The Rookie Filmmakers
Ryan Coogler and Gia Coppola have fearlessly accomplished the near impossible: the singular and assured debut.

The exhilaration a director feels when his or her first film is a home run is well-documented. But the terror that comes with it? Not so much. Yet that's what motivates Ryan Coogler, who wrote and directed Fruitvale Station—based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a young black man killed by transit police in Coogler's hometown of Oakland—on a shoestring budget in less than a month with a tiny crew. Now that Fruitvale has blown up into an indie hit with Oscar buzz, he has to prove he can do it again. Fast. Coogler's confident he can handle the pressure. "I'm from a part of Oakland where I shouldn't even be talking to you," he says with a laugh. "Every time I step out of my door, I've got fear. So, yeah, I'm afraid. But if I didn't learn how to confront my fears, I would never have left the house." He'd like to keep making films as emotionally engaging and personal as Fruitvale—movies like one of his favorites, about another guy who beat fear and the odds: "Rocky's nothing but a human story," says Coogler, who is attached to write and direct Creed, a sort of Rocky prequel-cum-spinoff. Unlike the 1976 film's big-budget sequels, the original, he points out, "was made for less than a million bucks."

Gia Coppola's fears were more deep-seated: living up to a weighty last name. Grandfather: Francis Ford. Aunt: Sofia. With that kind of filmmaking DNA, she didn't need an assist but got one anyway: James Franco handpicked her to write and direct the adaptation of his coming-of-age short-story collection, Palo Alto. Although celebrated in artistic circles, Coppola had made only short fashion films with friends, "and I wanted to keep that family feeling [on set], because it was nerve-racking. James took me step by step and made the process tangible, but also pushed me to have my own interpretation. He wanted a female point of view." It's a lyrical debut from a woman whose fragile appearance belies a steely will. "My biggest frustration is when people aren't truthful," she says. "I can handle the truth."

Ryan Coogler, 27 (pictured, above)
Credit Check: Fruitvale Station; upcoming: Creed
End Run: "The thing I love about filmmaking is that it's so chaotic. I played football for a long time, and it's the same thing: To produce your best, you've really got to be in the moment."

Gia Coppola, 26
Credit Check: Palo Alto
Sticks and Stones: "Directing is a weird balance of having to be strong but not overbearing. If you're too forceful, you're considered difficult. But if you're not forceful, you're meek. Either way, you're probably going to be labeled, so you just have to go get the job done."

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The 2013 Hollywood Mavericks

The Transformer

The New Kings of Doc

The Antiestablishment Exec

The Dynamic Duos

The Soundtrack Wizard

The Netflix Natives

The Cutting-Edge Comedians

The Character Actresses

The Crowdsourcer

The Creative Capitalists

The Prestige Producer

The Rookie Filmmakers

The Indie Auteur