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Robert Goldrich, Editor

Roberta Griefer, Publisher & Editorial Director

Welcome.... SHOOT’s 19th annual New Directors Showcase offers a total of 31 up-and-coming directors. The field includes 15 women, and a variety of entries spanning commercials, PSAs, promo fare, branded content, spec advertising, thesis films, feature and short documentaries, even a TV series pilot.

This year marks the rare occurrence of a Showcase lineup sans a directorial team--all are solo helmers this time around. However, two of our 2021 Showcase talents, Isabel Bethencourt and Parker Hill, are no strangers to co-directing as they came together on Cusp, which earlier this year won a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmakers at the Sundance Film Festival. Bethencourt and Hill now have individual directorial careers. Bethencourt is repped in the ad arena by Independent Media while Hill is on the roster of production house Tomorrow.

The range of NDS honored work this year includes on one end of the spectrum a Sundance-winning feature like Cusp which had a recent theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles, and will soon debut on Showtime. On the other end of the NDS continuum are student projects--AFI Conservatory thesis films The Hideaway and Guide On from directors Jane Stephens Rosenthal and Paige Compton, respectively. Rosenthal’s The Hideaway has gone on to play over 25 festivals all over the world and received a number of awards for directing, cinematography, editing, and acting. The film is a layered coming of age piece that looks at female sexuality, desire, mother/daughter relationships, and the heartbreak of growing up. Meanwhile Compton’s Guide On introduces us to a woman in Army basic training who faces adversity from leadership that underestimates her strength and ability, leading her to push herself in ways she never thought possible.

Pandemic projects
The 2021 NDS body of work included several pieces with pandemic themes. For example director Zeke Anders earned Showcase inclusion on the strength of “When the Motor Stops,” a spot he helmed in-house at Detroit agency Doner.  Shot in black and white, the piece--first recognized by SHOOT in its “The Best Work You May Never See” gallery last year-- features typically populated portions of Detroit cleared out. Messages of solidarity appear on downtown marquees, including affirmations such as “We love you, Detroit” and “We will get through this together.” A voiceover acknowledges how unnatural the emptiness of the streets feels, especially for “the city on four wheels.” The entirety of the spot serves as a nod to Detroit’s heritage, with referencing including: “Even Henry [Ford] himself would have put it in park.” The voiceover affirms, “This is not us sitting out the fight. This is us winning it.” The video characterizes collective isolation as a sign of togetherness, closing out with the poignant spoken message that “Here, we don’t stop in the name of fear. Here, we stop in the name of love” before fading to text that reads “Stay safe, Detroit.”

Similarly Drew Pollins snagged a Showcase slot for “Is It Over?” The public service piece humorously shows that face masks aren’t yet out of style--and remain essential for everyone’s well-being.

Among other pandemic-spawned NDS work was In The Visible, a short from director Natasha Lee that dismantles Asian American stereotypes and the model minority myth through storytelling in the words of the community members themselves. It was filmed and completed in 2020, during the height of the Anti-Asian hate crimes.

Backgrounds
NDS filmmaker backgrounds are far ranging from acting to photography to an ad agency pedigree, work in the art department on theatrical movies, film school educated and self-taught, even feature film producing.

An example of the latter is Oge Egbuonu who earlier this year joined the roster of production studio m ss ng p eces for commercials, branded content and music videos. Her experience includes producing acclaimed films such as Loving (starring Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga about the U.S. Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia which legalized interracial marriage), and Eye In The Sky through independent production company Raindog Films.

Unaffiliated talent
Fourteen of the Showcase directors this year are unaffiliated with a production company.

In addition to the aforementioned Anders, Compton, Lee, Pollins and Rosenthal, the unaffiliated crop of up-and-coming filmmakers consists of: Eric Almond for the short film Requiem For Black Love; Josh Banks with the short titled M; Henry Behel for Reyka Vodka’s “Made of Iceland” commercial; Mario Garza for the MeUndies “Love Every Flaw” spec commercial; Utsab Giri for Tesla’s “SpaceX” spec spot; John Connor Hammond for the short Protest Photography; Julia Kennelly for the short film Marcy Learns Something New; Leah Loftin for the short film The Wolf; and Khalid Seña for the short titled Concrete Rose.

Company ties
Seventeen of the Showcase directors are affiliated with production companies.

Besides Bethencourt, Egbuonu and Hill, the NDS filmmakers affiliated with production houses are: Tyler Davis of Tessa Films, recognized for the Images Med Spa spot “So What?”; Ewurakua Dawson-Amoah of Greenpoint Pictures for the short film To the Girl that Looks Like Me; Abraham Felix of Curfew, recognized for the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation’s “The Unspoken Curriculum” PSA; Devon Ferguson of Cortez Brothers (U.S.), Birth (U.K.) and Suneeva (Canada) for the Monster.com spec spot “Stare”; Chloe Hayward of Knucklehead for the short film Staying; LJ Johnson of Current Resident for her TV series pilot Breakdowns; Dave Maruchniak of 1stAveMachine Buenos Aires for The New Yorker’s “The Right Question Changes Everything” spot; Jabu Nadia Newman of Park Pictures for Nowness, the British Council and BFI’s The Dream That Refused Me short film; Amber Park of Believe Media, selected for Lil Yachty’s “Love Music” music video; Bianca Poletti of Epoch Films for the short film Fertile; Zack Seckler of Station Film for State Farm’s commercial “Everyone’s Unique”; Ben Strang of Sarofsky for Afgenx’s A Mystery To Me: Vanetta short form documentary (part of a series); Emily Elizabeth Thomas of Sibling/Rivalry for ESPN/Disney’s “The Mandalorian” branded tie-in promo; and Grayson Whitehurst of Los York for Purple’s “Life-Changing Sleep” spec commercial.

Can’t wait to see you
Compiling the SHOOT New Directors Showcase and producing the New Directors Showcase Event represent one of our great annual pleasures. But for last year and this, the in-person event at the DGA Theatre in New York didn’t come to pass due to the pandemic.

While the industry cannot convene at the DGA Theatre to debut the Showcase in 2021, the NDS reel remains a major means of exposure for new worthwhile talent and is scrutinized by the advertising and entertainment communities which continue to become increasingly interconnected. A special Thank You goes to charlieuniformtango for once again compiling the SHOOT New Directors Showcase Reel.

We hope you enjoy the reel, spread the word to your colleagues and friends to check out the work and take a look at each director’s profile page. We look forward to seeing everyone in person next year!