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30 UNDER 30: A selection of 30 young & promising filmmakers

The Filmmakers Connect team is thrilled to unveil the much-anticipated annual 30 UNDER 30 list, a distinguished celebration that spotlights the exceptional talents of promising up-and-coming filmmakers.

This carefully curated roster serves as a testament to the dynamic and innovative voices shaping the future of the film industry. Each individual on this list has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to their craft, showcasing remarkable prowess in various aspects of filmmaking, including directing, writing, and producing. The diversity of styles, perspectives, and narratives represented by these emerging talents underscores the richness and vibrancy of the cinematic landscape.

The 30 UNDER 30 list not only celebrates the achievements of these filmmakers but also serves as a source of inspiration for the next generation of storytellers, encouraging them to pursue their artistic endeavors with passion and perseverance. We invite you to join us in applauding these rising stars who are poised to make a lasting impact on the world of cinema.

Adélaide Rocherolle

Originally from France, Adélaide follows a non-traditional trajectory for a Hollywood director. It's only after getting a bachelor in Law at the Sorbonne and a master in Comparative Law at the University of Sydney, that she embarked on her cinematic odyssey at the age of 24, crossing oceans to pursue her passion in filmmaking and to make her dreams come true in the city of Los Angeles. She believed everything would be possible in Hollywood, and she was right. She met the award-winning Producer Virginie Drouot, who not only mentored her but also paved the path for her entry into the world of film production. Together with Virginie, Adélaide, first time director, co-authored and co-directed her first award-winning short, "The Way of The Wind," marking the genesis of a remarkable journey in storytelling and filmmaking.

Photo credit: Patrick Curtet

Alexander Manolides

Alexander Manolides is a Greek American director and screenwriter, based in Athens, Greece.

He was born in New York City, in 1996, and grew up in Greece. He studied in the Savannah College of Art & Design, majoring in Film & Television, and minoring in Visual Effects. He also studied film direction under Martin Campbell during his FilmForge Master Class in the Nu Boyana Studios.

As a screenwriter, he has been awarded the Danny Lerner Award by the Nu Boyana Studio for his script "Daughters of Ares".

He has worked with the Greek studios View Master Films, Green Olive Films, KC In Action, Filmiki and Faliro House.

Gage Masterson

Gage Masterson is a seasoned video producer currently contributing his talents to USC Athletics, where he collaborates with various high-profile Division 1 sports teams. With a trajectory that commenced five years ago, Gage's journey into videography and editing commenced with the creation of his first fan-made trailer. Subsequently, he garnered acclaim for his filmmaking prowess, earning awards for his short films during his tenure at community college.

Gage's immersion in the realm of sports began in 2018 as a student intern at USC. In this role, he skillfully shot and edited videos encompassing every sports team affiliated with the university. His commitment to excellence extended to traveling with multiple teams to produce compelling content for their national championships. Since 2021, Gage has held the position of a full-time Video Producer at USC, bringing his unique perspective and expertise to the forefront.

Throughout his career, Gage has distinguished himself by consistently seeking the most compelling ways to capture fleeting moments in time. While he appreciates the excitement of game highlights and the dynamism of film action, Gage's true fascination lies in exploring the human condition and the emotional depth underlying each game or story.

Lucy Owens

Lucy Owens is a screenwriter and film director in Austin, Texas. She was recently named a semifinalist in the Austin Film Festival for her short screenplay Sittin’ Pretty in Hell. Her directed works include Ruby Woo (streaming on Amazon Prime), and the award-winning short, The Magician. In addition to filmmaking, Lucy is also a print-published poet and editorial photographer.

In 2016, she co-founded the production company Lemon St. Pictures with film composer and frequent collaborator Vincent Piccirilli.

Ethan McCarroll

Growing up in an town amongst talented artists and creatives has given Ethan the tools to create cinematic music videos. The latest “Light Switch” (DOP Jeff Wood) is a perfect example of that. Ethan is primarily a musician, however having strong visual sensibilities allows for the translation of his music to the visual medium. He currently resides in Stratford ON, Canada where he operates a music studio and works closely in conjunction with media outfits Little Big Creative and York Lane Art Collective.

Instagram: ethan_maac

Studio: Maac Music Records

Lily Emalfarb

Lily Emalfarb is a screenwriter with a focus in comedy and animation. Her comedic foundation was built on Second City’s comedy programs. Emalfarb’s screenwriting and writing breadth ranges from sketch comedy to TV, feature films, comics, and even video games. Emalfarb received her BFA in Screenwriting and Minor in Game Development Programming from Dodge College of Film and Media Arts in Orange, California in December of 2022. When not writing, Emalfarb can be found developing video games, or animating short videos of her characters. Suburban Witch is her official directorial debut.

Allison Caldwell

Allison Caldwell (born January 8, 1995) is a Canadian screenwriter and musician. She was born in Kingston, Ontario and grew up in the small city of Brockville, Ontario with her single mom and two older brothers. Inspired by soap operas such as General Hospital and The Young and the Restless, Allison developed a passion for visual storytelling at the age of seven. Having no connections to the film industry, she nurtured this passion by drawing comic books and strips by hand. A loner throughout childhood, Allison dreamed of inspiring others as a musician and recording artist. In high school, she found herself focusing less on storytelling and more on songwriting.

Allison attended Brockville Collegiate Institute from 2011 to 2013, where, in her senior year of high school, she enrolled in the school’s “Writer’s Craft,” course. Here, she rediscovered her passion for storytelling and won the Writer’s Craft Faculty Award for highest standing. Although Writer’s Craft was Allison’s favourite course, one writing form was not touched upon – One she had wanted to learn all her life: Screenwriting. Comic books remained her closest alternative, and she desperately wanted to ditch the hassle of pencils, erasers, and getting huge cramps in her wrist. Living nowhere near an entertainment sector or a decent community college for film, Allison’s odds of becoming a screenwriter were a million to one. As such, she pushed this dream out of her mind and got her first job as a manufacturing worker.

Bored on her days off, Allison began watching the 80’s soap opera “Santa Barbara,” on YouTube. One year later, she emailed her favourite actor on the show, Stephen Meadows, enthralled by his acting talent and multi-faceted lifestyle. Meadows was not only touched by Allison’s email, but extremely impressed with how well it was written. He requested to stay in touch with her and soon began mentoring her in screenwriting. While honing her craft, Allison saved money working in manufacturing. In 2022, she received an abundance of positive feedback on her screenplays, prompting her to leave the manufacturing industry and write full time. As of 2023, she has garnered two screenwriting awards and three nominations.

Kevin Mainenti

A former film school student who made over 25 films and one videogame. Usually makes weird films with a large dose of dark humor and bizarre ideas.

Mason Sperling

Mason Sperling is a comedian, dialect coach, musician, and online creator. He started making YouTube videos in college, which blossomed into a career as an internet performer & personality.

Mason discovered his passion for performing & creating in his early school years, starring in musicals, playing trumpet, and falling in love with improv comedy. Right after graduating college, he created Script Not Found, YouTube’s first ever dedicated improv comedy show.

The beginning of Mason’s filmmaking career is marked by the creation of Bad Atmosphere, a sci-fi comedy TV pilot made entirely in Mason’s garage. Bad Atmosphere is off to a fast start, garnering 16 awards only 2 months into its first festival run.

Jason Lee Segal

Jason Lee Segal is an award winning filmmaker & photographer based in Santa Monica. In August 2023, Jason's short film Welcome To The Neighborhood won Best Indie Film at LAFA.

When he's not behind the camera, Jason is a smoothie maker, meditator and rhyme word creator.

Jianing Zhao

Jianing Zhao, a pioneering film producer and student at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, burst onto the scene with her debut short film, "Incessant," earning Best Student Film at LAFA in August 2023. The film explores Sulli's emotional journey after a breakup, navigating love, disillusionment, and existential questioning. Zhao's avant-garde approach to storytelling captivates audiences, leaving them questioning reality and the boundaries of dreams.

Matthew Stewart

Matt Stewart is a recent alumni from Chapman University's Dodge College of Film & Media Arts, graduating with a BFA in Creative Producing and a minor in Advertising. He is currently looking to pursue producing and development opportunities for both his own work, as well as any other IP that's clever, witty, and concise.

Zaknafein Luken

Zaknafein Luken is an up and coming filmmaker from the Central Illinois area, that has been able to be featured in several different film festivals across the country. Zak grew up loving filmmaking and the magic behind it all. Knowing that Central Illinois isn't exactly the movie hub of the world, Zak has been determined to show that you can create and share your stories, no matter the location. The ultimate goal for Zak is to continue to get better with the craft and to make projects that get better and better.

Mon Castro

Mon Castro is a young filmmaker who has written, produced, and worked as 1st assistant director, and has recently debuted as a director. She is currently studying her Producing MFA in AFI Conservatory. Mon is mostly interested in the horror genre. She is also a feminist and asexual activist.

Gabriela Lima

Born in Brazil, Gabriela Lima is a young up-and-coming filmmaker known best for her work on a short film called “Soundproof”, a representation of gaslighting that won in several film festivals such as the Los Angeles Film Awards, the Key West Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival. Gabriela uses her talents to give a voice to Latino women who face on-going struggles that are usually underrepresented and invalidated by spreading awareness through various forms of media. She recently produced her first Primetime Emmy Award winning show, “A&E’s Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath”. She moved from reality TV to pursue her passion for narrative and is working on a new series “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer story”, which will premiere on Netflix. Her achievements led to her being selected by the Warner Media fellowship “Tomorrow Filmmakers Today”.

Lewis Coote

Lewis Coote is an award-winning filmmaker from Sydney, Australia. He infuses his personal experiences into his works, often centering around the struggles of working and middle-class communities. Coote directed the critically acclaimed short film "Nine to 5" in 2021. He is now working on an international project to be submitted to prestigious film festivals.

Coote is currently studying at the Australian Film Television and Radio School. He aims to direct over five films across various formats to captivate diverse audiences. Coote continuously seeks new opportunities to refine his skills as a writer, director, and filmmaker.

Raphaël Houde Belle-Isle

Born in the city of Quebec, Raphael developed a passion for filmmaking through travel. He participated in his first professional documentary with CBC by crossing Eastern Canada on the Bark Europa, a large sailboat, accompanied by a team of reporters as part of RDV2017. He then flew to Central America where he directed his first documentary, Ceiba. He then pursued fiction training in the city of Montreal from 2018 to 2020 at Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, and has just produced his first short film between 2021 and 2023.

Yanrusi Wang

An independent animation director, born in 1995 in Beijing, China. Obtaining both the bachelor’s and master’s degree from China Central Academy of Fine Arts and is currently pursuing a doctor’s degree at CAFA.

Collin Nelson

Collin Nelson is currently a rising senior at Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village, CA and a member of their Institute for Arts & Innovation for Film/Television. He is a film director and cinematographer with a deep passion for both Aerospace Engineering, as well as musical theater and sketch comedy/improv -- but he finds his true joy in the collaborative art of making films.

Chris Kam

Chris Kam is a 20 year-old filmmaker from Sonoma County, California. His recent work includes collaborations with YouTube Stars Kara & Nate, F-35 Fighter Pilot Hasard Lee, and Entrepreneur Brent Underwood. He is set to start film school at Chapman University's Dodge College of Film & Media Arts this fall.

Kam's short documentary, "The 30 Project" won Best Inspirational Film at LAFA in July 2023.

The 30 Project is an inspiring documentary chronicling Kam's transformative journey from severe panic disorder to newfound freedom. Faced with crippling anxiety that confined him indoors, Kam turned to his passion for nature and landscape photography. Over 30 days, he embarked on a courageous mission to capture a daily landscape photo, progressively venturing farther from home. This cinematic narrative encapsulates the essence of each day, portraying Kam's determined effort to expand his world and overcome the limitations imposed by his condition.

Chandler Riggs & Xavier Jimenez

Actors Chandler Riggs (The Walking Dead) and Xavier Jimenez (The Mandalorian) decided to drop all other projects and start a production company with their combined expertise in film/television. Over the last year, they've been building out lights, cameras, lenses, audio equipment, etc. and gaining multitudes of both pre-production and post-production knowledge so they can produce their passion projects with a minimal budget - doing most (if not all) of the legwork just between the two of them.

Matthew Luppino

Matthew Luppino is an Award-Winning Independent Writer, Director, Producer, Editor, Cinematographer and President of "Luppo Studios Productions Inc." Luppino is widely known for his award-winning short films "Fragments," "H.O.P.E. (Hold. On. Pain. Ends.), "Love Drunk," and "The Blink Of An Eye." He is specialized in the Drama and Romance genres, though he is working on broadening his horizons with different genres and stories.

Luppino graduated from Toronto Film School in 2015 with High Honours and Distinction. He has been working in the film industry independently as a writer, director, producer, editor and cinematographer.

Experienced in just about every area of filmmaking in front and behind the camera, Matthew Luppino has earned over 60 awards for his films globally.

As an artist himself, Luppino also enjoys creating music videos, writing and making songs, and telling stories through the art of photography.

Lynn Liu

Lynn Liu is a writer, and director from Nanjing, China. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Film Directing at Columbia University after graduating from UC Berkeley with a Bachelor’s in Media Studies. Inspired by the literary works of Yu Hua, Lynn is dedicated to creating stories that embrace a "cold eye but a warm heart" perspective. She has a profound passion for crafting emotionally charged narratives within rich cultural and social contexts, often adding a touch of dark humor to create a unique blend of depth and levity. Her directorial debut short film THE MASTER has entered multiple international film festivals including The NewsFest - True Stories International Film and Writers Festival, Stockholm City Film Festival, etc.

Grace Perry

Grace is a filmmaker and storyteller originally from Marblehead, Massachusetts and now based in Denver, Colorado. Grace is a multi-passionate entrepreneur, content creator, director, writer, actress and model. Grace obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Film and Television Production from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2018. She is now in her second year at the Colorado Film School to pursue degrees in Acting and Directing and Cinematography. Grace started her own production company, Grace Perry Productions LLC in 2020 to create content that inspires.

Arianna Blatt

After graduating from Tulane University in 2021 with a degree in English and Digital Media Production (Film), I have written and directed several shorts, and I've written a feature. I've also worked on a few bigger budget projects in other roles; I worked on Emancipation as an Office P.A., and I am currently an Associate Producer at Ridiculousness. I am also writing a short and feature that I plan on directing.

Kenny Williams & Ryan Hepkema

Kenny was born and raised in Sacramento California and quickly gained an interest in the entertainment industry. His first love was wrestling, specifically WWE. He wanted nothing more than to be a wrestler and put on a show. Those dreams quickly faded after seeing a match's real physical toll in person. Wanting no part of wrestling anymore, Kenny picked up a camera. At around age ten or eleven he began recording almost all aspects of his day. Naturally, he has virtually none of this footage, but he still has plenty of the movies he parodied in his young teenage years. These parodies were the building blocks of Kenny's filmmaking style to this day. He had no access to editing software and wouldn't know how to use it if he did. His solution was simple, just shoot everything as an oner! He had no idea he was training himself in efficiency in storytelling at such a young age. This, and incessant renting from Blockbuster with his father, led him to where he is today.

Ryan grew up in the outdoors and found his love of filmmaking early on when his family first bought a camcorder. Its first purpose was to capture his performances in local stageplays, but soon became a tool for him to create. Not having learned or having purchased editing software, Ryan was forced to get creative as he learned to edit in-camera using match cuts and other clever tricks to disguise edits. He's written stories for as long as he can remember, a skill he undoubtedly inherited from his father who was a gifted writer himself. Ryan's creative nature and adventurous spirit continue to thrust him forward in this exciting world of entertainment, where he hopes to continue on a path of success. As Ryan looks back, remembering all the roads that led him here, He wishes to not regret a single step.

Elisa Vigroux

Elisa Vigroux, a filmmaker from France and a student at Ispra, crafted the award-winning student film "Le Portrait." The commercial is a sensory journey as "She" and "He" traverse eras through dance, guided by two distinct perfumes. In June 2023, "Le Portrait" claimed the Best Commercial award at LAFA, showcasing Vigroux's innovative storytelling and her ability to transport audiences through the art of cinema.

Rhianna Morris

Rhianna Morris, a versatile talent in the entertainment industry, has made her mark as an actress, writer, and producer. Known for her roles in "Our Time" (2022), "The Space Between" (2024), and "Wildflower," Morris's prowess extends beyond acting. Her short film "If We Lived" earned acclaim, winning Best Indie Short at LAFA in April 2023 and receiving a nomination for Best Picture. With a background in screen and stage projects, Morris, a graduate with training from the Birmingham Young Rep, is poised to embark on a full-time career in the profession she passionately embraces.

We can't wait to see what the future holds for these remarkable talents!

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