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Now that the playing field is level, what puts one filmmaker ahead of another? For Renan Ozturk, a veteran expedition filmmaker, the answer is simple: suffering. “You get maybe five [magic moments] in your life,” Renan told us. “You have to suffer a little more for them, put yourself out there a little more…”

Despite being necessarily collaborative, filmmaking can be lonely. And that loneliness can start to affect you — not just personally, but creatively as well. It’s hard to do good work when you don’t have people behind you.

Hazuki Aikawa makes films that might make you uncomfortable. They tackle subjects that confront norms and may make you squirm in your seat. When a tsunami hit Japan in 2011, she made a series of experimental films encouraging people to listen to the sounds of the carnage. Her work is always provocative. And for good reason. Hazuki is not only challenging our preconceptions and biases ⎯ she’s also challenging her own.

It’s easy to make charity films the wrong way. Low budget, heavy handed, cliché ridden, predictable. If they work at all, it’s because they shame us into caring. But that’s the old way of doing things. At least according to Stefan Hunt, whose cause-based films rival Wes Anderson’s for their playfulness, spontaneity, beauty, and fun. They’re great films regardless of the cause they’re promoting. Many of them have won Vimeo Staff Picks. For Stefan, creativity and storytelling are just as important as educating people on an issue. “I want to inspire people to help, not guilt them into helping,” Stefan told us.

You don’t need a reason to make films, but it helps. Case in point: Paul Pryor, director and cinematographer best known for his work with TOMS Shoes, Charity: Water, and The Adventure Project. Paul makes films for a very simple reason: to help people. His work has helped raise awareness and funds for some of the most important issues facing our world today. (Thanks, Paul!)

e week after graduating from high school, Cale Glendening drove his mom’s car 1,465 miles from Oklahoma to Los Angeles to begin his career as a filmmaker. He didn’t have a plan, a job, or even a place to stay. He’d taken one video production class (and got a C in it), and he would soon be rejected by USC’s film school. But as you’ll see from our conversation below, discouragement has a sort of reverse effect on Cale. It makes him work harder.

If you we were to list all the reasons why you should listen to Lenore DeKoven’s advice about becoming a better director, it would take a long, long time. So we’ll just list a few: Lenore has worked as a director and producer in theater, film, and television. She has taught at UCLA, NYU, and Columbia, and has been a member of Columbia University’s Graduate Film division for more than 20 years. And on top of all that, she wrote a book, Changing Direction, that has been recommended by everyone from Ang Lee to our good friend Salomon Ligthelm.

If there is such thing as a “traditional path” to becoming a film director, Elle Ginter did not take it. After finishing her degree in journalism, Elle literally found herself out to sea. She worked on a whale-watching boat and talked to people about whales. As luck would have it, her job on the boat eventually led her onto major Hollywood sets with people like Adam Sandler and David Spade…

“I am a guidance counselor’s worst nightmare,” Brandon Bray, creative director at DECADE, told us about his zigzagging, Tasmanian devil-esque career path, which has included everything from launching a successful coffee shop chain to all but disappearing into the landscape of rural China. No matter what he was doing, though — no matter how far removed he was from filmmaking — filmmaking was always on his mind. After returning to the craft in 2008, Brandon hasn’t looked back.