For adults, the life of a modern teenager can seem profoundly unfathomable. Part of this is due to the rapidly accumulating cognitive fog that, for the grown-up brain, tends to obscure any true experiential memory of youth—a phenomenon constant throughout generations. But! An even bigger part of said profound unfathomability is, of course, the technology so closely interwoven with kids’ lives in the 21st century. Tech that can be used to a variety of ends good and bad, but most importantly to create.
Contained within each smartphone is a pre-production office, film crew, post house, advertising agency and multinational distributor. All this, in the hands of a generation that understands screens and the language visual digital expression as a rich and fully integrated part of daily life. Combine that intuition with a young person’s energy, imagination and earnest need for self-expression and you have the perfect alchemical formula for a natural-born filmmaker. Which, speaking of: we’re thrilled today to introduce our 2023 Film Independent Future Filmmakers.
Featuring 16 outstanding short films written, produced and directed by high school age filmmakers working in a variety of styles and mediums, this year’s Future Filmmaker Showcase will take place this Saturday, August 5 at Inner-City Arts in Los Angeles, at 10:00 am PT. A lunch reception and a keynote speech from filmmaker Angel Kristi Williams (Colin in Black & White, Really Love) will follow the screening.
Skip to the second half of this article if you just want to see what’ll be playing, as selected by a committee of working filmmakers and youth curators. But before that, we thought it might be fun to get to know our young moviemakers:
What inspired you to make films?
I’ve always been a filmmaker. If you were able to get your hands on a certain 2010s digital camera, you’d find hours of storytelling from six-year-old Owain and Owain’s cousins. Did it make sense? Absolutely not. But looking back at these works reaffirms that nothing has ever satisfied me more. I’m still not quite sure where the passion comes from. Probably just from being a strange creative kid and needing something to channel that towards. – Owain Collins
In 2020, during the quarantine when I was 10-years-old, me and my mom were in our house in Crimea, in the countryside. We had beautiful landscapes around—the sea, wild animals, insects and snails. So we got the idea to make our first short film. It was a thriller about giant snails. I was a writer, director and acted as the two main characters, who were twins. Later, I studied at London Film School and Kid’s Movie School in Kyiv. At Kid’s Movie School we were given the task of filming our day. So I made the wartime documentary short, My Day in Kyiv in Summer 2022. – Elina Myshanych
During the early pandemic and the very beginning of my transition, I had a lot of trouble exactly understanding the complex feelings I had about the world, identity, sexuality and self-image. With increasing free time, I started consuming more and more media but most importantly, coming of age films. I ended up watching Call Me by Your Name and something in my brain clicked. I felt understood, I felt seen and most importantly, I knew I had to work in the film industry. The soundtrack, mix of language, beautiful scenery, the feeling of boyhood, showcasing the fluidity of sexuality and the complex, unfortunate “romance” between Elio and Oliver—it changed my life. Since then, I’ve wanted nothing more but to make others feel how I felt: seen. I now plan to continue my journey as a filmmaker, giving queer and trans representation in my work. – Max Benner
I’ve been making videos ever since I was a little girl. I loved recording mini-movies on my iPad mini and doing my best to edit them with whatever iMovie could offer me. For example, every year since the sixth grade, me and my younger sister will write up a skit and perform it on video for our cousin’s birthday. I was exposed to a lot of the filmmaking process through these experiences, and therefore I was able to create a cohesive film using my iPhone XR and whatever free editing app was available to me. – Sara Kalkati
Watching films and loving them. – Julius Schoenholdt
What is your favorite film genre and why?
I’m not sure if I have a favorite film genre, because in some ways I appreciate the way a film is made more than the category it would fit into. I think there’s something about intimate fiction narrative pieces such as Waves (2019) or Aftersun (2022) that is very compelling to me. But overall it’s less about the genre and more about the style. I appreciate various elements across various genres. – Lorca Peña Nissenblatt
Science Fiction! I specifically enjoy this genre because of how much thought is put into these films. The creative team behind a comprehensive science fiction film has to pour hours of research and speak to dozens of professionals for the sake of scientific accuracy. – Sara Kalkati
I do love everything about dramatic narratives and documentaries, but my favorite film genre would be horror. Horror films require such immense preparation, precision, and the most subtle attention to detail in all stages of the filmmaking process, and the fact that it is so difficult to effectively truly scare all audiences makes me respect the genre on many different levels. I think the horror genre in general brings out the strongest emotions in people, and it leads to greater participation and interaction between the audience and the film. – Patrick Jang
I love a good drama film but I find horror movies to be the most interesting and creative. – Joaquin Soto
I love horror, especially films that fall under the psychological and body horror category. I think it’s the strange masochism people have towards watching something meant to upset them. Most genres usually elicit positive emotions, but somehow people still want to experience those feelings of dread and discomfort in their own bodies. A lot of horror is even too much for me, but that’s just because jump-scares send me flying. Still, I’m captivated by the feeling of films like Rosemary’s Baby (1968, dir. Roman Polanski) and The Witch (2015, dir. Robert Eggers), that crawl up under your skin as you can’t help but watch. – Owain Collins
Animation is my favorite because I always watch cartoons. 1960s cartoons inspired me to make Wetsitales, from what I saw in the style of The Beatles cartoon. My first film was inspired by Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog. I just want to draw and do animation about books I read and music I like. – Jade Dandan Evangelista
What’s the best film you’ve seen so far, old or new?
The best film I’ve seen so far is Parasite. This film is what got me interested in the storytelling aspect of film because every time I watched it noticed more Easter eggs and small details that are crucial to the story. – Ramona Haywood
One of the first and perhaps the only true expressionist films, Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, is one of the best films I’ve ever seen. When I began reading the German inter-titles followed by the English subtitles I felt somewhat peculiar—it was the first time I watched a German film with English subtitles. However, the thoughts and emotions I experienced behind the film were unlike anything I had felt before. – Kornél Nagy
I cannot pinpoint it down to a single film, but I think Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) is a movie that is so far ahead of its time not only in terms of its technical/visual mastery, but also in the themes that it tackles about what it means to be human. It’s incredibly thought-provoking. – Patrick Jang
Recently at the “Children Kinofest” film festival in Kyiv, I saw the film The Secret Garden by Agnieszka Holland. This is a classic film, adapted from the famous novel. I really liked the directing, camera work, music and acting, including children’s performances. – Elina Myshanych
Decision to Leave, by Park Chan-Wook. – Camilla Bonilla
The film that has impacted me the most as a filmmaker is Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express. It is an extraordinary two-part love story with astonishing cinematography that has shaped my love for visual storytelling. – Chloe Fong
What’s your favorite part of the filmmaking process?
I have to say my favorite part of the filmmaking process is working with the camera. I’ve truly found a passion in cinematography. To me, it’s a part of the filmmaking process that some people don’t realize can change the whole aesthetic of a piece. If the aesthetic doesn’t match the message, the film isn’t the same. I have come to really enjoy making my own films look different, with a heavy emphasis on cinematography and color. – Kyle Ward
I love filming/production. It’s also always the most stressful part and something always goes wrong, but that’s fun for me because I love the grind. I think it adds color to my life. Filmmaking would be boring if there weren’t any obstacles involved. With all these problems arising, you can be more proud of the product you’ve created, because you know how hard you worked and what it took to get there. There’s also the satisfaction of setting up a shot and it looking exactly how you imagined it in your mind, and finally getting a good take after six failed ones. Wrapping up at the end of the day and the joy of waking up and thinking “I have a shoot today!” is something I can’t live without. – Max Gundogdu
My favorite part of the filmmaking process has always been editing. While production is always exhilarating, the magic of the shots I have illustrated in my head and seeing them in picture never gets old. – Chloe Fong
Writing. I love the brainstorming section and entire writing process so much. It has literally no limitations. I’m left to whatever my mind throws at me along with piecing together what themes I connect with. I have a very inventive imagination and I feel like writing is the only thing that can properly contain it. – Max Benner
The most satisfying and fulfilling part of the filmmaking process is the moment you actually start filming. After spending so long planning, writing, and storyboarding, the day that the only priority is to bring the script to life is so exciting. – Joaquin Soto
Who is a director that inspires you?
I love Wong Kar-wai’s work. He has a feeling to his films that only he can encapsulate. There’s not much else to say. My films are far from looking like they’re inspired by him, but that’s only because even though I try, I’m aware of the huge talent and opportunity gap between us. Nevertheless, I hope to one day become like him. – Max Gundogdu
Wes Anderson, because he’s a self-taught director and uses such a unique visual approach in his movie, with no formal education in film. – Ramona Haywood
One director who inspires me is Cynthia Rowlson-Hall. Recently, I was recommended to look into her work by a mentor and was immediately intrigued. Her style of filmmaking, in terms of visuals and also how she lets her pieces breathe, is very interesting to me. She’s a dancer as well, which provides a certain depth to her work that I relate to. – Lorca Peña Nissenblatt
The Daniels. My favorite film is Swiss Army Man, and of course they also made the smash hit Everything Everywhere All at Once. I deeply love and appreciate the Daniels for being so brave and their embrace of being alive. After I watch their films or read Daniel Kwan’s childrens’ books, I’m always left with one teary-eyed feeling, happy to be alive. This feeling comes from the common theme among their work—that both everything and nothing matters. Their art inspires me and makes me happy to be on this earth. I can’t wait to see what they do next. – Max Benner
Peter Jackson always inspires me, because of his movies like The Hobbit (2012) and Beatles: Get Back (2021). – Jade Dandan Evangelista
The Daniels are definitely a directing duo that inspires me as a filmmaker. What they did with Everything Everywhere All At Once is so special. It truly shows the impact of perfecting your craft over time. You don’t have to be the best filmmaker at your age, you just have to be constantly working on your craft in some way. Ultimately it comes down to the life experiences you have gathered that will result in you being able to write a script that someday could win an Oscar. That could be at 25 or 75, there’s no one journey better than the other. The Daniels have shown—and will continue to show—that no matter what stage you are in your journey, you can always work to perfect your craft, and this is what personally inspires me as a filmmaker. – Kyle Ward
Which actors would you love to work with?
I consider myself very fortunate as I recently had the opportunity to work with the Hungarian Emmy award-winning actress Marina Gerá and another outstanding actor, Benett Vilmányi. Both of them are incredible, and the chemistry between them and myself was truly exceptional. I couldn’t have asked for better collaborators. – Kornél Nagy
I don’t have a favorite actor, but I loved Taylor Russell in Bones and All. – Camila Bonilla
I’d be grateful to work with any actor, because now I usually have to cast peers for my films who aren’t interested in acting, and it gets difficult. But an actor I would love to work with is Rachel Sennott. I’d love to work with her because she’s quite young and starting her career, she could bring something relatable and fresh not only to a film but to the set. I feel she would be a joy to work with! – Ramona Haywood
I love the cast of Harry Potter — Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton — but I understand that they’re already adults and superstars. I think it’s more interesting for a young director to discover new names. – Elina Myshanych
Victoria Abril. – Julius Schoenholt
I would love to work with Ryan Reynolds. His line improvisation is crazy. – Patrick Jang
I admire Taylor Russell very much. She has a manner of conveying emotion that’s so amazing to me. There’s something raw and natural about her acting that I’d love to work with. – Lorca Peña Nissenblatt
What is the primary idea you want to communicate to viewers in your short?
Art transcends all and can communicate struggle. – Camila Bonilla
We are yet to understand the effect of what it truly means to be an audience. An audience of a film you love, or the audience of your own or someone else’s life. – Chloe Fong
I wanted to reflect on art in the existential sense. I found the term “from ashes you rise, and to ashes you return” really beautiful in the interpretation that we are the art we make, consume and enjoy. If it weren’t for stories, paintings, music or films, humans would just be empty. I wrote Evocation out of a growing sense of fear after seeing art in so many different forms being taken away from us. Seeing drag shows, books, films, etc. getting banned, I was worried that at some point we’d all reach that level of emptiness. That’s what led me to write about an artist with dementia. Even though even though her art may be “gone” in the literal sense, it’s always still with her. That reimagining helped me move past the existential dread. I wanted the philosophy to reflect in Evocation‘s message, even through an absurd story. – Owain Collins
I enjoy turning my family experiences and childhood memories into film, and I believe Silent Canvas accomplishes this effectively. – Kornél Nagy
It’s okay to be normal, boring, or uninteresting. It’s okay to be a background character; we all are at some point! In my generation, we’re convinced that we need to keep ourselves entertaining and fun to keep friends or to seem cool, but that’s really not the case. Everybody is a little bit boring at times, and that’s alright. – Sara Kalkati
Do you want to keep making films in the future? What is your dream project?
Yes, I want to continue. I want to make an underwater film and act as an actress in it. When Ukraine wins the war and Crimea is free, I will implement this plan. – Elina Myshanych
Yes, I want to. My dream project is to make a film I love. – Julius Schoenholt
I want to continue making films and I’m working on another project about my own characters — The Giggles and the Teehees — while still doing Wetsitales. – Jade Dandan Evangelista
It’s my dream to keep making films as long as I can. The ultimate dream is to write and direct a feature, but with all the ideas I have for films I couldn’t decide which one I’m the most passionate about at the moment. – Joaquin Soto
Of course I do! I can’t imagine ever stopping. Even if I don’t do it as a job it will always be a hobby of mine. A dream project would be to make a cult film. Not one about cults; one that has a very devoted following. It doesn’t matter if it’s popular as long as everyone who watches it loves it. I still have some way to go before I get to that degree of good, but it would be so amazing. I also want to make a film that’s set inside a moving train; those always seem very interesting. – Max Gundogdu
There’s something about being able to tell stories visually that’s so exciting. It’s hard to say what my dream project would be, because ultimately I haven’t really thought that far down the line. I’d want my dream project to be one that represents my own filmmaking style, one that breaks industry rules on how to make a film, one that focuses on superb acting to convey those deep emotions, one that uses cinematography in a way that would make people go, “this is different” — one that would ultimately inspire the younger generation to pursue their dreams. – Kyle Ward
2023 FUTURE FILMMAKERS SHOWCASE
I Built a Paper House – directed by Max Benner
Eli, a junior struggling with balancing school and his dream to be an artist, consistently abandons his schooling. This all comes to an end when Eli finds that his schoolwork has constructed a magical paper house.
AGLOW: The Prequel – directed by Sara Kalkati
Happiness, the human emotion, has been physicalized into a spherical object known as “The Orb.” All orbs, when comprised of true joy, cannot be destroyed. An individual attempts to live with a fading orb, but descends into instability as the taunting of the object becomes a force far too powerful for her to bear.
Turning En Pointe — directed by Ramona Haywood
A high school dancer struggles to find direction in her life when she becomes too focused on perfection.
Please Don’t Stand While I’m Falling — directed by Kyle Ward
Almost five years after his life-changing injury, a teen reflects on his journey to piece together the brokenness left behind after falling into a constant repetition of life.
Wetsitales: The Tattooed Men — directed by Jade Dandan Evangelista
Two friends who are not content with themselves wish for something to change their lives… for the worse. A folk tale from the Igorots of the Cordillera Region in the Philippines.
Silent Canvas — directed by Kornél Nagy
The relationship between a father and his son has been deteriorating since the passing of, respectively, their wife and mother. Without any words spoken, they begin to reconnect.
No Longer My Fire Escape — directed by Camila Bonilla, Ignacio Hale Brown, Daniel Halpern, Daniel Kelleher, Lorca Peña Nissenblatt, Julius Schoenholt, Mateo Taylor
When teenager August goes to an art exhibit, he flips through a sketchbook that belongs to Devon, a teen artist who has just been evicted. Through the transformative power of art, the drawings take him through Devon’s memories of her home before and after her eviction. August leaves the gallery with a newfound empathy for the housing crisis and a passion for making things different.
My Day in Kyiv in Summer 2022 — directed by Elina Myshanych
It’s the summer of 2022 in Kyiv, and there is war. You wake up to the sound of sirens, take walks around trenches and antitank hedgehogs. You’re twelve, and your whole life — hopefully — is ahead of you.
Antonia — directed by Patrick Jang, Michael Gutierrez, Francesco Di Mauro, Isaac Lee Greenblatt
Suffering from episodes of sleep paralysis, Sam struggles to pull through a terrifying night.
Leafing Through Old Books — directed by Aharon Engel, Tahel Bar Shefi, Nitay Kinkulkin
An experimental short made on the pages of old books found during quarantine. For the first time in their life, teenagers were locked at home for almost three months, trying to keep a connection with the outside world by dreaming of the past, present and future. While out on a short walk around their individual houses, they find discarded books and use them as the environment for animated diaries, used to metaphorically describe the experience.
Portfolio — directed by Joaquin Soto
Through the lens of a mockumentary, Portfolio follows the life and career of crime scene photographer Caleb Mendez as he strives to create deeper art with his photos. But how far is he willing to take the “creative process”?
Ciné 影视 — directed by Chloe Summer Fong
What does it mean to love cinema? What does it mean to be part of an audience? Film student Justin Abregana immerses himself in the works of the Chinese filmmaking mastermind Wong Kar Wai. He transports himself into a world of cigarettes, falling in love and the blurred lines of reality. Ciné is a love letter to the art of cinema and explores larger-than-life questions about who writes our stories.
Evocation — directed by Owain Atticus Collins
A famous artist with dementia has a surreal encounter with death.
This Is Not a Pencil — directed by Elizabeth Zhiying Jin
An exploration of grief and the interaction of objective reality and memory, viewed through the death of Jared Jacobsen.
Jesse Cracks — directed by Eli Hoffman
Jesse Cracks bends his back to impress his crush.
The Last Shift — direcrted by Nathan Silva
Two high school students have one final, crazy shift at the corner store where they work before leaving for college.
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(Header: Jesse Cracks, dir. Eli Hoffman)