Every year we see a whole of filmmakers take that brave step and release their feature film directorial debut... and 2015 is no different.

Jennifer Connelly in Shelter

Jennifer Connelly in Shelter

We see directors making the transition from television and shorts for the first time and actors making that leap behind the camera and into the director's chair.

2015 has been a great for directorial debuts have we have seen a whole host of them win over critics and make a splash at the box office. There are only a few more weeks of the year to go, and we take a look at some of the debut filmmakers who have really grabbed everyone's attention with their movies in 2015.

- Alex Garland - Ex Machina

Alex Garland was best known as a screenwriter prior to 2015 with scripts for Dredd, Never Let Me Go, Sunshine, and 28 Days Later... all under his belt. Earlier this year, Garland made the leap into the director's chair for the first time with Ex Machina.

Ex Machina was one of the most anticipated science fiction films of the year and saw Garland pen the screenplay as well as being in the director's chair.

Starring Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina follows a young programmer who is selected to take part in an experiment to evaluate the human qualities of an A.I.

For me, Ex Machina remains one of the best sci-fi films of the year as Garland explores some interesting themes and ideas in a film that engages from start to finish. Garland has stuck the perfect balance between entertaining and asking questions of the audience.

Not only does Ex Machina have a great script and boasts some wonderful performances from the central trio of actors, but it is also a visually stunning movie

Garland has delivered a bold and interesting movie that has directed with real assurance and flair - it is hard to believe that this is his directorial debut.

Ex Machina

- Joel Edgerton - The Gift

Joel Edgerton has made quite a name for himself in recent years in front of the camera with Warrior, Zero Dark Thirty, and The Great Gatsby on his CV. 2015 saw him make the leap into features.

Edgerton is no stranger to the director's chair with short films The List and Monkeys already under his belt and has written screenplays for Felony and The Rover. The Gift saw Edgerton write the script as well as play Gordo, one of the central roles.

I have to admit, I didn't know what to expect when I saw down in the cinema to watch The Gift but it was a terrific psychological thriller that was tense and suspenseful from opening scene to closing credits.

It is one of the best psychological thrillers of the year and is packed with twists and turns that you don't expect. This is a movie that challenges the presumptions and expectations of the audience - taking those watching down a path that they did not expect.

It is a tight script from Edgerton that has a very strong message about bullying. The movie is set at a quick pace and Edgerton never let the tension slip for a minute. He is also terrific as Gordo and is supported by wonderful and complex performances from Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall, characters that are just as flawed and troubled as Gordo.

The Gift was another terrific directorial debut from an actor turned filmmaker and I cannot wait to see what Edgerton does next. I really hope that he continues to explore his talents as a director.

The Gift

- Elizabeth Banks - Pitch Perfect 2

Elizabeth Banks is another actor turned filmmaker this year as she took over the helm of Pitch Perfect 2. We had already seen Banks direct some shorts and a segment of feature film Movie 43, but this was the first full-length film for the popular actress.

Pitch Perfect 2 came three years after the success of the first film and saw Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson return as Becca and Fat Amy. As well as being in the director's chair, Banks also reprised her role as Gail in the film.

Pitch Perfect was a movie that really came under the radar in 2012, but this year, it was one of the most anticipated summer films. While it didn't quite hit the high notes of its predecessor, it is a funny movie that really does work.

Pitch Perfect 2 is one of those movies that you can just kick back and enjoy and Banks captured the entertainment, great musical numbers, and crude humour that made the first once such a great watch.

Banks has not tried to change what made the first film so successful and has just made the movie bigger and packed with sass and a whole load of fun. And it looks like she is sticking with the franchise as she has been linked with the director's chair for Pitch Perfect 3.

Pitch Perfect 2

- John MacClean - Slow West

It is sad that we don't see too many Western movies on the big screen anymore as it is such a great film genre. However, every so often one comes along and is a real treat... that is exactly what happened with Slow West.

Slow West is a movie that whipped up a storm on the festival circuit and was the feature film debut for John MacClean, who also penned the film's screenplay.

The movie saw MacClean reunite with actor Michael Fassbender, with whom he had worked with on short films Pitch Black Heist and Man on a Motorcycle. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Ben Mendelsohn were the other talented names that were aboard the project.

Slow West is a terrific directorial debut from McLean - one of the best of the year so far - as he has created a Western that is violent, exciting, and packed with interesting and fascinating characters.

Of course, there are familiar Western elements such as eccentric characters and gunfights and yet MacLean has deliberately slowed the pace and given the film a melancholic undertone. I like the fact that MacLean has put his own stamp on this familiar genre and given us something a little different to what we are expecting.

Of course, we are use to seeing sweeping landscapes in Westerns and Slow West is no different. It is just a truly beautiful looking movie and the cinematography really does become a character in its own right. The movie was met with critical acclaim and remains one of the best films of the year.

Slow West

- Paul Bettany - Shelter

Paul Bettany is a bit of a favourite here at FemaleFirst and he has enjoyed success in front of the camera with Avengers: Age of Ultron already this year. However, he will make the leap into the director's chair for the first time with Shelter.

Bettany has also penned the screenplay as he jumps straight into the feature film - he has no short experience under his belt as so many other filmmakers do.

Jennifer Connelly and Anthony Mackie take on the central roles of Hannah and Tahir, who come from different worlds but fall in love while living on the streets of New York. Shelter explores how they got there, and as more is revealed about their pasts, it's clear that they need each other to build a future.

It is great that Shelter has finally got a theatrical release as it was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2014.

The movie has been picking up some great reviews with Connelly and Mackie being praised for their powerful central performances. Bettany has always been a talent in front of the camera and I can't wait to see what he delivers as a director.


Shelter is released 11th December.

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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