Desiree Akhavan ("Appropriate Behavior")
Why You May Know Her: In 2011, Akhavan crafted a short "Portlandia"-esque web series called "The Slope," a Brooklyn-based chronicle of a lesbian couple. Both her and copilot/costar Ingrid Jungermann generated lots of buzz that year, and after the show concluded with the characters' separation, Jungermann created a spin-off called "F to 7th." Now Akhavan is starring in her own show-inspired feature film "Appropriate Behavior," which she wrote and directed herself.
What Sundance Could Mean for Her: She's obviously got those gritty-realistic acting chops, but "Appropriate Behavior" is a chance for her to showcase her writing ability on a bigger platform. The film focuses on the post-breakup life of Shirin, a recently-single bisexual girl in a complex, perfect Persian family. Viewers who are charmed by Shirin and her rebellious escapades will almost definitely discover "The Slope" (there's a link to the show from the film's website). We're braced for an increase in demand and explosive breakout.
What's Next? Nothing official yet.
Charlie Tahan ("Love Is Strange")
Why You May Know Him (or at least his voice): Since he was 8 years old, Charlie has been in a slew of dramas including "Charlie St. Cloud," "I Am Legend," "Blue Jasmine" and in four episodes of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." He was also the boyish voice of Victor Frankenstein in the animated "Frankenweenie."
What Sundance Could Mean for Him: The now 15-year-old fills (and spills over) a supporting role as Marisa Tomei's temperamental teen son in "Love Is Strange." Showcasing a range of emotions and angst, Tahan is finally bursting into an adolescent role. The film centers on Ben and George, a couple of newlyweds forced by a financial crisis to live separately in New York. If it's a hit at Sundance, Tahan is set to keep with his steady progression upwards and will probably make a few of those super-successful-before-age-18 lists.
What's Next? Look for Tahan this year in "Wayward Pines," a TV series in the vein of "Twin Peaks" directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Tahan will play Ben Burke, a lead role.
Meron Getnet ("Difret")
Why You May Know Her: Starring in the first Ethiopian film to ever premiere at Sundance, Meron Getnet is a renown actress, poet, and playwright in Ethiopia. She was one of four Ethiopians chosen to attend President Obama's African Youth Leaders Forum in DC. She is a feature a popular TV drama and is already a star in her country. And she's rising in America with her debut at Sundance in a film written and directed by Zeresenay Berhane Mehari and executively produced by Angelina Jolie.
What Sundance Could Mean for Her: A breakout performance in the US. "Difret" is the story of a 14-year-old girl caught up in a country's staggering progression toward equal rights. When she acts in self-defense, an aspiring young lawyer (Getnet) risks her career to represent the child and save her life. Based on real events, the World Dramatic film promises a daring and moving story. And hopefully a new spotlight for Getnet.
What's Next? Getnet is currently working on her Masters on development and the arts at Addis Abada University. There's nothing official in the works for more feature film performance, but this might be the first of many (or at least a couple) more.
Cameron Monaghan ("Jamie Marks is Dead")
Why You May Know Him: The 20-year-old is best known for his portrayal of Ian Gallagher in Showtime's "Shameless," with 39 episodes and counting. Before it got off the ground, Monaghan dabbled in shows like "Rizzoli & Isles," "NCIS," and "Fringe." Also pre-"Shamless" was "Corey and Lucas for the Win," in which he played Corey for all six episodes.
What Sundance Could Mean for Him: After a lot of TV time, "Jamie Marks is Dead" marks a burst of activity in film work for Monaghan (see below -- this is the first of many). After his death, the ghost of high schooler Jamie Marks is as lonely as he was during life, and he visits his classmate Adam McCormick in a search for love and friendship. Monaghan stars as Adam in a refreshingly moving role. Filmmaker Carter Smith in an interview (watch it here) said that a big hurdle for him was finding actors (references to Monaghan and costar Noah Silver) who "could really understand what wasn't on the page and bring that to life - that was huge."
What's Next? A lot. Monoghan will star in books-to-movies "The Giver" as Asher, and in "Vampire Academy" as Mason Ashford (his looks and that role? Seamless). Other upcoming features for him include "Mall," "All Hail the Squash Blossom Queen," and future episodes of "Shameless."
Boyd Holbrook ("The Skeleton Twins," "Little Accidents")
Why You May Know Him: If you saw "The Magic of Bell Isle," you might recognize Holbrook as the cowboy-hat-wearing blonde. That was 2012, and the next year he popped up in everything from "The Host" (as Kyle) to "Behind the Candelabra" (as Cary James) to "Out of the Furnace" (as Tattooed Guy, according to IMDB). At Sundance this year, "The Skeleton Twins" casts him next to Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, and Luke Wilson.
What Sundance Could Mean for Him: This looks like a great kickstart into big-name casts. "The Skeleton Twins" features estranged siblings Maggie and Milo (Wiig and Hader), as they reunite after near-death experiences and try to patch things up. These two are masters at quirk and melancholy, and with Wilson on board and Craig Johnson directing, the ensemble promises great mood and emotional variety. Holbrook is poised to succeed.
What's Next? More variety! Holbrook is in "Little Accidents" with Elizabeth Banks, which will premiere at Sundance. Also coming soon is"A Walk Among the Tombstones" with Liam Neeson, and "Gone Girl" with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.