19 Ridiculously Influential Filmmakers We Aspire to Become

Here are some of the people that are inspiring us at the moment.  Some we have admired for years and others are newly discovered, but each one has given us something to strive for.

  

1. Nora Ephron 

Nora is just pure brilliance.  Her writing is filled with heart and wit and practicality, and it all adds up to magic.  She is often imitated, but rarely duplicated.  Nora has shown us that every detail matters in a movie.  Every character needs to have a moment, no matter how small the role.  Her reason was so every person in her movies could say "I played so-and-so" and the response would be "Oh I remember you!"  Nora noticed every little detail and made everyone feel special, and that's why her movies (and she herself) are so endearing.  

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Side note: There is a fascinating book about how Nora saved romantic comedies that I highly recommend.  It's called I'll Have What She's Having by Erin Carlson.  She was just a spectacular person and it made me cry at the end.  No lie, Chris and I ask ourselves "What would Nora do?" at least 3 times a week. She was one of a kind. -m 

 

 

2. Woody Allen

*this is based off of work- we're not getting into anything else.

Woody's method of writing is extremely unique.  He jots down ideas on napkins and scraps of paper and then creates outlines off of those notes.  We learned that his method for writing Annie Hall was to walk around New York talking out the story points with his cowriter and then going home to write alone.  We laughed because that's how Chris writes, except we walk around Target and TJ Maxx. 

Most of Woody's movies are female-centric and full of extremely complex characters.  When he writes, he isn't concerned about the details, just the characters and where the action is going, but once he starts production, he has every detail planned out.  His dialogue is some of the sharpest and wittiest out there.   

What we have learned from him is to take everything as a step. Character first, story next, and then the production.  And to not be afraid to have a deeply flawed character.  Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine is extremely flawed, and in our humble opinion, is one of the best characters ever written and performed.  

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3. Greta Gerwig

Greta has gone from being someone we enjoyed in movies to being our main boo.  She writes coming of age movies with female leads that would normally only be made for a man, something like The Graduate.  They aren't just about being a women; it's about finding who you are and where you fit in.  Her characters are complicated and empathetic. Greta knows who she is and her vice is clear and present in her screenplays. That is something we truly admire.  

This past year, Greta made her directorial debut with Lady Bird and was the 5th woman EVER to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director.  Lady Bird is one of the 2 best movies of 2017 for us.  It's about a teenage girl trying to get to where she feels she belongs in the world. It's beautiful and ridiculous and heartfelt.  This is going to be a classic. 

Movies to Watch: Lady Bird; Francis Ha; Mistress America

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4. Noah Baumbach

Noah is Greta's main squeeze and frequent collaborator.  We have really gotten into him this past year.  His writing is full of conflict and family dynamics and characters that are so dysfunctional, you just can't take your eyes off of them.  

Movie to Watch: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (One of our faves from last year- it's on Netflix)

 

 

5. Judd Apatow

Judd is a man of many talents, he writes, he directs and he produces.  We've learned so much from him with that alone.  The main reason we look up to him though is that he recognizes talent and natures it. That is really big deal in a town where the first instinct is to promote yourself.  

He (and his partners) created a show called Freaks & Geeks about 18 years ago.  It was a brilliant but quiet little show that didn't even last a season, but through it, Judd discovered some incredibly talented people in the industry today: Seth Rogan, James Franco, and Jason Segel.  Judd has continued to mentor and work with them and others he's discovered over the years including Jonah Hill, Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, and Emma Stone.  We aspire to be a part of a supportive environment like Judd. 

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6. Christine Vachon

When we were researching independent producers, the name Christine Vachon kept popping up.  We read articles and a book and discovered she is a badass.  She IS independent producing.  Christine takes projects that would never see the light of day otherwise, and finds a way to make them a reality.  It's not about money or awards or power for her (although she is one of the most respected people in the industry); it's just about making art and speaking to people that don't often get heard.  Christine has shown us so much about getting a project started. 

 

 

7. Wes Anderson

Watching a Wes Anderson movie is an experience.  You have to watch it two or three times, because there are so many little details that make the story.  He is a very visual story-teller.  Each scene in one of his his movies could be a photograph, and you can tell what the story is from that photo.  That is something that speaks to us.  His stories are very simple, often family related and the visuals add layers to the emotional pull.  

Movies to Watch: The Royal Tenenbaums; The Grand Budapest Hotel; Moonrise Kingdom

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8. Ted Hope

Ted is another champion of independent film.  He has worked on films of every budget level and his goal is the same on each: it's all about the story.  Ted's commitment to getting the job done is what inspires us.  He will do whatever it takes- whether he's holding the boom mike or trying to woo investors for financing.  He doesn't throw his position around- he is a true team player. 

 

 

9. Reese Witherspoon 

We all love Reese Witherspoon- she invented the Bend & Snap after all.  But with all the talk of a lack of quality roles for women- especially women over 40, Reese decided to take action.  She was tired of being offered the role of wife or girlfriend, so she started a production company.  She produced movies like Gone Girl and Wild, and with Nicole Kidman, developed and starred in the limited series,  Big Little Lies.  Featuring a strong female cast, it has won numerous awards.  Reese saw an opportunity and went for it.  That just makes us love her more.  

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10. David O. Russell

David's movies are some of our favorites.  He understands and writes family dynamics so beautifully; he's what we aspire to be.  He gets that life is messy and beautiful and it's evident in his writing and directing.  He often works with another of our faves, Jennifer Lawrence, creating some exceptional characters together.  He often texted Jennifer late at night with ideas, which is how we operate, because we're night owls. His movies have so much emotion, but at the end you are filled with hope.  

Movies to Watch: Silver Linings Playbook; American Hustle; The Fighter

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11. Jordan Peele

Jordan is a new inspiration.  He wrote and directed Get Out, one of the most critically acclaimed and successful movies of last year.  Jordan had such passion and conviction in his story that that even a major movie studio accommodated his distribution requests, something that is unheard of, especially with a first time director.  The payout was huge for everyone.  Jordan inspires us to fight we believe in.  

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12. Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen has been an inspiration for several years.  She is proof that hard work pays off.  She started as an assistant to a friend of Steven Spielberg and after being poached to be his assistant,  worked her way through producing and now she is the head of LucasFilms, having been hand-picked by George Lucas to replace him.  Kathy is one of the hardest-working, and respected people in the industry.  She has the second highest domestic box office receipts, just behind her former boss, Steven.  

Kathy's purpose is to serve the story and she is willing to make tough decisions in order to do this.  Women sometimes feel the need to make everyone like them so they can be taken seriously, but Kathy knows that someone has to get the hard stuff done so she might as well do it.  She is a true leader.  

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13. Tina Fey

Tina Fey is bossy... and proud of it.  She got her big break on Saturday Night Live, becoming the first female head writer.  She went on to create 30 Rock, winning critical acclaim and numerous awards.  But the main reason we love her is she wrote one of the greatest (cult) movies ever- Mean Girls.  It is biting and brilliant and totally quotable.  She makes being smart and nerdy look cool as hell. And she runs a tight ship. 

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14. Sean Baker

Sean Baker has taught us that you are only as limited as you allowing yourself to be.  His movie Tangerine was made for less than $100,000 and shot on iPhones.  It's a raw, beautiful look at a side of Los Angeles that people just want to look past.  His latest movie, The Florida Project, has a slightly larger budget, but the emotion is still there.  It's the heartbreaking and heartwarming story about a young girl and her emotionally immature mother who are just a step up from being on the streets.  His movies stick with you for a long time after they end.  Sean has shown us to look past budget and work with the heart of the story in the forefront.

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15. Patty Jenkins

Patty Jenkins is a badass.  She came from an indie background and went on to direct one of the most critically and financially successful movies of 2017, which happened to be about a female supervisor.  Simply put, Wonder Woman was AMAZING.  Patty was able to put together a movie that was both entertaining to watch and emotionally charged.  She accomplished this while dealing with doubters and snarky fanboys.  Women are very rarely given the opportunity to direct projects of this magnitudes.  Patty more than showed that women can be successful with big budget movies.  

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16. Luca Guadagnino 

Luca's movies have a very charmed European lifestyle feel to them, but have an emotional pull to them.  Call Me By Your Name is one of those movies we just can't get over. Just even thinking about it makes me want it watch it again.  The performances, the cinematography, the music; everything works together.  

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17. Charlie Kaufman

Charlie Kaufman's scripts have such unusual premises to them, but at their heart, it's just about wanting to be loved and understood.

Movies to Watch: The Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind; Adaption; Being John Malkovich

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18. Alicia Malone

Alicia Malone is someone who just genuinely loves movies and has figured out a way to make a living talking about them.  She reviews movies for various outlets and has podcasts and speaks on panels at festivals.  Recently, she has made it her goal to get more women involved in all aspects of film.  She has written a book about the history of women filmmakers.  She is one of many that are working to change the statistics of the number of women who are succeeding in the entertainment industry.  

Book to Read: Backwards & In Heels: The Past, Present And Future of Women Working In Film by Alicia Malone

 

 

19. Ryan Murphy

Ryan Murphy is a class favorite.  He has a true love of pop culture, which we enjoy, and he isn't afraid of taking risks and pushing buttons.  He has numerous projects, each completely different, yet his voice is clear throughout each.  Ryan works with an extremely diverse group of people, making it a point to hire female directors and crew.  He believes that as a white man, he has the opportunity and responsibility to open doors for others.  

Things to Watch:  Feud: Betty & Joan; Scream Queens (first season); American Crime Story: OJ Simpson; American Horror Story

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There are many more people whose work inspires us, not just in the entertainment industry. These are just who we are currently studying to help us work towards our goals.  Who is inspiring you lately? Let us know!