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15 Breakout Artists To Watch From The 2013 Sundance Film Festival

by Oliver Lyttelton
January 25, 2013 1:06 PM
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"In a World..."
Lake Bell ("In A World...")
Probably the best-known face on this list, 33-year-old Bell has been a regular on film and TV for a decade or so, since breaking through on "Miss Match" and "Boston Legal." Recent years have seen her crop up in diverse roles, both comic and serious, in films like "What Happens In Vegas," "Pride & Glory" and "No Strings Attached," plus recurring parts on "How To Make It In America" and "Children's Hospital." But it's the latter that really seemed to point the way to the future. Bell directed two episodes of the show last summer, just on the heels of her short film "Worst Enemy," which premiered at Sundance two years ago. And this year, she was back at the festival with her feature debut "In A World...,"  a comedy which she wrote, directed and starred in. Following an aspiring voiceover artist who tries to escape from the shadow of her father, a legend in the field, Bell assembled an excellent cast including Fred Melamed, Demetri Martin, Rob Corddry, Nick Offerman and Geena Davis, and, by most accounts, proved a sure hand behind the camera and a winning presence in front of it. The inside-baseball nature of the subject matter may prevent it from truly taking off with audiences, but with terrific reviews, it'll certainly get distribution, and should give Bell a boost as a leading lady and hopefully land her a bigger budget for her next directorial outing too.

Jeremy Lovering ("In Fear")
If you went to Sundance looking for the next Christopher Nolan or Rupert Wyatt (who both had films premiere at the festival early in their careers), you'd be hard pressed to find a better candidate than Jeremy Lovering, whose feature film debut "In Fear" has been scaring the living shit out of people in the Midnight strand of the festival. Backed by Big Talk Productions ("Shaun Of The Dead," "Attack The Block," "Sightseers"), it's a fairly simple set-up of a young teenage couple who get lost in the Irish countryside, and are tormented by a mysterious presence. But the reviews suggest that Lovering wrings the maximum tension out of it, not least with a semi-improvised approach that meant hiding his script from his cast -- Alice Englert ("Ginger And Rosa") and Iain De Caestecker ("S.H.I.E.L.D") -- and freaking them out for real. It's a pretty fresh approach to the genre, and one that suggests that Lovering -- a TV veteran who helmed episodes of "MI-5" as well as one-offs "Miss Austen Regrets" with Olivia Williams and "Money" with Nick Frost -- has plenty of tricks up his sleeve. He's about to direct one of the episodes of the new series of "Sherlock" with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, which can only raise his profile higher, and he's got a further two films in development at Big Talk, "Child Soldier" and "Wicked Smart." Are we looking at the next Edgar Wright/Joe Cornish/Ben Wheatley?

Stacie Passon & Robin Weigert ("Concussion")
One of the films with the most buzz going into the festival, thanks to its controversial subject matter, selection for the Berlinale, and awards from the Adrienne Shelly Foundation and the Gothams for director Stacie Passon, was "Concussion." Following a gay married soccer mom who receives the titular head injury, loses the passion in her relationship, and becomes a prostitute, it picked up excellent reviews (Scott Foundas said the film "is why we have a Sundance in the first place") and was snapped up by the Weinstein Company's new VOD shingle Radius for distribution. As a result, we're likely to see a lot more of both Passon and her star Robin Weigert down the line. Passon comes from the commercials world, having worked for years as a promo director and producer, and is a protege of Rose Troche ("Go Fish," "Bedrooms and Hallways") who serves as a producer on this film. Weigert you may well have seen, but probably won't recognize; she grubbed up to give an astonishing performance as Calamity Jane on HBO's "Deadwood." Other credits have included "The Good German," "Synecdoche, New York" and a recurring role in "Sons Of Anarchy," while she cropped up at Sundance last year in "The Sessions." She's been consistently underrated, but hopefully this is the start of a Melissa Leo/Ann Dowd-style boost for the actress.

Danai Gurira ("Mother Of George")
"The Walking Dead" might be the biggest drama series on TV right now, but its principle cast have yet to break through to the features world, for the most part. But it looks like one of the first to make an impact will be Danai Gurira, who plays fan favorite Michonne on the show. Gurira is an actress and playwright (who won an Obie Award for her 2006 effort "In The Continuum"), who made her film debut with a major supporting role as illegal immigrant Zainab in Thomas McCarthy's "The Visitor" in 2007. She's popped up in other places, including "Treme" and the Broadway production of August Wilson's "Joe Turner's Come And Gone," before taking on the iconic sword-wielding Michonne on the AMC zombie series last year. But her star is set to rise even higher thanks to a reunion with Andrew Dosonmu, who worked with the actress on "Restless City," for their Sundance film "Mother of George." Gurira and Isaach De Bankole play a young Nigerian couple in New York trying to conceive a baby, and while notices for the film (beyond Bradford Young's cinematography) have been muted, Gurira's turn in particular has won her enormous praise, with Variety calling it a "remarkable performance." It's notably harder for African-American actors to break out of the festival (see Adepero Oduye of "Pariah" fame, who's only had a couple of roles since the film debuted at Sundance two years ago), but given that she's a key part of a huge pop-culture hit at the same time, hopefully it's all the more reason for Gurira to move onto bigger and better things.

Kaya Scodelario ("Emmanuel And The Truth About Fishes")
For a TV show watched by a fairly small British audience, teen drama "Skins" has had an impressive effect on the movies world. In the five years since it debuted, it's helped to introduce movie screens to Dev Patel ("Slumdog Millionaire"), Nicholas Hoult ("X-Men: First Class"), Joe Dempsie and Hannah Murray ("Game Of Thrones"), Daniel Kaluuya ("Welcome To The Punch"), Jack O'Connell ("300: Battle Of Artimesia") and Luke Pasqualino ("Snowpiercer"), among others. And the next to join them looks to be Kaya Scodelario. The 20-year-old actress was the only character to span the first four series of the show, which led to small parts in films including "Moon" and "Clash Of The Titans." But she really showed her abilities by playing Cathy in Andrea Arnold's bruising, brutal adaptation of "Wuthering Heights." She was the best known name in the cast by some way, and more than held her own. And when Rooney Mara dropped out of Francesca Gregorini's "Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes," it was Scodelario who stepped in, as the title character, a teenage girl who becomes obsessed with her new neighbor. Reviews of the film have been a touch divided (some raves, some dismissive ones), but Scodelario's been the constant, with comparisons to previous Sundance darlings Elizabeth Olsen and Carey Mulligan surfacing a good deal. And she's continuing to work with promising collaborators -- next up is "Southcliffe," a British TV miniseries directed by "Martha Marcy May Marlene" director Sean Durkin.

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  • [A] | January 27, 2013 11:38 AMReply

    Repeat with me.. "we need a "

  • Brooklynite | January 26, 2013 10:45 AMReply

    I was impressed with performances in MAY IN THE SUMMER. Also best female ensemble piece i've seen in a long time.

  • Laurence | January 25, 2013 2:23 PMReply

    Has there been any news about IN A WORLD... being picked up? Is there bidding on it happening? I haven't seen anything and I'm hoping it goes to someone good.

  • Taylor | January 25, 2013 2:10 PMReply

    For completeness sake, Josh Pais is also in Are We Officially Dating? And if you think Imogen Poots deserves an honorable mention for her perf in The Look of Love, then you can add another cast member of that movie to your list. Not that it matters but it is sort of cool.

  • TimParker | January 25, 2013 1:53 PMReply

    Dane DeHaan went to my high school! Think we might have had the same study hall...who knows, so long ago.

  • GERARD KENNELLY | January 28, 2013 8:10 PM

    dane dehaan is amazing in CHRONICLE and IN TREATMENT
    i also like his small role in LAWLESS

    and by all accounts,,
    he steals the new ryan gosling thriller THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES

  • Porter | January 25, 2013 1:43 PMReply

    No Lindsay Burdge from A Teacher ?!

  • GERARD KENNELLY | January 28, 2013 8:12 PM

    @ PORTER

    i created a facebook page to predict next years oscar nominees
    Lindsay Burdge is one of them

  • ben | January 25, 2013 1:32 PMReply

    No mention of anything dealing with "It Felt Like Love"? I've heard great things about both it's star (Gina Piersanti) & the director (Eliza Hittman). It looks and sounds really wonderful. Hopefully it gets out to a wide audience.

  • GERARD KENNELLY | January 28, 2013 8:14 PM

    @ BEN

    gina piersanti has an amazing face
    she reminds me of english actress katie jarvis character in FISH TANK

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