January 31, 2023

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Variety celebrates 25 years of 10 directors to watch

2 min read

On the way to crowning the Class of 2023, diversity Celebrating 25 years of keeping a close eye on the next generation of filmmakers with our annual 10 Directors to Watch franchise.

Over the past quarter century, the editorial initiative has put an important career spotlight on future boldface-name directors such as Alfonso Cuaron, Christopher Nolan, Ava DuVernay, Wes Anderson, Chloe Zhao, Barry Jenkins, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Steve McQueen, and more. Taika Waititi, Cary Fukunaga, Kasey Lemons, Michael Winterbottom, Sarah Polley, Catherine Hardwicke, Lulu Wang, Jay Chandrasekhar, David Gordon Green and Fernando Meirelles.

Scouting for 10 directors to watch goes on throughout the year diversityIts editorial staff. The series was born in January 1997 by veteran diversity Editor Steven Gaydos, executive VP of global content and leader of the Focus Features division. The goal is to identify hot helmers before they pick up any significant hardware — aka win the big prize, Gaydos says.

diversityIts Steven Gaydos
Michael Buckner

“We look for a distinct voice, an original point of view. We hope that this becomes clear within the first one or two films of a director’s career,” says Gaydos. “We thought ‘Rushmore’ proved the promise of ‘Bottle Rocket’ and was still too early in Wes Anderson’s film. “‘Amores Perros’ told us that Alejandro Iñárritu was a major new voice. ‘Great Expectations’ was Alfonso Cuaron’s third feature and his second studio film that didn’t click at the box office, but we were admirers of his work and an important newcomer trying to make niche films in Hollywood. Wanted to help international artists. Barry Jenkins’ ‘Moonlight’ came eight years after his first film, but the stunning virtuosity was obscure.

“In only her second film Chloë Zhao confirmed to us that she is a major new voice. His Academy Award for ‘Nomadland’ confirmed our hunch,” added Gaydos.

Selecting the honorees for the 10 Directors to Watch is a year-long process for members diversityIts editorial staff. Over the years submission tactics and lobbying efforts have intensified among the city’s talent representatives. An archive now in its 26th year and growing, the franchise also serves as a mile-marker and annual time capsule for the film business.

diversityIts 10 Directors to Watch franchise bowed in 1997

The inaugural class, released at the Sundance Film Festival in January 1997, gave the directors an auspicious start. Future Oscar winner Cuaron was joined by such notables as Neal Abramson, Brad Anderson, Wes Anderson, Shirley Barrett, Leon Gast, Mary Harron, Hal Salven, Jan Savarak and Michael Winterbottom.

“Over the past quarter of a century, diversityIts annual list of 10 directors to watch and the event has become the gold standard for spotting new filmmakers,” said Gaydos. “If one wonders whether niche cinema in the United States and abroad constantly replenishes itself, just scroll through the names of these unknown artists of the past and present for stunning and evocative evidence.”

(Image above: diversityIts 2006 directors will be Neil Berger, Hilary Bragger, Joseph Phares, Mark Rothemund, Ryan Fleck, Neil Marshall and Patrick Stettner).

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