Friday, January 15, 2010

My 20<40 leaders in Film

Well, that went over well....No one has suggested anyone for the twenty leaders under 40. Considering I made it clear that you could even nominate people over 40, I’m surprised. Perhaps no one cares, or perhaps as was suggested to me, people don’t want to diss anyone by not nominating them. One person suggested online that they couldn’t think of any real film leaders under 40. Before giving up on this experiment, here’s my list of 20 leaders in film under the age of 40. I’m not sure all of them are actually under 40, but they all look young. And these aren’t my only picks, actually, so if you aren’t on the list, don’t feel slighted. In picking my starter list, I tried to stay away from some of the usual suspects - i.e., if I speak on panels with you on a regular basis,  or everyone refers to you as our savior daily, I left you off the list. The people below are leaders in the film world who I deeply respect and who I think will do at least one thing, if not more, to improve the indie film world in the next five years. Disagree? Don’t say so here. No need to denigrate anyone, but do feel free to add people you think I’ve missed. I’m sure there are lots more.
This list is in alpha order by last name:

  1. Chad Burris - Chad is a producer from Oklahoma, probably best known for his work with Sterlin Harjo (another young film leader and great filmmaker). He’s committed to telling regional stories, is helping native american stories get told and is really helping the entire state of Oklahoma when it comes to making films. As he is committed to being more than just a producer (and attorney and financier), he is really an advocate and someone I suspect we’ll be hearing from a lot in the next few years.
  2. Karin Chien - Karin is an indie producer extraordinaire, but also founded dGenerate films, a company to distribute true Chinese indies, and is also involved in multiple other ways with the film business. She rocks, and I suspect she’ll be the next legend of the field.
  3. Brian Chirls - Brian is probably best known for the work he did with Four Eyed Monsters - building most (all?) of their spectacular web tools and campaign. Arin and Susan are great emerging leaders as well, but they fall in the “usual suspects” truck because I’ve spoken on panels with Arin and everyone knows their story well. Brian is now helping out the Iron Sky team, and has developed some cool new open source tools for filmmakers. He’s got some great ideas for the future of film, and I bet we see more of them come to fruition on 2010.
  4. Bilge Ebiri - Bilge is a filmmaker who is best known as a writer for New York magazine and other publications. He’s not “leading” anything right now, per se, but is one of the leading thinkers about the film industry. He’s a great writer and has one of those brains that can remember every detail of every film he’s ever seen, and I’ve seen him explain semiotics perfectly to a lay person in less than 5 minutes in a way that made me understand it better (and I thought I knew me some semiotics). He gets where things are going, and I’m betting that soon he’s gonna do many things - make a movie we all talk about, become a critic everyone knows and/or launch the next cool online film site where we all go to learn about great films.
  5. Shari Frilot - In addition to being a programmer at Sundance, Shari is a filmmaker herself. She also heads up the great New Frontier section at Sundance, and is pushing real innovation at a festival not exactly known for being cutting-edge when it comes to new things.
  6. Joe Hall - Joe founded the Ghetto Film School way back in 2000 and has now trained hundreds of students in the Bronx in the art of filmmaking. There’s a lot of great leadership in the field of youth media, and this isn’t to slight any of them, but Joe has been able to do something really remarkable with his students, and he really cares about the work. He’s an asset to the field and one of the top nonprofit leaders in the country.
  7. Tom Hall - Tom is a programmer for the Sarasota Film Festival and a writer on film who is amazingly thoughtful about the field. His blog is one of the best sources for serious consideration of films, he’s a great curator and with his film industry background I expect him to launch something amazing in the future.
  8. Chris Hyams - Chris is the founder of B-Side, but I think of him as one big brain. This guy knows numbers, knows business and gets where film is going. I’m not sure B-Side will be the best thing to ever happen to film, I’m sure he’d disagree, but I do expect something that he creates to be the next Miramax, but better.
  9. Kiyoshi Ken Ikeda - Ken is the executive director of BAVC in San Francisco, and came there through its merger with a youth media program there. He’s wicked smart about the business, and really gets where digital is taking us. He’s a big public media advocate and always thinking about the future. We sat down and spoke recently and I realized he’s also smarter about the future of nonprofits in this sector than anyone I’ve spoken with. Ken will do great things with BAVC and eventually he’ll probably launch something even more amazing.
  10. Michael Lerman - festival programmer, distributor, writer, filmmaker, this guy does it all, and still finds time for karaoke. When he finally launches his own company, we’ll have something to talk about in indie film.
  11. Karina Longworth - Karina is a very smart critic and with her recent move to LA, she’ll be on a much bigger stage. I suspect she’ll be the next critic everyone “must read.”
  12. Tamir Muhammad - Tamir runs Tribeca All Access, and will probably soon run the world. Seriously, this man knows his stuff, works tirelessly in support of indies, has not a lick of self-interest and really gets the fusing worlds of art, film, publishing, music and media. I’m biased here, as we used to work together, but I couldn’t leave him off the list; he’s gonna be huge.
  13. Justine Nagan - Justine is the new head of Kartemquin Films, the legendary, Chicago-based documentary film organization. She’s a filmmaker, producer and is now heading one of the best film nonprofits in America. She’s very smart about the business and I think she’ll keep Kartemquin at the forefront of changes in the business and teach us a lot in the next few years.
  14. Nikki Nime - Nikki is one of the people helping out Liz Rosenthal and Power to the Pixel, which is probably the best place to learn about the future of the industry. I would have listed Liz here, but she’s a usual suspect - someone I’ve spoken on panels with, and who everyone thinks of as a leader - whereas Nikki is an upcoming leader. She’s finishing a PhD in media arts, she also helps DocAgora and has worked with leading thinkers like Peter Broderick. When she’s done with that PhD, she’s likely to launch something spectacular.
  15. Will Packer - Will is one-half of the team behind Rainforest Films. He’s a prolific producer, and while Rainforest is now thought of as more of a Hollywood company, they retain a lot of independence. He’s helping bring more filmmakers of color to the screen, maintains a regional stance (making blockbusters from Atlanta) and is mentoring many emerging filmmakers. Rainforest started small, looked at an industry that was missing a huge audience altogether and came up with novel ways to make and distribute their films. While the next Stomp the Yard may not play at the Film Forum, I’m betting Will helps keep the indie spirit alive in other ways.
  16. Laure Parsons - Laure was most recently at Zeitgeist Films, one of the better indie film distributors. Everyone knows her as an expert on distribution issues, where things are going and how to reach an audience. She writes an insightful blog on these subjects at Infinicine and now that she’s out on her own in Twenty10, I suspect we’ll see her launching something really cool soon.
  17. Tom Quinn - Tom is a rare breed - a distribution executive that everyone likes. He’s funny too and has great taste in films (and theater). Tom may work in distribution, but he thinks about every aspect of the business and someday will launch a game-changer in the business (not that Magnolia hasn’t been one).
  18. Jenny Toomey - Jenny a musician herself, was one of the founders of the Future of Music Coalition, which advocates on behalf of indie musicians, and she’s now in charge of media policy work at the Ford Foundation. She is quite simply one of the smartest minds in the field. If we can ever extricate her from Ford (they are great, but it’s a big bureaucracy) she’s my person most likely to change the field - hopefully not just for music, but also for other media, including film.
  19. Basil Tsiokos - Basil is a doc programmer with Sundance, used to run Newfest and is a consultant to many documentarians and festivals. His twitter feed is a must-read to stay up to date on what and who’s happening in the indie film world. Someone should hire him soon, before he starts the next business that eats yours.
  20. Meghan Wurtz - Meghan is an executive at Film Movement, and she’s been a crucial part of the team that has transformed them into one of the more interesting distributors out there. She’s also got a background in European film, and has arguably done more homework on the future of VOD and digital distribution than anyone in the business. When she talks, I shut up and listen, and so should you.

So that’s my incomplete list of 20 under 40 leaders in film. Incomplete because I can look at it and think of lots of people I am missing, and because it’s way too US based, and I don’t think the US is going to lead the indie film world in the future. It's also less than 50% women, and my experience tells me the men aren't usually the smartest ones in the room, and it's not diverse enough from any angle. The list is a start, however, and I’d love to hear who else you think should be included.


Back Row said...

This is the first time I have ever been listed anywhere, and to be listed with Jenny Toomey (and everyone else) is a huge honor. Her album ANTIDOTE is one of my favorite of the last ten years (not to mention my love for Tsunami!)... thank you for including me in this list, it is a true honor to be thought of by you, Brian.
--Tom Hall

infinicine said...
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infinicine said...

Brian, thank you so much for including me in this awesome company. I can't wait to see how we all evolve and inspire each other in the coming decade. (Sorry I deleted this comment by accident the first time!).

-Laure Parsons

Ray Privett said...

kudos for noticing bilge and chad

Mark Rabinowitz said...

Nice list! I didn't know about your call for lists, or I mighta thrown some noms your way. I'm a sucker for list making.

nice job, though! As you said, we could do maybe 4 or 5 more lists like this. I have a few (dozen) suggestions!

mik3cap said...

Nina Paley should be on this list for distributing a full length feature animation under Creative Commons and winning awards and accolades at festivals all over the world for her effort. She is pioneering free culture and open and free distribution for films and other works of art.

Daniel Baur said...

What about Oliver Simon and me from K5 International? :-) Since three years we are pushing American indies on foreign like The Visitor or Get Low?

Noah said...

Jay van Hoy and Lars Knudsen don't make the list? They produced Old Joy, Wild Tigers I Have Known and many others that have defined the genre of New American Realism.

Scott Macaulay said...

I agree about Jay and Lars being omitted. They have developed a producing model based mostly on their own high work ethic that is enabling a huge number of films to get made, including ones currently in post-production by Braden King, Mike Mills, Aaron Katz plus many more.

I would also put in a word for their sometime collaborator, producer Anish Savjani, who was a producer on "Old Joy," "Wendy and Lucy," Kelly's latest, and also Joe Swanberg's recent films, Bob Byington's "Harmony and Me," and Geoff Marslett's upcoming "Mars."

BNewmanSBoard said...

All good suggestions. No one has been omitted with any bad intentions, however, I just couldn't list everyone. Make more lists, and let me know about them. I'm sure that in addition to Jay, Lars, Nina, etc there are lots of other people to recognize. Let's make it 40 or 400 under 40. Also, I did purposefully (but not mendaciously)omit Nina as she's one of the usual suspects - i.e., she and many other great people spoke with me on numerous panels this year, and I didn't want to list all my fellow panelists again and again. I also didn't list people I don't know personally very well, so that dropped some names. Anyway, keep sending me suggestions.

ANNA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ANNA said...

I wanted to introduce Cybil Lake and I heard about Spring Board Media and wanted wanted to submit her ongoing work. She is making a reality show about the making of a feature film in NYC. Her goal is that this show will be both entertaining and educational.

For more information about our
show, please visit:

The feature that we're making is called The Gun Virgins.
The Gun Virgins is a feature-length dark comedy about Nina, a real estate agent, who becomes the unlikely leader of an underground gang.

For more information about our film, please visit:

Below is a synopsis of the actors we hired for the parts:

Bristol said...

I would also add: Sandy Dubowski (Films that Change the World), Phillip Englehorn (Cinereach), and Lars and Jay.

Andrew J Wahlquist said...

Very interested in this list-- good people I haven't heard of yet. I'd also be interested in a traditional list of the "usual suspects." Just to see if I've missed anybody. Thanks for putting it together.

BNewmanSBoard said...

Andrew - The list of the regulars is long, but if you look at the speakers at any of the recent Power to the Pixel or DIY Days events, you'll get a sense. While not all inclusive (sorry for anyone I'm forgetting), the usual suspects (also known as smart people to listen to) includes: Lance Weiler, Liz Rosenthal, Nina Paley, Timo Vuorensola, Jamie King, Arin Crunley, Susan Buice, Jon Reiss, Scott Kirsner, Christy Dena, Jess Search, Peter Broderick, Sandi Dubowski, Hunter Weeks....I'm sure I'm forgetting other good names.This is a start, if anyone thinks of others, list them here or elsewhere and send a link.

Malaika Mose said...

Oops sorry for not recommending Pete Chatmon.