss Sunshine from Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris come to light in previous years.
In addition to promoting fresh faces, the LA Film Festival maintains its solid commitment to diversity with 40% of this year’s program directed by people of color and 42% by women. The LA Film Festival is held June 14 to 22 and at the ArcLight in Culver City.
Our first in this series of LA Film Festival previews, we spotlight a selection of new filmmakers to watch who are screening in competition as part of the U.S Fiction program.
1. Leena Pendharkar – 20 Weeks – WORLD PREMIERE
Indian filmmaker Leena Pendharkar screens her second feature 20 Weeks, which is about a couple who must decide on how to move forward when their baby is diagnosed with a serious health condition at the 20 week scan. Her previous short Dandekar Makes a Sandwich (2015) won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Film at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. Leena’s debut feature Raspberry Magic (2010) won at the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, earning the Audience Award for Narrative Feature.
2. Vincent Grashaw – And Then I Go – WORLD PREMIERE
LA native Vincent Grashaw premieres And Then I Go in competition. This is Vincent’s second feature after his 2013 debut Coldwater and is based on the acclaimed novel Project X by Jim Shepard. The story focuses on adolescence, exploring how the powerful bonds of childhood friendship and search for belonging can become a matter of life or death. His previous short Savanna (2009) won the Award of Excellence for Best Short Film at the Accolade Competition and was nominated for a jury prize at the Beverly Hills Film Festival in 2010. Coldwater earned a bunch of nominations during its long festival run, including at the Athens International Film Festival, the California Independent Film Festival, Galway Film Festival, SXSW and Shanghai Film Fest – to name a few. He ended up winning the best director award at the Boston Film Festival for Coldwater.
3. Harris Doran – Beauty Mark – WORLD PREMIERE
Harris Doran is screening his debut feature Beauty Mark in competition. Harris’ 80-minute film tells the story of a young mother who, in order to take care of her family after their house becomes condemned, must get the money she needs from a man who abused her as a child. His first short The Story of Milo & Annie was nominated at the Golden Door International Film Festival of Jersey City and Long Island International Film Expo and won Best Narrative Short at the Memphis Indie Film Festival.
Follow Harris on Twitter.
4. 5. Elizabeth Rohrbaugh and Daniel Powell – Becks
Co-directors Elizabeth Rohrbaugh and Daniel Powell are screening Becks, which is their first feature either together or as individual directors. Becks was written by Elizabeth and Daniel along with Rebecca Drysdale and is about a Brooklyn musician, who after a crushing breakup with her girlfriend, moves back in with her Midwestern mother. As she navigates her hometown, playing for tip money in an old friend’s bar, an unexpected relationship begins to take shape. Daniel is a comedy writer who has won a Primetime Emmy for his work on Inside Amy Schumer. He has also be nominated numerous times by the Writers Guild of America.
6. Bruce Thierry Cheung – Please Don’t Come Back from The Moon – WORLD PREMIERE
Cinematographer and director Bruce Thierry Cheung is a frequent collaborator of James Franco who also stars in his latest feature Please Don’t Come Back From The Moon. The drama is about fathers in a small California desert town who abandon their children one by one, leaving behind a wake of anger and crime, as their sons and daughters come of age. His previous feature drama The Color of Time (2012) was nominated for Cinema XXI Award at the Rome Film Fest in 2012; the short drama Each Moment Is the Universe (2010) was nominated for a Student Visionary Award at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011.
7. 8. Andrea Sisson & Pete Ohs – Everything Beautiful is Far Away – WORLD PREMIERE
American filmmakers Andrea Sisson and Pete Ohs are screening their debut feature Everything Beautiful is Far Away. The sci-fi tale is about a guy, a girl, and a robothead as they hike across a desert planet in search of a mythological lake and the better life it represents. Their previous documentary I Sent You This Place screened at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and the Reykjavík International Film Festival in 2012.
9. Christian Papierniak – Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town – WORLD PREMIERE
Christian Papierniak’s Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town is about a woman at rock bottom who must find her way across Los Angeles in order to crash her ex-boyfriend’s engagement party. The film stars Mackenzie Davis and Haley Joel Osment. Originally from San Francisco, Christian studied film at USC and made an good first impression following the release of his thesis short Hal Buckley, which is loosely based on Henry V.
View Christian’s portfolio on Vimeo.
10. Camille Thoman – Never Here – WORLD PREMIERE
Never Here is the debut thriller from UK filmmaker Camille Thoman. Starring Sam Shepard, the story is about when disturbing events lead an artist who photographs strangers to suspect that someone out there is watching her. Boundaries blur between real and imaginary, crime and art, the watcher and the watched. Camille’s 2014 feature documentary The Longest Game won festival awards at the Woods Hole Film Festival, the Grand Rapids Film Festival and the Gasparilla International Film Festival.
11. Paul Briganti – Village People – WORLD PREMIERE
Comedy writer and director Paul Briganti is screening his debut feature Village People. Paul has directed comedy segments for Saturday Night Live, James Corden as well as the TV series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Adam Ruins Everything. Village People is about when Alan’s wife flakes on a last-ditch effort to save their marriage, he’s joined by his all too eager brother-in-law Mike on a trip to Nicaragua’s ‘Mercado Village,’ a hipster resort for American tourists. His short comedy Greener Grass (2015) won at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival and was nominated at the SXSW Film Festival in 2016 for the Grand Jury Award for Narrative Short.