By Taylor Lindsay | Indiewire March 7, 2014 at 9:24AM
Lena Dunham, Tom Cullen, Dree Hemingway and Brie Larson all came to Austin as relative unknowns and emerged as sought-after talents. With the 2014 edition of the SXSW Film Festival launching today, the springboard is loaded. Here's Indiewire's picks for the 10 actors to watch this year:
Natalia Dyer, "I Believe in Unicorns"
Why You May Know Her: Dyer got her start early on the stage and first popped up on screen in bit parts fit for a pretty face. She made her debut in "Hannah Montana: The Movie" and showed up in "Blue Like Jazz" and briefly in "The Between" alongside "Hunger Games"' Isabelle Fuhrman.
What SXSW Could Mean for Her: A breakthrough. "I Believe in Unicorns" puts her in the spotlight and gives her a huge chance to showcase her acting chops. In this sober and ethereal project, a runaway romance between a young girl and an older bad-boy slowly turns tragically dark.
What's Next: Dyer's next project just finished filming "After Darkness," a survive-the-apocalypse drama. Starring as the sister of wonderful John Patrick Amedori, Dyer plays a key role. She might be looking at a few more of those after SXSW.
Patrick Brice "Creep"
Why You May Know Him: You probably don't, unless you sought out 2011's short documentary "Maurice," a portrait of Paris' last Porno Cinema. It won Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Documentary at the Florida Film Festival. It was one of the director's handful of shorts -- "Creep" is his feature debut as writer/director/actor hybrid. He stars alongside Mark Duplass.
What SXSW Could Mean for Him: Brice's credits list is brief and his previous work includes mostly shorts. So if "Creep" gets attention, the boost is sure to be a welcome enablement. And it might, as it's produced by the Duplass Brothers ("The Puffy Chair"). Brice stars as Aaron, who comes across a cryptic online ad: "$1,000 for the day. Filming service. Discretion is appreciated." What follows is probably, well, creepy.
What's Next: There's nothing official yet. But having worked in shorts, production, and the music department for films, he probably has something in the works.
Alex Essoe, "Starry Eyes"
Why You May Know Her: She's been in a slew of shorts, features and TV shows, from being the Girl in the Waiting Room in "Life Happens" to Model no. 1 in "House of Lies." Her center role in "Starry Eyes" only seems right after bit parts since 2008.
What SXSW Could Mean for Her: An aspiring actress trying to catch her big break finally does so -- that's the premise of "Starry Eyes." Although what follows is odd and terrifying ramifications, we're hoping for that first half to be true for Essoe.
What's Next: Essoe's next appearance will be as a nurse in "The Divine Order," a horror about a cult.
Nick Damici, "Late Phases"
Why You May Know Him: Horrors, thrillers, and "Law & Order." Damici was most recently in Jim Mickle's "Cold in July" (premiered at the Sundance Film Festival) and "We Are What We Are." He also showed up as either an officer or a detective in "Law & Order," "CSI New York" (and Miami), "In the Cut," and "The Caller." If "True Grit" ever gets a third remake, perhaps someone should give him a call.
What SXSW Could Mean for Him: Sticking to the genre he does best, Damici is in a lead role that could give him that last extra oomph towards stardom. A grizzled war veteran with an abrasive personality and take-no-prisoners attitude? He's bound to deliver, and all he needs now is the film's good reception.
What's Next: His next project fits with the trend. "Dark Was the Night," a drama horror about evil in the woods, is in post-production.
Rose Leslia and Harry Treadaway, "Honeymoon"
Why You May Know Them: This couple is coming together for the dark thriller, "Honeymoon." Both are equipped with a background in current dark-material TV series -- Leslia stars in "Game of Thrones" and Treadaway is Dr. Frankenstein in Showtime's upcoming "Penny Dreadful" (the pilot for the show is premiering at SXSW).
What SXSW Could Mean for Them: "Honeymoon" should help them both step out strong into leading feature roles. Having specialized in generally not-lighthearted material, we're looking forward to seeing the duo shine in this deep-in-the-woods fright piece.
What's Next: Leslia will continue with "Game of Thrones," and Treadaway's "Penny Dreadful" is in production.
Shawn Christensen, "Before I Disappear"
Why You May Know Him: As an actor he's starred in several shorts, but he's best known for the 2013 Oscar-winning Best Live Action Short, "Curfew." His long list of writing credits include "Abduction" with Taylor Lautner and "Enter Nowhere" with Sara Paxton. And if none of this rings any bells, he's also the lead singer of indie rock band stellastarr. Coming to SXSW, he shines as writer/director/star in "Before I Disappear," and New York City-set drama, alongside Emmy Rossum and Ron Perlman.
What SXSW Could Mean for Him: SXSW is a music-laden festival, and Christensen was clearly aware, as his band has played there in years past. From close attention to character development to driving musical themes, "Before I Disappear" seems to have been crafted with its destination in mind. Christensen's canny tact almost certainly won't go uncelebrated.
What's Next: Probably an accelerated career, but nothing official yet.
Brooke Bloom, "She's Lost Control"
Why You May Know Her: She's frequented plenty of TV shows, probably most prominently in "Alpha House" as Julie. Other projects include "Person of Interest," "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," "The Good Wife," and over 30 more titles that are predominantly TV shows. Her lead role in a feature film is definitely something we don't want to miss.
What SXSW Could Mean for Her: After plenty of recent comedic roles, Bloom's doing something kind of new. In drama "She's Lost Control," mid-30's Ronah works as a sexual surrogate who takes on a new client and struggles to keep what's professional and what's personal unmixed. If this interesting modernity-driven film is a hit, we expect to see more intriguing roles in her future.
What's Next: Nothing official yet.
Joshua Burge, "Buzzard"
Why You May Know Him: He plays a pyromaniac in 2012's "Ape" and a werewolf in short "Coyote," both directed by Joel Potrykus. Burge seems to have a knack for roles darkly quirky and best accompanied by a screamo soundtrack.
What SXSW Could Mean for Him: Success is almost already sealed. Oscilloscope Laboratories has already swooped down and nabbed "Buzzard" before its premiere date at SXSW. The story of a scheming slacker who drifts to Detroit also stars writer/director Potrykus, and it looks like a neat blend of funny and freaky -- more please!
What's Next? Nothing yet. Money's on more with Joel Potrykus.
Moe Dunford, "Patrick's Day"
Why You May Know Him: 26-year old Irish Dunford was briefly in "Game of Thrones" before his recurring roles in "Raw" and "A Crisis" through 2013. If his record seems to lack a little sparkle, "Patrick's Day" might be a huge help.
What SXSW Could Mean for Him: It's a chance to shine as the lead and possibly a breakout role for the primarily TV actor. "Patrick's Day" is a love story between virgin schizophrenic Patrick and suicidal flight attendant Karen (Catherine Walker). It's shaping up to be a sweet drama, and it's basically unlike the stuff Dunford has been doing up until now.
What's Next? He just landed a lead role in History Channel's glory-guts-and-gore saga "Vikings" as the Prince of Wessex. Looks like the whole versatile thing is already happening.