Intimately linked to the Hollywood Renaissance, Martin Scorsese and Ridley Scott weren’t perceived as conventional filmmakers from the outset, but rather as two distinctive auteurs. During the 1960s, with the ultimate rise of television, the financial success of studio films experienced a notable downturn. Against this historical backdrop, directors such as Scorsese and Scott assumed a pivotal authorial position, intentionally distancing themselves from television productions. They were granted nearly unrestricted creative authority to produce works that were original, innovative, and divergent from traditional norms.
Today, on the other hand, the streamers seem to have regained their weight in terms of commercial and creative control. With their substantial investments in original content, they exert a significant control over a wide array of subject matters, including their involvement in script development, casting decisions, and even editing processes. We don’t need to go too far to find a prime example of it. There’s in fact Apple, owner of Apple TV+, behind the financing of Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon (2023) and Ridley Scott’s Napoleon (2023).
As we’ve already pointed out, Scorsese and Scott hail from a different era. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised if studios and streaming platforms leveraged their remaining creative energies, releasing new projects under their names. Nevertheless, the common perception is that they are pushing two horses that have already reached the finish line. Considering that both masters are in their 80s, it’s now time for us to shift our focus to a new generation of filmmakers, and discover who might take a new authorial role in the current landscape. Here are five rising filmmakers who are gaining attention for their original choices and their overall impact in the industry.
The New Recruits
As an actress-turned-director, Greta Gerwig achieved international acclaim for her directorial debut, Lady Bird (2017), and later for her adaptation of Little Women (2019). Her storytelling focuses on character development and female-driven narratives. Widely praised worldwide, her last creative endeavor was the 2023 fantasy comedy Barbie. She co-wrote it with her husband Noah Baumbach, and it became the first film from a female director to gross over $1 billion worldwide.
Known for his work in comedy, Jordan Peele made a successful transition to the horror genre with Get Out (2017). His films often explore societal issues within the framework of thrilling narratives. For the aforementioned work, Peele won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, becoming the first African-American screenwriter to win in this category. This little masterpiece, which holds a remarkable 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, was followed by two other gems: Us (2019), a film about doppelgangers and the paranoia generated by the Other, and Nope (2022), a film about UFOs and Americans’ addition to spectacle.
Chloé Zhao gained international recognition with Nomadland (2020), which won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. Her unique approach to storytelling and her visually poetic style have made her a standout director in the last years. Her last work mimics life scrupulously, offering a gentle meditation on the failure of the American dream. The social realism in her film is so engrossing that it may be able to contain our lives as well, teaching us how to appreciate the small details of our existence.
Few filmmakers exemplify the essence of independent filmmaking as effectively as Josh and Benny Safdie. They firmly refused to compromise their distinctive style, even when presented with the prospect of more commercially driven opportunities. That’s why they are now able to make high-budget films with the same freedom and frenetic energy that’s typical among adventurers. It is evident that they make films for themselves. Chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of 2019, their last film, Uncut Gems (2019), is one of the most exhilarating movie-watching experience in recent times.
This versatile filmmaker gained recognition for his intricate costumes and production designs in various independent shorts. He then made a noteworthy debut as both a writer and director with the period horror tale The Witch (2015). Hailing from New England, his upbringing fueled his early fascination with folklore, fairy tales, and macabre fiction. This interest shaped his career, and turned him into a very original voice in Hollywood. The Witch was a critical and financial success, grossing $40 million against a $4 million budget, and is considered to be one of the best horror films of the 21st century.
In conclusion, the landscape is evolving, old timers are passing the baton to newcomers, and the balance of power between streaming platforms and traditional studios is still being negotiated. While streaming platforms have certainly disrupted traditional models, the extent of their creative control depends on who they are negotiating with. And the aforementioned filmmakers are arguably the last people to bend in front of studios or streamers’ decisions, as they’ve already conquered their well-deserved place among Hollywood decision-makers and auteurs.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.