It's been just over six months since we said goodbye to 2012 and hello to 2013, and already we've seen a slew of promising indie talent breakthrough in big ways thanks to the Sundance, SXSW and Tribeca film festivals (among many others), and theatrical releases that caught on with the movie-going public. Over the past two days we've been publishing our picks for this year's biggest indie breakthroughs so far (we still have half a year to go), with our reasons for why they made the cut and info on what they're up to next. Below find the full list, including two new inclusions who made a huge dent at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
Profession: Writer, director, cinematographer
Breakout Film: "Blue Ruin"
Why They're On Here: Brooklyn-based cinematographer and filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier came to this year's Cannes Film Festival with his tense, violent crime drama "Blue Ruin" after being rejected by Sundance and emerged as of the fest's biggest breakouts after seeing his sophomore feature win the Director's Fortnight FIPRESCI Prize and land distribution with RADiUS-TWC. Indiewire' Eric Kohn called the film a "tense, darkly comic and surprisingly esoteric revenge tale in the tradition of the Coen brothers' 'Blood Simple.'"
What's Up Next: Prepping for the release of his award-winner. RADiUS-TWC has yet to announce a release date.
Breakout Film: "Blue is the Warmest Color"
Why They're On Here: No performance garnered more adulation and gasps (she bares a lot more than just her raw emotions) than Adele Exarchopoulos incredibly brave turn in Abdellatif Kechiche's coming of age drama "Blue is the Warmest Color" (go HERE for our glowing review), winner of this year's coveted Palme d'Or. The film, which drew a lot of attention during the festival for its long and explicit lesbian sex scenes, features the actress in every frame of its three hour running time and her performance is arguably what makes the film such a barnstorming success. The Cannes jury, led by Steven Spielberg, clearly agreed; they bestowed the Palme d'Or not just on Kechiche, but shared the honor with Exarchopoulos and co-star Lea Seydoux -- a first at Cannes.
What's Up Next: No word yet, but you can bet that once Sundance Selects opens "Blue" Stateside, America will take notice. We expect huge things from this young talent.
Breakout Film: "The Spectacular Now"
Why They're On Here: Because of his role as Willard in "Footloose." OK, maybe Teller was slightly better in, "The Spectacular Now," a Sundance selection from earlier this year. Teller, along with costar Shailene Woodley, won a Special Jury Prize at the Utah-based festival for dramatic acting that "showed rare honesty, naturalism and transparency." It would be difficult to come up with better adjectives for the young star, especially as Sutter Keely, a jovial and incredibly popular high school senior who befriends a nerdy girl next door (Woodley) after a bad breakup. The festival favorite is set for a limited release August 2.
What's Up Next: "Get a Job," co-starring Anna Kendrick, Alison Brie, and Bryan Cranston, is set for a 2013 release. Teller also has two films in post-production: "Two Night Stand" and the Zac Efron vehicle, "Are We Officially Dating?" The latter also costars Michael B. Jordan, of "Fruitvale" and "Friday Night Lights" fame. Finally, Teller will appear alongside Woodley once more for the highly-anticipated, "Divergent," an adaptation of the popular young adult novel.
Joachin Ronning and Espen Sandberg
Breakout Film: "Kon-Tiki"
Why They're On Here: The Norwegian directing partners hit it big with their third feature, "Kon-Tiki," an adventure on the high seas about a South American explorer crossing the Pacific on a wooden raft. We should have seen it coming. Their first feature, "Max Manus: Man of War," went over well at the Toronto International Film Festival as well as the Hamptons and Palm Springs IFFs. Not only did "Kon-Tiki" blow up even bigger, earning Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for Best Foreign Language Film, but its success and subject matter landed them their next job: directing the fifth "Pirates of the Caribbean" film for Walt Disney Pictures.
What's Up Next: Ronning and Sandberg have their hands full prepping Jack Sparrow's fifth rum-fueled excursion, a substantial step up in budget if not quality from their previous pictures.
Breakout Film: "The Bling Ring"
Why They're On Here: Considering Emma Watson is easily the most well known face in "The Bling Ring," many may think she plays the group leader in Sofia Coppola's film about four youths who rob Hollywood's rich and famous. In reality, Katie Chang got that role, and she nailed it. Indiewire critic Eric Kohn says the Chicago-native "stands out" as Rebecca, "a fame-obsessed young woman" who recruits the other members to infiltrate the homes of Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, among others. Among all that glitz and glamor, "standing out" is quite the achievement.
What's Up Next: Chang also appears in "A Birder's Guide to Everything," a film that debuted at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival and has yet to land a release date. Fans better get used to waiting. The 18-year-old Blackhawks fan recently told Teen Vogue she plans to attend Columbia University in the fall.
Breakout Film: "Ain't Them Bodies Saints"
Why They're On Here: David Lowery has had one heck of a year. In 2013, the writer, director, and editor had three films premiere at the Sundance Film Festival: "Upstream Color," for which he served as editor; "Pit Stop," which he wrote; and "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," a film he wrote and directed. It was the latter, a heartbreaking and beautiful modern western, that has truly broken Lowery from of the pack. The Texas-native penned the meditative romance featuring fine performances from Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, and Ben Foster. He's also heavily involved in the editing process (along with Harvey Weinstein), making the film almost wholly his. It's a little early to throw the word "auteur" around, but Lowery certainly has a bright future, immediate and otherwise, ahead.
What's Up Next: "Pit Stop" and "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" have yet to be released. No date has been said for the former, but "Saints" will start its awards run on August 16. Lowery has yet to start working on his next project, but it will undoubtedly be an in demand feature.
Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan
Professions: Director and Actor, respectively
Breakout Film: "Fruitvale Station"
Why They're On Here: After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in January, "Fruitvale Station" has been gaining momentum by the day. The audience award and Grand Jury Prize winner next stopped by Cannes where director Ryan Coogler picked up an Un Certain Regard nomination and win. While the film's star Michael B. Jordan has yet to win any awards, Indiewire has him ranked ninth in the Best Actor race, ahead of other better known contenders like Tom Hanks and Matthew McConaughey. Jordan, a fan favorite from esteemed television shows "The Wire" and "Friday Night Lights," has always had a bright future ahead of him. It's in "Fruitvale Station," though, that his future arrives.
What's Up Next: Coogler has yet to sign on for a follow up project, but Jordan will appear in another 2013 release, the Zach Efron-starring, "Are We Officially Dating?" In 2014, look for Jordan in "Pretenders," a drama co-starring Anton Yelchin and David Schwimmer.