Stephen Cone
Cone in 2023
Occupation(s)Actor, film director, editor, producer, writer
Years active2005–present

Stephen Cone is an American filmmaker who has received early career retrospectives on the Criterion Channel, MUBI and at the Museum of the Moving Image, Berlin's Unknown Pleasures Festival and Manchester's Bigger Than Life. .[1]

Early life

Cone was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and raised in South Carolina.[2] He moved to Chicago in 2004 and, in his words, taught himself to make movies "by making movies."[3]


In 2006, Cone wrote, produced, and directed his first short film Church Story with actors Isabel Liss, Bill McGough, and Arian Moayed. In 2007, Cone followed with the short film Young Wives. His medium-length film, a metaphysical drama called The Christians, was completed in 2008 and featured performances by J. Kingsford Goode, Bill McGough, Arian Moayed, Sadie Rogers, Laurel Schroeder, Krissy Shields, and Robert Belushi, oldest son of actor Jim Belushi.

Cone's next feature film, the full-length In Memoriam, released in 2011, follows a group of college students reenacting the last hours of two dead peers who fell to their deaths attempting to make love. In Memoriam was praised by film critic Roger Ebert as "a touching film."[4] Cone later reflected on the effect Ebert's review had, writing:

I had had almost zero success or exposure up to that point. In Memoriam was bombing with festival programmers. I, to this day, do not know why he reviewed that film, and I can't believe he actually liked it. (I'm too hard on that film, I think.) I'm not sure I would've kept going without a) those Ebert reviews, and b) programmer Kim Yutani programming The Wise Kids at Outfest.[5]

Cone's third theatrical film, the coming-of-age drama The Wise Kids, also released in 2011, was a critical success. It also garnered praise from Roger Ebert,[6] Variety's Robert Koehler,[7] and Stephen Holden of The New York Times.[8] The film was a Critics' Pick for The New York Times and won the Grand Jury Prizes for U.S. Feature and Best Screenplay at Outfest.[8][9] It was subsequently released on cable/VOD and DVD by Wolfe Video.[9]

In 2013, Cone released his fourth theatrical film Black Box. While not as widely seen as The Wise Kids due to an initial lack of distribution,[10] the film garnered praise from Newcity's Ray Pride[11] and Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune, who gave the film 3½ out of 4 stars and called it "a worthy follow-up to Cone's previous film."[12] Black Box was later acquired by Devolver Digital Films for a late 2014 cable/VOD release.

Cone completed two unreleased experimental features in 2014, The Mystery of Life and This Afternoon, and in 2015 completed the coming-of-age drama Henry Gamble's Birthday Party.[13][14][15] Henry Gamble was featured in The New York Times "Anatomy of a Scene" series, screened within BAMcinemaFest and BFI Flare, and was the winner of the Silver Q Hugo Award at the 2015 Chicago International Film Festival. It is currently available to screen on Hulu. His latest film Princess Cyd [16] appeared on Vanity Fair's Ten Best Films of the 2010s after appearing on multiple Best of 2017 lists including IndieWire, Vulture, Vanity Fair, Vox and NPR and screening at dozens of festivals worldwide including the BFI London Film Festival, BAMcinemaFest, Frameline and Maryland Film Festival. It was acquired for distribution by Wolfe Releasing and is also currently streaming on Hulu.


Year Film Credited Director Credited Producer Credited Writer Credited Actor Credited Role Notes
2006 Church Story Yes Yes Yes Short film
2007 Young Wives Yes Yes Yes Short film
2008 The Christians Yes Yes Yes
2011 In Memoriam Yes Yes Yes Yes Eric
The Wise Kids Yes Yes Yes Yes Austin
2013 Black Box Yes Yes Yes
2014 This Afternoon Yes Yes Yes
The Mystery of Life Yes Yes Yes
2015 Henry Gamble's Birthday Party Yes Yes Yes
2016 Show Yourself Yes Daniel
2017 Princess Cyd Yes Yes Yes


  1. ^ Three by Stephen Cone - The Criterion Channel
  2. ^ Cohen, Susan (June 10, 2010). "Director returns to Charleston to film newest feature: Stephen Cone coming back to the Lowcountry". Charleston City Paper. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  3. ^ "The Wise Kids". Kickstarter. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 22, 2011). "In Memoriam". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  5. ^ Ross, Brad S. (January 4, 2018). "Interview with Stephen Cone". ArtsComment. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 26, 2011). "The Wise Kids". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  7. ^ Koehler, Robert (July 31, 2011). "Review: 'The Wise Kids'". Variety. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  8. ^ a b Holden, Stephen (March 15, 2012). "Teenagers Perplexed About Faith and Sexuality: 'The Wise Kids,' a Coming-of-Age Story by Stephen Cone". The New York Times. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  9. ^ a b Smith, Nigel M. (July 31, 2012). "Wolfe Video Acquires DVD/VOD Rights to Outfest Winner 'The Wise Kids'". Indiewire. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  10. ^ Tully, Michael (2013). "Indiewire 2013 Year-End Critics Poll Ballots: Best Undistributed Film". Indiewire. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  11. ^ Pride, Ray (May 28, 2014). "Review: Black Box". Newcity. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  12. ^ Phillips, Michael (May 29, 2014). "Review: 'Black Box'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  13. ^ Newman, Nick (2014). "Pat Healy, Tyler Ross, and Cole Doman to Lead Stephen Cone-Helmed 'Henry Gamble's Birthday Party'". The Film Stage. Retrieved July 8, 2014.
  14. ^ Phillips, Michael (October 12, 2014). "Today's Chicago film festival pick: 'This Afternoon'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  15. ^ Phillips, Michael (September 12, 2014). "Young filmmaker plays intriguing long game". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  16. ^ Hipes, Patrick (May 4, 2017). "Wolfe Releasing Acquires Coming-Of-Age Pic Princess Cyd'; CinTel To Open 'The Toybox'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 23, 2017.