By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire December 30, 2011 at 11:21AM
ACTOR: Olly Alexander, "The Dish & the Spoon"
On carrying the film along with co-star Greta Gerwig: "I felt terrified. When you have a small part, you can really focus your energy into one or two scenes but when you have to do a whole movie, you have to relax and trust that the director and the script works and you're the vehicle for the movie. In a way, you almost have to relax more than you would normally...I just wanted it to be good."
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Richard Ayoade, "Submarine"
While Ayoade has made quite an impression on British television (and any American that began watching his recent hit series “The IT Crowd” after Netflix recommended it based on an interest in “The Office”) and the music video world (directing videos for The Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and more), he has thus far only made it onto American screens as a director of NBC’s “Community.” “Submarine,” which is executively produced by Ben Stiller and is distributed by the Weinstein Company, marks his feature-length directorial debut (click here to read our interview with the film’s lead actor, Craig Roberts). The film quickly garnered Ayoade comparisons with Wes Anderson, which he very respectfully acknowledges.
DIRECTOR: Clio Barnard, "The Arbor"
“The Arbor” is a remarkable new entry into Britain’s tradition of social realism. It portrays the life of the late Andrea Dunbar, a troubled playwright who wrote about her experiences in working-class Northern England. Barnard took hundreds of hours of tape recordings with Dunbar’s family and friends and hired actors to lip-sync them. The result is a stunning achievement that pushes the boundaries of form to explore the cyclical nature of addiction and self-destruction.
DIRECTORS: Chirstian Bonke and Andreas Koefoed, "Ballroom Dancer"
"Ballroom Dancer" is the directorial debut for Bonke and Koefoed and had its world premiere as the opening film of CPH:DOX and heads to IDFA this weekend. The story of a champion dancer who's now struggling with an aging body and an intense anger management problem that keeps scaring off dance partners, it's accessible, charming and you're going to be seeing a lot of it on the festival circuit.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Mike Cahill, "Another Earth"
On the high concept of "Another Earth: "I think we were wrestling with the idea of the loneliness of life. You may have great close friends, a great lover or a great family but there are certain things that you have just got to deal with yourself. There’s this inner monologue inside your head. We were both being very self reflexive about life, considering where we were at the time. It spawned from that. There is a relationship that you have with yourself that’s a very private relationship. What if that were externalized?"
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Paddy Considine, "Tyrannosaur"
On why he made the switch from acting to directing: "I was just fed up with low-budget British film – getting a hand-held camera, swinging it around, improvising and chancing things a little bit. That whole technique got bastardized to death. I’m sick of seeing it. I wanted to make a movie. Actually, if there was any one model, it was Clint Eastwood. What I love about Eastwood is the simplicity of his films. Simplicity is a gift, I think. It’s not easy to do. People think they have to overcompensate, but it’s bold and brave to be still. I wanted that for my film."
ACTOR: Tom Cullen, "Weekend"
He plays the lead in Andrew Haigh‘s astonishing feature “Weekend.” The gay romantic drama was very much below the radar when it debuted at the SXSW Film Festival in March, but quickly broke out as one of the event’s major discoveries.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Sean Durkin, "Martha Marcy May Marlene"
On why he made a film about a cult: "I think as a child I was really afraid of groups that conformed. Cults were these thing that were really an example of that. I’m attracted to fear. I’m attracted to movies that scare you. I knew I would just end up working in that realm."
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Andrew Haigh, "Weekend"
On why he made "Weekend": "When I was coming up with the idea, I wanted to tell the relationship drama honestly and have it about gay people. To try to tell a story that had wider resonance than that. That’s the thing about a lot of gay films, they’re just about being gay—nightclubs, coming out when you were a kid. I wanted to focus the everyday aspects of being gay. If I was straight, I would’ve told it about a woman. It’s after you make the film that the gay word gets used constantly."
On whether the film is a documentary of a hybrid of some sort: "To be honest, I couldn’t care less how people define it. I think what matters is how you treat your subjects. They’re your collaborators. I think that the rest of it is righteous. I just have no idea how this discussion begins to be interesting. But if it is, I’m happy to have it. I just have nothing interesting to say about it. To me the only thing that’s interesting is to connect with the people I’m filming and do something creative together."
ACTOR: Henry Hopper, "Restless”
Anyone who lands a leading role in a film by a veteran filmmaker, such as Gus Van Sant, is bound to garner attention. Certainly his pedigree helped him in getting his foot in the door, but Henry Hopper still had to deliver the goods and more than holds his own “Restless.”
DIRECTOR: Asif Kapadia, "Senna"
On how he -- a narrative director -- got the job: "I didn’t necessarily have to pitch for the film. Because I’m a big sports fan, I was able to talk about sports and I remembered him. I knew that world, and was interested to tell that story. I was also enough of an outsider to ask questions for the non-fans. We had to make it work for people who had never heard of him. That balance was something that the producers responded to."
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Maryam Keshavarz, "Cirsumstance"
On being targeted back in Iran because of the film: "Everyone knows about the film now. I think 12 hours after the film premiered, there was a statement against me in one of the national papers. They’ve been somewhat tracking us. I’ve gotten threats since then, anonymous ones. Love them!"
ACTOR: Felicity Jones, "Like Crazy"
On making a film that went on to win the Jury Award at this year's Sundance: "It’s been very surreal. Especially making something like “Like Crazy,” which was a very small independent film made for very little money. It’s been absolutely incredible this journey that this film that had. It’s obviously very exciting."
DIRECTOR: Jean-Baptiste, Leonetti, "Carré Blanc"
The French director's feature-length debut, "Carré Blanc," premiered in the Discovery section at the Toronto International Film Festival. Set in a cold, satiric near-future where humanity is forced to smile on command, play croquet and procreate, the movie stars Sami Bouajila as a committed member of the totalitarian establishment who slowly wakes up from the spell. Well received by TIFF audiences, "Carré Blanc" boasts a sleek dystopian vision that plays like an understated version of "The Matrix."
ACTOR: Hamish Linklater, "The Future"
While Linklater is a familiar face on the small screen ("The Old Adventures of New Christine"), he broke out this year on the big screen opposite Miranda July in her second feature “The Future.” In the whimsical romantic dramedy, Linklater plays Jason, one half of a couple whose decision to adopt a stray cat backfires when it forces them to face what the future really holds.
DIRECTOR: Marie Losier, "The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye"
After making over a dozen experimental shorts, Losier made her feature film debut with the doc “The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye.” The film is an intensely affecting portrait of the relationship between Genesis P-Orridge, one of the most influential figures in underground industrial music, and his collaborator and muse, the late Lady Jaye. The film centers around the sexual transformations the pair underwent for their ‘Pandrogyne’ project, in which they underwent surgeries to more closely resemble each other.
DIRECTOR: Ami Canaan Mann, "Texas Killing Fields"
On capturing an authentic sense of space: "I had the good fortune of being able to go to Texas City, being able to have access to the cops, being able to have access to real families in crisis, being able to go inside prison facilities and morgues. I just pursued all those avenues."
On why she pursued acting: "The only reason I wanted to act is because it’s the hardest thing in the world for me to do. I can’t think of anything harder. I could probably be a heart surgeon easier than I could be an actor. Acting, what it demands of you—it requires this kind of monastic discipline where you just take on a story and you invest yourself in that world until that reality becomes more vividly imagined than the one you’re living in."
ACTOR: Ezra Miller, "We Need to Talk About Kevin"
On getting the part: "My agent sent me the script and I went into sort of a wrathful, thirsting pursuit. I immediately became ravenous for this movie. And I just started pursuing it like a stalker. I went in the first time and walked in in character. Lynne caught this instinct that maybe I could do it."
ACTOR: Adepero Oduye, "Pariah"
Dee Rees’ feature directorial debut “Pariah,” starring relative newcomer Adepero Oduye, earned a standing ovation in its opening-night premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. A coming-of-age drama that centers on Alike (Oduye), a 17-year-old girl coming to terms with her sexuality, “Pariah” is the type of film that requires a inspired lead performance to succeed. It has it in Oduye.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Madeleine Olnek, "Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same"
Her debut feature, the hilarious black-and-white sci-fi romantic comedy “Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same,” charmed the pants off critics and audiences at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year in its world premiere.
ACTOR: Elizabeth Olsen, "Martha Marcy May Marlene"
On juggling school with acting: "You know, when you go to NYU and you're a theater student, you have conservatory and you have academics. So already you're a balancing an intense and crazy schedule with academic classes. So you kind of already figure out how to multi-task. The only thing that sucks is that NYU isn't allowing me to work while being in school, so I have to actually take time off when I want to work. That's what's frustrating. I wish there was a way to work it out, but there isn't."
DIRECTOR: Alex Ross Perry, "The Color Wheel"
Alex Ross Perry's sophomore feature is "The Color Wheel," a black-and-white, 16mm comedy built on awkward laughs.It debuted at the Sarasota Film Festival and won an award for Best Feature at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. Perry is working hard on the festival circuit to promote (and hopefully sell) "The Color Wheel." He's currently working on an omnibus of three erotic thrillers with Zach Clark ("Modern Love is Automatic," "Vacation!") and the DP of "The Color Wheel," Sean Price Williams.
DIRECTOR: Matthew Porterfield, "Putty Hill"
A beguiling amalgamation of documentary and fictional narratives, Matthew Porterfield’s second feature “Putty Hill” has been making waves on the film festival circuit since debuting at the Berlin International Film Festival last year. "Putty Hill" uses a young man's untimely death to build a portrait of a close-knit community living on the outskirts of Baltimore.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Dee Rees, "Pariah"
"The project had a really interesting evolution. It started as a feature film in 2005. I needed a thesis to graduate from NYU so I took the first act from the feature and shot it as a short and changed some stuff around so it would work as a standalone. Honestly, it was harder going from feature to short, than it was to finally go back an do the whole thing."
WRITER: Will Reiser, "50/50"
On how close the protagonist (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is to him: "Adam is very much an extension of me, but I didn't intend for that. It just happened. I just had so much I wanted to say. There's a real limitation on what you can and can't say, like you can't make fun of this because it's a taboo. I really wanted to confront that in a way that was beyond my experience."
ACTOR: Andrea Riseborough, "Brighton Rock"/"W.E."
The English full-lipped beauty turned heads for her brassy turn in last year's "Made in Dagenham," had a small part in Mike Leigh's "Happy-Go-Lucky" and garnered a bevvy of acclaim for her BAFTA TV Award-nominated turn as the title character in the TV film "Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley." This year, the RADA graduate is poised to break out in a big way.
ACTOR: Craig Roberts, "Submarine"
Making his feature film debut in “Submarine,” Roberts gives what could be a star-making performance as Oliver Tate, a boy on a mission to save his parents (Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor) from the dissolution of their marriage and to lose his virginity before he turns 16.
ACTOR: Harmony Santana, "Gun Hill Road"
On being cast in her first major role: "I was working on a parade to promote AIDS awareness. I was working in the booth and I went out for a little break. Rashaad was going around passing fliers and he saw me and handed me a flier. He explained what he was looking for. I told him I wanted to audition. I went in, auditioned, he called me for a second read and I got the part."
WRITER/DIRECTOR Mikael Schleinzer, "Michael"
The gripping tale of five months in the life of a pedophile (Michael Fuith) and the young child he keeps in his basement, “Michael” took Cannes audiences by surprise with its provocative story, which the festival did not reveal in advance. While critics were mixed, there’s no doubt that Schleinzer has established himself.
DIRECTOR: Jordan Scott, "Cracks"
The Scott filmmaking clan continues to grow with the release of Jordan Scott’s first feature film, the boarding school drama “Cracks.” As the daughter of British directing veteran Ridley Scott (“Gladiator,” “Blade Runner”), sister to Jake Scott (director of “Welcome to the Rileys”) and niece to blockbuster auteur Tony Scott (“Unstoppable”), it should come as no surprise that Scott has decided to follow suit and pursue what her family knows best.
ACTOR: Amy Seimetz, "The Off Hours"
"I love performing. I was a really timid child," Seimetz told Indiewire. "I loved the idea of performing, but I was terrified of it. Obviously, that’s changed a lot. I thought for a long time I was going to be an orthopedic surgeon. It wasn’t my first thing, but I had always loved it. I started out doing experimental performances and films. Only in the past five years have I begun to focus on narrative."
DIRECTOR: Anne Sewitsly, "Happy Happy"
Anne Sewitsky, a Norwegian Film School graduate, made a big splash in America with her feature film debut, the dark comedy "Happy, Happy." The film won the Grand Jury Prize for best narrative feature after its debut in Sundance, getting snatched up by Magnolia Pictures out of the event. Sewitsky's debut is Norway's official bid for a Foreign Language Oscar nomination this year.
ACTOR: Stephanie Sigman, "Miss Bala"
Sigman on why she fell for "Miss Bala:" "What attracted me was the story but mostly, I fell in love with the character. She’s so fragile and at the same time so strong. I think she realizes these [traits] over the course of events. I didn’t think she knew how strong she was and that’s what I liked. I also liked that she’s so innocent about a lot of things and that was in part what was so great about her. It was a challenge with the amount of emotion and action required with Laura Guerrero."
ACTOR: Corey Stoll, "Midnight in Paris"
On auditioning for Woody Allen: "I showed up at his screening room, editing room and we talked for a couple of minutes about the play, and he said I’d like you to read something. And of course it was this crazy kerfuffle with his assistants trying to find some material for me to read and then he finally gave me this two-page monologue basically and it said 'Hemingway.'"
ACTOR: Juno Temple, "Kaboom"/"Little Birds"/"Dirty Girl"
On why she became an actress: "I have this vivid memory of being four years old. Our family had this big striped couch and I was laying on it. My dad showed me Jean Cocteau’s “La Belle et la Bete.” It’s one of my favorite movies of all time. There’s this one moment where the Beast carries Belle through this room and her clothes just change. I remember thinking, 'That’s magic – I want to be in movies.'"
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Max Winkler, "Ceremony"
Son of Henry Winkler (yep, Fonzie in “Happy Days”), Max is a graduate of the USC film school. He made his feature-directing and writing debut with the charming coming-of-age romantic comedy “Ceremony,” starring Uma Thurman and Michael Angarano.
ACTOR: Shaileene Woodley, "The Descendents"
On working with George Clooney: "When I first booked the role, I didn’t think of it as, “Wow, I get to work with ‘star’ George Clooney.” I looked at it as, “Wow, I get to work with an incredible actor.” And then the first time I met him at the table read, I got nervous. My heart started pounding, I started sweating. But then he walked in and said something like, “Hey sweetie,” and immediately my nerve factor went away. It was just about enjoying every moment."
ACTOR: Jacob Wysocki, "Terri"
With Azazel Jacob’s “Terri,” newcomer Jacob Wysocki has made his entrance. In every single scene of the film, critics and audiences at the Sundance Film Festival were clearly won over by Wysocki’s portrayal of the titular character, an overweight teenager who struggles at home (his primary caregiver is a pill-popping uncle) and at school (kids taunt him with names like “double d”).