You can’t watch a political New York film, a Brooklyn film, a Harlem film, or a September 11 film without thinking that Spike Lee got there first (if only he could have so great an impact on his beloved Knicks). More important, Lee serves as artistic director of the talent factory that is the NYU Film School, making him not only an inspiration to current directors but also a mentor to future ones. This year, he reemerged as a filmmaker with Inside Man—boosting his once-flagging Hollywood clout. And he’s currently prepping a Hurricane Katrina documentary.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Actor, co–artistic director, the LAByrinth Theater
Whereas the elder Methods like Brando and Pacino thrived by exuding sexiness, he wins an Oscar and two Tonys by disappearing—with mesmerizing performances in a baffling range of work, including Capote, Magnolia, Flawless, and Happiness, and, onstage, True West and Shakespeare in the Park. Hoffman is redefining the idea of a leading man and paving the way for a new wave of character-driven cinema that’s making stars out of New York chameleons like Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Wright, and Liev Schreiber.
Founder, Cinetic Media and Sloss Law Office LLP; principal in InDigEnt
The most powerful film agent in New York, Sloss is the unseen hand sculpting the indie-film world. He’s rated executive-producer credits on more than 45 of the most cutting-edge (and most marketable) indie films in recent years, from documentaries like The Fog of War to indie hits Far From Heaven and Boys Don’t Cry. But it’s not just his instincts; Sloss is tracking down new film funding from diverse sources, such as hedge funds and Native American casino owners. Sloss is most revered as an entertainment lawyer, lapping every other sales agent in New York and representing the city’s hippest film-client list, including Bob Dylan, Richard Linklater (and his new documentary, Fast Food Nation), and Christine Vachon’s Killer Films. He has emerged as the top broker at Sundance, catapulting Napoleon Dynamite in 2004, then scoring this year’s biggest deal for Little Miss Sunshine.
The transplanted Frenchman’s homemade, pop-charged playfulness and pure embrace of mind-blowing technique—on display in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, and the forthcoming The Science of Sleep—are leaving their mark on the spotless minds of a new generation of New York auteurs. “He’s the guy all the young filmmakers are trying to copy,” says Phil Morrison, director of the Oscar-nominated Junebug. “People sit around wondering, How’d he pull that off? How’d he do that? People study his shots like they study Scorsese’s.”