Profession: Writer, director
Breakout Film: "LUV"
Why We Profiled Him: Sheldon Candis, a graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, has several short films to his name, including "The Walk" and "The Dwelling," a documentary that chronicles the lives of two homeless Tokyo residents. The first-time feature filmmaker arrived in Park City this year with his U.S. Dramatic Competition contender "LUV," a blistering semi-autobiographical tale that cuts close to the heart. Indomina and BET acquired the film out of the fest.
What He's Up To: "I want this movie to get out the best way possible, but to be honest with you, we're super, super close with some new ideas," Candis told Indiewire. "Trust me, as soon as I know, you guys will be the first to know."
Breakout Film: "Safety Not Guaranteed"
Why We Profiled Him: There wasn't a comedy more heartfelt and nutty at this year's Sundance Film Festival than Colin Trevorrow's "Safety Not Guaranteed." The high-concept indie charmer won over critics and audiences with its blend of sci-fi and romance, culminating in a Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for the film's writer, Derek Connolly, and a coveted distribution deal with FilmDistrict.
What He's Up To: Connolly is penning the script for a new Pixar movie, to be helmed by Teddy Newton (best known for the ingenious short "Day and Night").
Profession: Actor, writer, director, producer
Breakout Film: "American Animal"
Why We Profiled Him: NYU Tisch graduate Matt D'Elia caused a stir at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival with his debut feature "American Animal," a dark and completely nutty comedy he wrote, directed, produced, edited and stars in. The film didn't go on to win any awards as the festival, but it was met with some of the most passionate reviews to come out of the event. Slant Magazine called D'Elia's vision "original, gutsy, and uncompromising"; The Wall Street Journal said "American Animal" is "personal filmmaking with ambition to burn"; while HitFix said the film "deserves to launch D'Elia as a filmmaker of note." Filmgoers discovered what all the fuss was about when it opened in select theaters in early May.
What He's Up To: D'Elia shot his latest, "Powder Keg," late this summer. "I'm so excited to make a movie that I can easily explain," he told Indiewire. "I still can't explain 'American Animal.' My next movie's a post-heist movie. I'm actually going to be in it again, so I must hate myself [laughs]. The fact that I'm in a movie that I can't watch and that I'm preparing to do it again is crazy. I'm a masochist. It's another one-location movie heavily inspired by 'Reservoir Dogs' and David Mamet."
Breakout Film: "Moon Rider"
Why We Profiled Him: Following in the footsteps of a rather remarkable amount of recent documentary filmmakers to come out of Denmark, Daniel Dencik won the Reel Talent Award a few months back at the closing ceremony of CPH:DOX.
What He's Up To: "Expedition to the End of the World," an extraordinary look at a group of scientists and artists that travel to the Northeastern fjords of Greenland, which are accessible for the first time due to melting ice.
Profession: Writer, director
Breakout Film: "Middle of Nowhere"
Why We Profiled Her: Ava DuVernay became the first African-American to win the Best Director award at Sundance this year for her indie drama, "Middle of Nowhere." Although "Middle of Nowhere" is only DuVernay's second full-length feature, she's no newcomer; she's already made a name for herself as one of the preeminent figures in modern African-American cinema, even before her history-making win at Sundance. In addition to running her renowned marketing firm, The DuVernay Agency (later DV Marketing + Media), where she worked with directors like Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Kevin Smith, and Robert Rodriguez, DuVernay won the Best Screenplay Award from the African-American Film Critics Association for her first feature film, "I Will Follow." She also launched an ambitious, groundbreaking film distribution movement in 2010 called AFFRM (African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement), which organizes film festivals and theatrical releases for black indepedent films.
What She's Up To: She's in the midst of pre-production on her follow-up, which she plans to shoot in March.