Age: 31
Notable films: LOL (2006), Hannah Takes the Stairs (2007), Alexander the Last (2009), Silver Bullets (2011), V/H/S (2012), Drinking Buddies (2013)

Joe Swanberg has certainly evolved from LOL, an ambitious, somewhat successful look at the pervasive influence of technology on American culture. His movies have gone from playing like impressive student films to prime examples of thoughtful independent cinema.

Watching 2012's V/H/S and 2013's Drinking Buddies, it looks like Swanberg has grown up from simply filming meditations on his own life, and has begun to explore the outskirts of genre conventions. In V/H/S, he manages to take the tried and true found footage technique a step further, this time using Skype cameras to tell the story of a long-distance couple dealing with some supernatural problems.

As for Drinking Buddies, on the surface it looks like just another rom com: it's about best friends teetering on the edge of something more. However, what makes it a surprising leap for Swanberg isn't just his stacked cast of name actors—Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston—but also his ability to take the romantic comedy formula and make it digestible for cynics who associate the genre with Katherine Heigl. —TA