While there are many South by Southwest alumni returning to share their latest films, the festival presents an opportunity for new and unknown directors to make their debuts to large audiences. The 2018 SXSW lineup has many first-time directors, some of whom are established writers and producers. Here are The Daily Texan’s top picks for 2018 directorial debuts to be shown at SXSW.
Morgan Capps — “Meow Wolf: Origin Story”
In partnership with co-director Jilann Spitzmiller, Capps’s documentary, “Meow Wolf: Origin Story,” details the success of a New Mexico DIY art collective. The artists in the collective spark the interest of George R.R. Martin, who gives them the support to take over a bowling alley. “Meow Wolf” builds an exhibition which grows to include 140 artists. Given the artistic origin of the documentary, viewers can expect to be dazzled by grand colorful visuals and structures and equally as vibrant people.
Dan Gregor — “Most Likely to Murder”
Previously known for writing and producing for “How I Met Your Mother” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” Gregor’s first film directorial experience “Most Likely to Murder” is the story of Billy Green’s (Adam Pally) return to his hometown, where he discovers he is no longer as cool as he used to be. In the home-for-the-holidays comedic mystery, Billy becomes obsessed with proving his ex-girlfriend’s new beau is a killer. The film is framed as a story many college students should be able to relate to: going home to chase one’s former glory and coming up short. But with murder.
Jenn Wexler — “The Ranger”
Jumping headfirst into the role of director, Jenn Wexler’s film, “The Ranger,” tracks the flight of a pack of teens from the city as they escape confrontation with the police, by running into the forest. However, when the teens are high on a snazzy new drug called Echo and get startled by the sound of a gunshot, things aren’t what they seem. Secrets come back to bite them and they find themselves pitted against an unhinged park ranger with an axe to grind.
Kay Cannon — “Blockers”
“Pitch Perfect” writer Kay Cannon makes her directorial debut in the film “Blockers” which follows three parents, Lisa, Mitchell and Hunter (Leslie Mann, John Cena, Ike Barinholtz), as they discover their daughters’ pact to lose their virginity at prom, launching a covert operation to stop them. The film’s premise is just raunchy enough to make mothers blush, while subjecting young viewers to secondhand embarrassment as Lisa, Mitchell and Hunter try to foil their children’s plans to get laid.
Jim Cummings — “Thunder Road”
Based on his short film of the same name, Cummings’s feature-length film debut follows Officer Arnaud (Cummings) who raises his daughter as a love letter to his deceased wife. The original short took home the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2016, and while it did not gain a distribution deal, it did win enough money to pave the way for the full-length film which will premiere at SXSW. Expect this to be an emotional and introspective look at parenting, family and the process of grief.
Andy Nyman, Jeremy Dyson - “Ghost Stories”
Dyson and Nyman’s film “Ghost Stories” adds a dash of horror to SXSW. Nyman pulls double duty, also starring as Professor Goodman, a skeptic and psychologist who seeks rational answers to disturbing hauntings detailed in a long-lost file. Think “Mythbusters” meets “Ghost Hunters,” but with old-school horror tropes thrown into the mix. The film also stars Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther and Martin Freeman.
Anna Margaret Hollyman - “Maude”
Hollyman’s short “Maude” had its world premiere at Sundance this past year. The short follows a day in the life of thirty-something Teeny, a liberal arts creative who is stuck in survival jobs. Teeny takes on a babysitting job where she runs into an old classmate who is a successful lifestyle blogger, who needs Teeny to watch her daughter Celery for a day. While taking Celery for a jaunt in a stroller, Teeny is mistaken for the baby’s mother and decides to harmlessly assume her old friend’s identity for a day. While not an identity theft flick, the film promises a fish-out-of-water view of social class in the modern day.