18 Youngest Film Directors

Everybody's got a good book in them, the saying goes.

We disagree. Everybody's really got a good film in them.

The BFI feel the same, which is why they created their annual Future Film Festival bash back in 2008. Dedicated to nuturing the talent of younglings aged 13-25, last year's event attracted the talents of 1,500 young people, included Q&A sessions with the likes of Noel Clarke and Asif Kapadia, and premiered over 40 short films.

This year, the third FFF will take place in February 2010 at the BFI Southbank, in partnership with BBC Blast .

Oh, and by the by, they want your submissions. If you'd like to take part, click here for an application form .

In light of all this creativity, we proudly present our celebration of the talented young moviemakers who have gone before us.

This lot grabbed a camera at an early age, and look where they are now. Here, in ascending order according to age, are our favourite directors what made it young.

After all, age is just a number...

The Director: Steven Spielberg
How Did They Get Their Break?
The Beard’s first film was born out of necessity. Entitled The Last Train Wreck , it was filmed after a young (assumedly beard-free) Spielberg had his train set threatened by his father after he repeatedly abused it.

Ever the artist, young Steven decided to film the destruction.

Other shorts followed, including an eight minute Western called The Last Gun , which was filmed at a patio restaurant when Spielberg was 13, and premiered to his Boy Scout group.

The result? The burgeoning director’s first standing ovation.

Of course, it wasn’t until TV movie Duel in 1971 that Spielberg’s career really started to take flight. From there, it took only a shark, a close encounter and a lost ark before he was well and truly on his way to making movie history.

The Director: Tim Burton
How Did They Get Their Break?
A reclusive child who found freedom through drawing, Tim Burton filmed his first animated short on Super 8 aged 13.

Fittingly, it was an adaptation of HG Wells’ moribund classic ‘The Island of Doctor Moreau’, which Burton re-titled The Island of Doctor Agor , and cast himself in the titular role.

Further short films included Houdini , but it was his first ‘proper’ animation, Stalk of the Celery Monster in 1979 that attracted the attention of Disney, and earned Burton his first job in the film industry.

Next: Carpenter and Jackson [page-break]

The Director: John Carpenter
How Did They Get Their Break?
Though he was the grand old age of 26 when he directed his first feature film, Dark Star , John Carpenter started out young with a melange of creepy short films.

His first, Revenge of the Colossal Beasts , was shot in 1962 when the fledgling filmmaker was just 14. Using an 8mm, he went on to direct other grisly titles like Terror from Space , Gorgo Versus Godzilla and Gorgon, the Space Monster .

It was Dark Star , though, that made Hollywood sit up. Multi-tasking to within an inch of his life, Carpenter stretched the film’s meagre $60,000 budget by writing (with Alien ’s Dan O’Bannon), directing and scoring the whole film.

It’s a pattern that he has stuck to to this day.

The Director: Peter Jackson
Age: 16
How Did They Get Their Break?
A good ten years before he made Bad Taste , Peter Jackson filmed a little gem called The Valley .

A 20 minute short, it mixed live action and stop-motion to create the story of four wanderers who happen upon a rift in the space-time continuum, and must battle a Harpy and a Cyclops.

Jackson crafted the stop-motion models himself, and the film was shot over just three weekends.

Heavily influenced by the films of Ray Harryhausen, The Valley was shot on Super 8 and aired on New Zealand TV show Spot On , which was running a film competition.

Sadly, Jackson’s film didn’t win.

We think the clutch of Oscars probably makes up for that.

Next: Scorsese, Raimi, Welles and De Palma [page-break]

The Director: Martin Scorsese
Age: 17
How Did They Get Their Break?
Scorsese made his filmic debut with the rather grandly titled Vesuvius VI , a short from 1959 that has been described as a Roman epic inspired by ‘50s TV series 77 Sunset Strip . We’d kill to see it.

Instead, we’ll have to make do with Scorsese’s sophomore effort, another short film called What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing In a Place Like This?

Shot in ’63, it’s a comedic piece made during Scorsese’s studies at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. We like the jaunty piano music and the creative time lapse filming.

The Director: Sam Raimi
Age: 18
How Did They Get Their Break?
Samuel Marshall Raimi began his illustrious career exactly as he meant to go on - his first short, It’s Murder! featured old mate Bruce Campbell as ‘Police Officer on Bicycle’.

The pair have now worked on, well, quite a few films together, including Raimi’s big break, a little horror flick called The Evil Dead .

Before that, though, there was the aforementioned It’s Murder! (a comedy about murder and inheritance), Within the Woods (a scary, 30 minute, Super 8 precursor to Evil Dead ) and Clockwork (a serial killer stalks a homeless woman).

The Director: Orson Welles
Age: 19
How Did They Get Their Break?
Welles’ career is the thing of movie legend. He directed his defining film Citizen Kane when he was just 26. But a few years before that he honed his skills with two shorts.

The first, Hearts of the Age , he co-directed with William Vance in 1934. True to form, Welles took the biggest role of the piece (Death), while his first wife Virginia Nicholson also starred.

Four years later, he made Too Much Johnson , a comedy that was intended to be used as part of the staging of the show at the Mercury Theatre. But Welles didn’t factor in the ceiling height of the theatre, which was too low for film projection, and the footage was never used.

Welles edited the film in his hotel suite, and John Houseman remembers that any visitors had to “wade knee-deep through a crackling sea of inflammable film.”

Sadly there is no existing print.

The Director: Brian De Palma
Age: 20
How Did They Get Their Break?
De Palma broke into the film industry during the 1960s with a number of shorts, including Woton’s Wake , which earned him numerous awards and plaudits.

Both The Wedding Party (produced in ’66 but released in ’69) and Greetings (1968) were low budget but well-received (the latter starring a very young Robert De Niro).

But it wasn’t until 1976 when De Palma adapted Stephen King’s novel Carrie that his career started to take off.

Since then he has earned himself even more awards (including a baffling Razzie nomination for Scarface in 1984), and is considered one of the best thriller directors working in Hollywood.

Next: Lee, Coppola, Lucas and Smith [page-break]

The Director: Spike Lee
Age: 20
How Did They Get Their Break?
Since 1983, Spike Lee’s film company 40 Acres & A Mule has managed to squeeze out an epic 35 films, including Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X .

While studying at Morehouse College, he produced short film Last Hustle in Brooklyn , and graduated with a BA in Mass Communication before enrolling at the same New York film school where Scorsese cut his teeth.

Lee’s thesis film Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads went down in history as the first student film ever to be aired at the Lincoln Center's New Directors New Films Festival.

The Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Age: 21
How Did They Get Their Break?
At just 10-years-old, Francis Ford Coppola took up his father’s 8mm camera and started exploring the visual world.

His first official credit came when he was 21, on sci-fi Nebo zovyot - except he went under the pseudonym Thomas Colchart.

A Russian film made in 1959, the legendary Roger Corman bought the flick’s US rights and enlisted a young Coppola to re-edit it for an American audience.

The result is messy but fascinating.

Working under Corman’s nurturing wing, Coppola made his first important film just three years later when he directed Dementia 13 , a gory horror that boasted an impressively Gothic atmosphere.

The Director: George Lucas
Age: 21
How Did They Get Their Break?
George Lucas... race car driver? Yep, that’s the career a wee Lucas was intent on (not that the pod race scene in Phantom Menace gives it away).

Lucky for us, Lucas had a near-fatal crash in 1962 that made him realise that choreographed smashes and bashes were probably safer.

As a teenager, Lucas was weaned on the 16 mm films of Jordan Belson and Bruce Conner.

His first film, Look at Life , was a Connor-inspired montage that pieced together images from the year.

Later, Lucas managed to impress cinematographer Haskell Wexler with his camera-handling skills before a fortuitous meeting with fellow student filmmaker Steven Spielberg cemented his future in film. Which might be overly simplistic, but isn’t it a dreamy story?

The Director: Kevin Smith
Age: 22
How Did They Get Their Break?
Smith’s first film, Mae Day: The Crumbling of a Documentary , was shot with co-director Scott Mosier while the pair were at the Vancouver Film School.

The latter dubbed it “the greatest documentary that never was”. It followed the duo’s failed attempt to made a documentary about the titular Mae Day, who was going through a sex change.

Just two years later, Smith made Clerks .

Next: Polanski, Hitchcock, Cronenberg and Tarantino [page-break]

The Director: Roman Polanski
Age: 22
How Did They Get Their Break?
Oscar-winning, French-Pole Polanski made his first film in 1955. Entitled Rower (meaning bicycle), it was to be a trial by hellfire when only half of the footage that Polanski shot was returned to him by the lab.

No matter. Seven short years (and eight short films) later, he made Knife in the Water , which was nominated for an Oscar.

Give it another few years and Polanski took home the golden baldie for The Piano .

The Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Age: 23
How Did They Get Their Break?
Hitchcock’s filmic debut never got completed. Number 13 , made in 1922, ran out of finances halfway through.

The footage has since been lost to Father Time. We blame that devilish, bad-luck-attracting odd number in the title.

Hitch didn’t have much luck the following year, either, with Always Tell Your Wife. Co-director Hugh Croise left him off the credits. It was a remake.

It wasn’t until 1925’s Pleasure Garden that Hitchcock finally got one that stuck, directing Virginia Valli in a silence crime romance.

The Director: David Cronenberg
Age: 23
How Did They Get Their Break?
The Canadian father of body horror started his career at 23 with two 16mm short films: Transfer and From the Drain .

The latter is a dialogue-driven, 13 minute black and white piece featuring two men in the bath, both of whom seem distinctly, well, insane.

A few years later, Cronenberg joined forces with Ivan Reitman, and made a name for himself with body horrific films like Rabid and Shivers , which combined cerebral concerns about the human form with full-on terror.

The Director: Quentin Tarantino
Age: 24
How Did They Get Their Break?

You can thank Lawrence Bender for Tarantino’s first film, 1987 short comedy My Best Friend’s Birthday .

Having met Tarantino at a Hollywood shindig, Bender encouraged him to write a script. Birthday was the result.

Though the film’s final reel was destroyed by a fire, the screenplay ended up being the inspiration for the Tarantino-scripted crime epic True Romance .

Next: Meadows and Linklater [page-break]

The Director: Shane Meadows
Age: 24
How Did They Get Their Break?
Maverick-turned-mogul Shane Meadows left school after his GCSEs, shot a load of short films, and then discovered he had nowhere to show them. When his friends set up a short film screening club at his local cinema it became massively popular.

It was when he was 24, though, that Meadows made his first official film, Where’s the Money, Ronnie?

A 12 minute short, it was a gritty Nottingham-set comedy that established the mould for much of Meadows’ work to come – namely smart, insular, realistic stories about people living in the Midlands.

The Director: Richard Linklater
Age: 25
How Did They Get Their Break?
Not just anybody can brag that they’ve worked on an oil rig. Well, Richard Linklater can. The Houston native quit college halfway through in favour of working on an off-shore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

When he got back, he bought himself a Super 8 and a projector, and moved to Austin, where he founded the Austin Film Society in 1985.

That same year he made the first of a series of short films, titled Woodshock , about a music festival in Texas.

His first feature film came three years later, when he made It’s Impossible to Learn Plow by Reading Books .

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Josh Winning has worn a lot of hats over the years. Contributing Editor at Total Film, writer for SFX, and senior film writer at the Radio Times. Josh has also penned a novel about mysteries and monsters, is the co-host of a movie podcast, and has a library of pretty phenomenal stories from visiting some of the biggest TV and film sets in the world. He would also like you to know that he "lives for cat videos..." Don't we all, Josh. Don't we all.