Now in its third year, the Lexus Short Film Series has picked four promising new directors whose short films they will finance. The films will be produced and internationally showcased by The Weinstein Company. The project was launched in 2013 with the stated goal of "supporting and nurturing a new generation of emerging filmmakers." The four winning filmmakers faced stiff competition this year, having been chosen amongst a group that included close to 4,500 applicants.
"We treated this project as if it were a film festival," explained producer Joey Horvitz, who is overseeing the project for TWC. "Any filmmaker with a film that played at any festival was eligible. Also, current film students could submit a short regardless of it playing at a festival."
Each of the 4,400-plus applicants submitted a previously produced short film that was watched by a ten-person screening committee led by Landon Zakheim, a shorts programmer for Sundance and the director of programming for the Stanley Film Festival. Once the screening committee identified the top films by region, finalists were asked to write a short film treatment based on the upcoming theme of "Anticipation." Based on both the proposed treatment and the filmmaker's previous work, Weinstein Company executives, Horvitz and Zakheim chose the final four winners.
"What really stood out this year was how many great shorts there are out there and just the sheer amount of shorts that are being made seems to be rapidly increasing," Horvitz told Indiewire. While sifting through the submitted shorts, the committee was looking for filmmakers who demonstrated a certain amount of polish and experience, but more importantly they were looking for fresh, unique voices they wanted to help nurture. Here’s the four filmmakers they picked:
Michalik began acting at the age of 18 as Romeo in celebrated director Irina Brooks’ version of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliette." This experience led the young actor to landing starring roles in several TV movies and series. In 2013, Michalik tried going behind the camera making two well received shorts, including "Au Sol," which he submitted for the contest. He is now prepping his first feature, "Escort Boys."
Horvitz: "Alexis was able to pull very emotional performances out of his actors with a story that had a simple premise. 'Au Sol' is powerful and had me in tears through a lot of it."
Byoung Gon Moon
Moon is a South Korean filmmaker based in Seoul. In 2013, his short film "Safe" was awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival — just two years after he graduated from college.
Horvitz: "'Safe' really resonated with me as a film that very much represented the region. It was super intense and assembled very effectively. It’s a nail biter and had me on the edge of my seat for the last half."
Walsh-Howling is an Australian actor and filmmaker whose passion for storytelling has carried him around the world in pursuit of culturally diverse stories and rich roles. Although his acting resume includes an impressive list of film, television and theater credits, he is currently focused on his career behind the camera.
Horvitz: "Damian's short 'Suspended' has a magical quality to it and looked beautiful. Remember, we also have to keep in mind the tone and feeling of all four films together, as well as the treatments that were submitted for each film. The combination of Damian's past short and submitted treatment was precisely what the doctor ordered."
After studying photography at Yale University, Bianco went to New York to pursue a career in independent film. Since then, her films have accrued laurels and awards at festivals like Telluride, SXSW, and Cannes. She was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s "25 New Faces of Independent Film in 2015."
Horvitz: "The style of Pippa's short 'Share' coupled with the ability to tell a current story a whole generation identifies with, showed a singular unique voice and an ideal candidate. She's super talented and we're thankful to have found her."
[Editor's Note: This article is part of a partnership between Indiewire and Vimeo in support of the 3rd Annual Lexus Short Films Series. Lexus and The Weinstein Company crowd sourced director submissions from the filmmaking community worldwide for the third series of Lexus Short Films. Click here to view the 2015 winners, and here to view past winners' videos.]