The film industry is a difficult career to make a name for yourself in. For actors and actresses, it’s a bit easier for them to build their portfolio. As for directors and filmmakers, having their name known and their films successful is extremely difficult. Some fortunate directors do break through to the mainstream world of cinema such as Damien Chazelle, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Stanley Kubrick. Those names will be remembered through cinematic history for their intelligence, great critical reviews and, of course, for their academy awards.
The directors listed below are filmmakers whom should be recognized for their artistic and creative filmmaking that were made on low budget. The less money spent the more authentic the movie is and the closer the director feels to that specific project. The five underrated directors below have created conversation and had changed the views of alternative cinema throughout the years.
1 Harmony Korine.
Harmony Korine, most known for his 2013 Spring Breakers starring Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens began his filmmaking in 1997 with his film, Gummo. He was first recognized in 1994 while skating in Washington Square Park; photographer Larry Clark asked Korine to write a script about skaters while including a conflict with a teenager whom has AIDS. Within three weeks Korine had written the entire script for the cult classic, Kids, which follows a group of teenagers in New York City living in a sex and drug filled life. The point of the film was to show the realistic viewpoint of youth in Manhattan during the AIDS crisis. Following his first taste of film he went on to write and direct 1997’s Gummo which was budgeted one million dollars by producer Cary Woods.
Gummo was based in Xenia, Ohio a town destroyed by a tornado in the early 70’s. The film embodies sketches written by Korine creating the fragmented events over the course of the film capitalizing on the unclear. Most of the cast was found during pre-production which was filmed in Tennessee, only five were experienced actors. Gummo was the first insight to Korine’s creative thinking for film. Gummo was Korine’s most notable film for containing unsettling and bizarre scenes.
Majority of the mainstream critics have looked down upon Korine calling his style an “unintelligible mess.” However, Korine hardly looks for any point or meaning in his films telling Scott Beggs from Vanity Fair, “I don’t really know what’s the point. It’s like, what’s the point of a photograph” this style and thinking allows the audience to make their own meaning behind the film making it a better experience when viewing the film on an intellectual level.
2 Gus Van Sant.
Making it to the Mainstream world in 1997 by directing Good Will Hunting, Gus Van Sant had his five minutes of fame until he went back to his unusual and creative films like Elephant and Last Days while also being the executive producer for Larry Clark’s, Kids along with writer Harmony Korine.
Van Sant’s most notable films within the independent film world was his film trilogy focusing on death, these films included Gerry, Elephant and Last Days. 2002’s Gerry starring Matt Damon and Casey Affleck, is a film about two men named Gerry whom get lost in the desert, majority of the scenes were improvised by the actors who were encouraged by Van Sant to do so. Before Gerry hit theaters, Van Sant then began to film Elephant, which was based on the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. The actors he chose to be in the film were untrained teens. This film won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival as it provoked strong reactions from the audience. Although Elephant was based on the massacre, Van Sant decided to focus more on the theme of isolation within youth rather than the violence committed, which made for a beautifully filmed movie with a great concept. As for his last film within the trilogy, Last Days, he focused on the theme of alienation by filming an almost all silent film following a musician resembling Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain before his suicide. The musician is surrounded by people constantly but at the same time he is completely alone and isolated from the people mentally.
Gus Van Sant has made his name within the film industry with Good Will Hunting and Milk, but what makes Van Sant so unique is his constant returns to the independent world of filming. He has created voice for directors such as Harmony Korine and Alexander Payne.
3 Spike Jonze.
Beginning his career off with directing the Beastie Boys music video to Sabotage, Spike Jonze has went on to make a name for himself within the art world of film. Starting off low with filming alternative musicians such as Bjork, Weezer and The Breeders while also working with the magazine, Big Brother, which was a skater magazine that promoted skateboarding, sex and stunts, he was also an editor for Grand Royal Magazine. He then went on to help produce and co-create MTV’s Jackass. Along with his amateur work he had filmed, Being John Malkovich, Three Kings, Where the Wild Things are and Her which won an Oscar.
Jonze is the perfect example of someone who had begun with little and worked himself up to be successful. Spike Jonze has a specific humor he lives by which results in unique films he has released. From music videos to commercials, Spike Jonze has shown his style through multiple platforms. Perfect explanation by Jacob T. Swinney (film editor) had created a video essay examining the film elements that form Jonze as a director and his “unique visual style.”
4 Darren Aronofsky.
Very specific taste of psychological thriller and film technique, Darren Aronofsky’s first feature film, Pi, was the beginning of Aronofsky’s directing days. Going on to one of his best-known films, Requiem for a dream which follows a heroin addict and his mother whom is addicted with losing weight had gotten strong reviews. Both Pi and Requiem were low budgeted films and both were filmed in montages of very short shots, which is unique in itself. Aronofsky follows the minds of people and shows that through his directing. Years after Requiem, Black Swan starring Natalie Portman was released,hitting rave reviews with the box office. Black Swan followed a ballerina who became obsessed with performing as the lead in Swan Lake. Black Swan was filmed similarly to Requiem for a Dream, as it carries the audience through confusion and deep thought. In many ways, this film is viewed as a short if not non-existent distance from accomplishing artistic perfection. Aronofsky then filmed Portman once more in 2016’s Jackie which followed the life of Jackie Kennedy after watching her husband die.
Darren Aronofsky’s way of directing has gone inside the minds of his characters and portrayed the deep feeling and metaphors through quick shots and detailed editing. Every film of his is riveting yet he is hardly recognized through mainstream film.
5 Sofia Coppola.
Daughter of famous director Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia Coppola has taken the reins from her father and has created her own vision of work. Coppola successfully began her filmmaking career with directing The Virgin Suicides, which received critical acclaim at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival. Her second feature film, Lost in Translation starring Bill Murray, received three Golden Globes and more recognition she went to create small films such as Marie Antoinette and 2013’s Bling Ring.
Sofia Coppola is another great example of uniqueness. One of the distinct traits shown in her films is the use of “soft and natural lighting” and the “subtle pastels of the color pallet.” Her films invite a sense of warmness and calmness that invoke a deeper meaning. Perfectly described again by Jacob T. Swinney, “All of these visual characteristics work together harmoniously to create Coppola’s distinct dreamlike atmosphere.” Coppola makes sure to create her characters to have more meaning than plot. By using her natural surroundings and the crafting of a dreamlike atmosphere the audience can see who her characters are and who they want to be.
The directors listed above are all unique in their own ways. Having their own styles in which they formed from a young age onward, these directors are either hardly talked about or talked about once then are forgotten within the mainstream media and industry.