Film Independent, the nonprofit arts org that produces the Film Independent Spirit Awards, has announced its panelists for the 20th annual Directors Close-Up (DCU). As an official part of the month-long ramp-up to the April 22 Spirit Awards ceremony, the upcoming online panel series features in-depth discussions with the most celebrated filmmakers of the past year. As previously announced, 100% of this year’s DCU panelists will be 2021 Spirit Award nominees–a first in the history of the long-running program.

The DCU offers creators and enthusiasts of TV and film a unique opportunity to hear acclaimed filmmakers discussing specific aspects of their craft in-depth. The series will take place every Wednesday over the course of two months, featuring the Spirit Award nominated directors and creators from indie film, documentary and television—all streamed directly to viewers’ laptop, living room or mobile device. View the entire schedule, as well as how to attend here.

Discussing their work across separate panels will be:

  • Alex Thompson (director, Saint Frances)
  • Alexander Nanau (director, Collective)
  • Alice Wu (writer/director, The Half of It)
  • Andy Siara (writer, Palm Springs)
  • Anna Winger (creator, Unorthodox)
  • Chaitanya Tamhane (writer/director, The Disciple)
  • Channing Godfrey Peoples (writer/director, Miss Juneteenth)
  • Chloé Zhao (writer/director/editor, Nomadland)
  • Christine Clusiau (co-director, Immigration Nation)
  • Darius Marder (co-writer/director, Sound of Metal)
  • Edson Oda (writer/director, Nine Days)
  • Eliza Hittman (writer/director, Never Rarely Sometimes Always)
  • Emerald Fennell (writer/director, Promising Young Woman)
  • Emily V. Gordon (creator, Little America)
  • Garrett Bradley (director, Time)
  • Heidi Ewing (co-director, Love Fraud and co-writer/director, I Carry You With Me)
  • Isabel Sandoval (writer/director, Lingua Franca)
  • James LeBrecht (co-director, Crip Camp)
  • James Sweeney (writer, Straight Up)
  • Jasmila Žbanić (writer/director, Quo Vadis, Aida?)
  • Juliano Dornelles (co-writer/co-director, Bacurau)
  • Kelly O’Sullivan (writer/actor, Saint Frances)
  • Kelly Reichardt (writer/director, First Cow)
  • Kirsten Johnson (director, Dick Johnson is Dead)
  • Kitty Green (writer/director, The Assistant)
  • Kleber Mendonça Filho (co-writer/co-director, Bacurau)
  • Kumail Nanjiani (creator, Little America)
  • Lee Eisenberg (creator, Little America)
  • Lee Isaac Chung (writer/director, Minari)
  • Lili Horvát (writer/director, Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time)
  • Maite Alberdi (writer/director The Mole Agent)
  • Maro Chermayeff (director Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children)
  • Merawi Gerima (writer/director, Residue)
  • Mike Makowsky (writer, Bad Education)
  • Nicole Newnham (co-director, Crip Camp)
  • Noah Hutton (writer, Lapsis)
  • Patricia Vidal Delgado (writer/director, La Leyenda Negra)
  • Peter LoGreco (executive producer/director, We’re Here)
  • Rachel Grady (co-director, Love Fraud)
  • Radha Blank (writer/director/actor, The Forty-Year-Old Version)
  • Robert Machoian (writer/director, The Killing of Two Lovers)
  • Sam Pollard (director, Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children)
  • Shaul Schwarz (co-director, Immigration Nation)
  • Steve James (director, City So Real)
  • Steve McQueen (creator/director, Small Axe)

Additional participants to be announced.

“This year’s Directors Close Up encompasses everything Film Independent stands for: a confluence of emerging talent with veteran filmmakers,” says María Raquel Bozzi, Film Independent’s Senior Director of Education and International Initiatives, adding that this year’s DCU panelists are “Creating the most provocative, imaginative, and inclusive stories in Film and TV on a global scale.”

Past DCU panelists have included Sean Baker, Alfonso Cuarón, Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, Guillermo Del Toro, Lena Dunham, Ava DuVernay, Greta Gerwig, Nicole Holofcener, Barry Jenkins, Richard Linklater, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Issa Rae, Josh & Benny Safdie, Justin Simien, Joey Soloway, Denis Villeneuve, Benh Zeitlin and many more.

The 2021 Directors Close-Up is sponsored by Premier Sponsors Directors Guild of America (DGA) and SAGindie, and Film Independent Spirit Awards Premier Sponsors Genesis and IFC. Bulleit Frontier Whiskey is the Official Spirit. FIJI Water is the Official Water. Getty Images is the Official Photographer. We are also honored to be partnering with the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) SeeHer, the leading global movement for gender equality in media, advertising, marketing and entertainment and AMC Networks to further celebrate and act as a catalyst for accurate and meaningful representation in storytelling.

Closed captioning will be available for the Directors Close-Up series, and the sessions will be available on demand, exclusively to passholders, after the series concludes on April 21.

Passes are available now at to the general public, and Film Independent Members save 50%. Film Independent Arts Circle and Filmmaker Pro Members to attend for free.

Film Independent is the nonprofit arts organization that champions creative independence in visual storytelling and supports a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision. Film Independent helps filmmakers make their movies, builds an audience for their projects and works to diversify the film industry. Film Independent’s Board of Directors, filmmakers, staff and constituents form an inclusive community of individuals across ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race and sexual orientation. Anyone passionate about film can become a Member, whether you are a filmmaker, industry professional or a film lover.


In addition to producing the Spirit Awards, Film Independent produces Film Independent Presents, a year-round screening series for its members that offers unique cinematic experiences for the worldwide creative community as well as film lovers in the general public. Through annual screenings and events, Film Independent provides access to a network of like-minded artists who are driving creativity in the film industry.


Film Independent’s Artist Development program offers free labs for selected writers, directors, producers and documentary filmmakers and presents year-round networking opportunities, like Project Involve, Film Independent’s signature program dedicated to fostering the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry. A year-round slate of Education and International programs cultivate the careers of filmmakers and promote diversity, inclusion and cultural exchange across the film industry.


The winners of the Film Independent Spirit Awards are voted upon by Film Independent Members. Membership is open to the public. For more information or to become a Member, visit