24.02.24 21:02 By Luiz Villar


From Indie Beginnings to Oscar Contenders







CenterFrame Team

The film industry has always been a hub for creative minds to showcase their talent, but sometimes it can seem impossible to make it big in such a competitive market. As hard as it may be, in the dynamic landscape of filmmaking, certain directors emerge from humble beginnings to become influential figures in the industry. That is why I decided to take three of the biggest directors in the industry in 2023, all of them who are Oscar nominees in 2024, and make a quick investigation on how they became the huge names they are currently. My picks were quite easy to make: Barbie’s Greta Gerwig, Poor Things’s Yorgos Lanthimos, and Oppenheimer’s Christopher Nolan - the names behind three of the most successful and acclaimed films of last year. These three are prime examples of indie directors who have risen from humble beginnings to become prominent figures in the film industry, garnering critical acclaim and earning numerous accolades, including Oscar nominations. Each of these directors has followed a unique path to success, showcasing their distinctive styles and storytelling abilities along the way.

Let’s start with the incredible Greta Gerwig. Known for her exceptional talent as a writer and director, Gerwig started her career in really independent films. She first gained recognition as an actress in mumblecore films like "Hannah Takes the Stairs" and "Baghead." However, it was her breakout role in Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha" that brought her widespread recognition and established her as a force to be reckoned with in independent cinema. Transitioning to behind the cameras, it was her directorial debut with "Lady Bird" in 2017 that truly propelled her into the limelight. Hersemi-autobiographical  coming-of-age film resonated with audiences and critics alike, earning five Academy Award nominations, including Best Director for Gerwig. Her authentic storytelling and ability to capture the complexities of human relationships have solidified her reputation as a talented filmmaker and the best possible choice to bring Barbie to life.

Now to Yorgos Lanthimos, a Greek filmmaker, made his mark in the indie film scene with his unconventional and thought-provoking films. His early works, such as "Dogtooth" and "Alps," showcased his distinct style, characterized by dark humor and surreal narratives. From his country, it was quite difficult to reach large markets until Dogtooth was chosen to represent Greece at the 83rd Academy Awards in the category of Best Foreign Language Film (now Best International Film). Although he did not win, Lanthimos became more well known around the world and started directing films in English. That was when Lanthimos gained even more international recognition with "The Lobster," a dystopian satire that earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. He further solidified his reputation with "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" and mainly with "The Favourite," which received critical acclaim for its bold storytelling and stellar performances, with ten Oscar nominations, a personal record he came to break with Poor Things, receiving eleven nominations at the 2024 Oscars.

And finally, we arrive at Christopher Nolan, whose ascent to becoming one of the most influential directors in Hollywood is a testament to his unwavering commitment to storytelling and his mastery of the cinematic medium. Nolan's early career was shaped by low-budget indie films such as "Following" and "Memento," which showcased his innovative approach to narrative structure and storytelling. Over the years, Nolan has established himself as a master of blockbuster filmmaking with movies like "The Dark Knight" trilogy and "Inception," earning him widespread acclaim and multiple Oscar nominations for his work. But going back a few years, it is important to notice that, although "Following" was made on a micro-budget, it revealed Nolan's propensity for using limited resources creatively and effectively. With his subsequent film, "Memento" (2000), Nolan cemented his status as an emerging auteur, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. However, it was not until "Insomnia" (2002) that Nolan successfully transitioned from independent to studio filmmaking. Nolan's indie roots have certainly taught him valuable lessons regarding resourcefulness, storytelling, and the importance of maintaining creative control throughout production. These skills allowed him to navigate the demands of the studio system without compromising his artistic integrity. By staying true to his vision, Nolan became a respected figure within the film industry, known for his ambitious and thought-provoking films. Maybe that’s why his latest film, Oppenheimer, received thirteen nominations at the 2024 Oscars.

Despite their different backgrounds and styles, Greta Gerwig, Yorgos Lanthimos, and Christopher Nolan share a common thread of starting small and gradually building their careers through hard work, dedication, and a commitment to their craft. Their evolution from indie darlings to major Hollywood players is a testament to their talent, creativity, and perseverance in an industry known for its challenges. These filmmakers have carved their own paths in the film industry, challenging conventions and pushing the boundaries of storytelling. Through their unique visions, they have captivated audiences and critics alike, earning the recognition they truly deserve. As they continue to deliver captivating films, it is evident that their impact on the cinematic world will endure for years to come, cementing their positions as esteemed filmmakers and Oscar contenders.


Film & TV Critic| CenterFrame Team

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Luiz Villar