Tig Notaro, comedian

It’s hard to imagine surviving a year like the one Tig Notaro had (she was diagnosed with breast cancer and suffered a hellish handful of other personal setbacks). It’s harder still to imagine turning it all into one of the most acclaimed comedy moments of the year (her set at Largo in L.A., about which Louis C.K. said: “In 27 years doing this, I’ve seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night at Largo"). But you don’t get to be a creator we love by not being an inspirational badass. Read more about Notaro’s story and creative approach here.

The De-De Team, Developers

We’ve devoted a huge amount of attention this year to ad agencies working to change their models from fee-based creative service providers to developers of their own product. It’s one of the ad industry’s most interesting and, in the long term, important developments. Not because ad agencies should stop making ads for brands that pay them to do so, but because ad agencies have, to an increasing degree, the talent, tools, and expertise on consumer behavior to translate their creativity to meaningful, ownable, ideas and things. Several agencies this year made significant strides in this area, including De-De. We’re calling out this particular operation because of its model and its end product. De-De (Design & Develop) is a standalone creation of agency Droga5, with its own staff (headed by CEO Hashem Bajwa) structure, and goals. So far, the arm has produced Thunderclap, a "crowdspeaking" platform that allows people and organizations to unite their tweets to create a bigger social media impact (the platform was used to rally a billion voices for World Humanitarian Day) and the newly launched Pling, an innovative voice-messaging platform. Other products in the works have us equally excited and reflect the combination of tech expertise and storytelling/consumer sensibility that the agency world is uniquely qualified to bring to a startup scene that could sorely use it.

Tom Scharpling, writer, radio host, director

Tom Scharpling is the kind of creative polymath whose face could be the logo for Co.Create. We celebrate creativity across disciplines and Scharpling is a true multi-platform creator. From hosting "The Best Show" on WFMU to being a journalist (a resume segment that includes writing for magazines and launching sports site The Classical) to writing for TV show Monk (and working on another show in development), he’s done it all. But you may know him best as a music video director--his clips for bands like The New Pornographers and Real Estate have been consistently fresh, funny, and packed with celebrity friends. His latest, with Aimee Mann was an inspired recreation of a classic and it featured Jon Hamm. Why does he do all these things? Why not? He once told Co.Create: "I’m not trying to sound like Tony Robbins, but people make up their own limitations a lot of times. They say they can’t do something; who says? Just try it. What’s the worst that can happen?"

Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks, one of Hollywood’s biggest names, earns a salute for stretching creatively and exploring new storytelling platforms with his Yahoo series, Electric City (which he talks to us about here). But the Hanks oeuvre expanded in some less official, but equally delightful directions this year. In general, he seemed to just engage with the world, via social media and other means, in a very human way. There was his amazing letter to The Nerdist’s Chris Hardwick after the latter bribed the star with a vintage typewriter in a ploy to get him on the show; there was this picture of him playing along with a random bro fan, and, of course, his adorable profanity bomb on GMA.

Eric Kallman, executive creative director, Barton F. Graf 9000

The agency Barton F. Graf 9000 continued to make a unique impression on audiences this year with a steady stream of strangely pleasing advertising. And while BFG founder Gerry Graf has been recognized here before, we’re pointing the finger this time at the other creative responsible for the madness, Eric Kallman, the agency’s ECD. Kallman, you may recall, was one half of the W+K duo that created the Old Spice "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" phenomenon, among other things, and his sensibility flourished at BFG. Kallman was one of the creatives behind the much discussed Ragu campaign that recognized the trials of childhood (a campaign that included a spot centering on a mistaken peek at parental nookie). He’s also contributed to the always-insane Kayak ads, including the "Brain Surgeon" spot, the Little Caesars pizza work that’s included an ongoing series of spots, and a Forbidden Pizza stunt.

Glen Mazzara, executive producer

We salute the return to form of The Walking Dead in season three, but we’re also mightily impressed with executive producer Glen Mazzara’s management style. He talked to us about it at length here, and there are lessons aplenty for anyone working with a creative team (and zombies).

Issa Rae, writer, YouTube star

All Issa Rae had to do to make us love her was tell us: ""Running into someone multiple times per day in the hallway is something I’m uncomfortable with. It gives me anxiety." She’s just like us! But she did other things too, like grow her hilarious web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, earn millions of YouTube views, and the attention of Pharrell Williams and land a TV deal, working with Shonda Rhimes on a new show for ABC, I Hate L.A. Dudes.

Vince Gilligan

We have no problem with obvious picks. There aren’t many more accolades that can be heaped upon Breaking Bad, but we add this final hat tip for Gilligan’s refreshingly frank talk about his inspiration for his characters (“I’m not as nice as I seem. When you’re able to draw up very dark ideas, you must have great depths of darkness within you. I might just be good at hiding it") and for sharing with us a small glimpse into what made the show what it is.

Mark Duplass, writer, director, actor

Another nuttily prolific creator, Mark Duplass stars in the upcoming critical hit Zero Dark Thirty. That performance caps a year in which Duplass starred in Your Sister’s Sister, with Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt, and Safety Not Guaranteed, with Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza, co-wrote and co-directed (with brother Jay) Jeff, Who Lives at Home , and starred in the fourth season of the hit TV show The League on FX. Beyond his work ethic and improvisational directorial style, we loved his attitude toward creative collaboration and being open to input: "For me, it’s admitting that you don’t know everything. Also admitting that not every movie is going to be better than the last. There’s a certain amount of luck to making a good movie. And it’s about getting the movie to 95%. Because it takes three times as much time to take a movie from 95% to 100% as it does to get from 0% to 95%. And then when you get to 95%, ask for help. I don’t know why directors don’t do this more. Some of them seem like if they don’t finish the movie themselves with their own vision, then they’re failing."

Benh Zeitlin and Court 13

Sundance and Cannes darling and now Oscar contender Beasts of The Southern Wild was one of the cinematic highlights of the year. Equally fascinating and awe-inspiring was the creative ethic behind the film and the handmade approach that came through in every frame. Zeitlin’s ode to painting the back of the chair even if no one sees it was one of our favorite interview segments this year:
"Sometimes you watch something and you don’t sense any love in it and that’s like when you eat food that comes out of a machine and you are technically full but you don’t feel like there was anything real in it. We’re attempting to change the ingredients that go into the screen. Everything that ends up on screen is made by an artist and it’s loved and it’s cared for and it has an individual creativity and it has sweat and muscle in it in a way that it wouldn’t if we were synthesizing things more or cutting corners. On a normal film set if you know the shot is going to be here and we don’t have to see the back of your chair you wouldn’t paint it. But we would never do that. It has to be there--that chair is its own object that deserves respect and love."

Steven Soderbergh

His movie choices are always interesting--and we don’t mean that in a backhanded Chinese proverb way. We mean that while the director is an intense craftsman, he’s another big talent who seems engaged with the real world, and it comes through in the projects he does. And the results just work. He cast a decidedly inexperienced actor, MMA fighter Gina Carano in an movie he’d been noodling (Haywire) and the resulting action scenes were some of the freshest we’ve seen; Magic Mike was a genius "why-hasn’t-anyone-really-done-this-properly idea (an idea he fielded from Channing Tatum) that turned into a cultural phenomenon. And we loved his appetite for creative-destruction; he told us, in the wake of announcing that he was planning to leave feature filmmaking: "I feel like we haven’t pushed this thing, this form into its next phase yet. I don’t think that’s an incremental process. I think I need to tear down, I need to destroy everything I’ve done so far and start over again. See if I can become a primitive again."

Lance Acord, Director, Park Pictures

Working with Wieden + Kennedy Portland, Lance Acord brought to life one of the ad highlights of the 2012 Olympics, the Nike "Find Your Greatness" campaign (made all the greater because of Nike’s status as non sponsor of the Olympics). The anthem spot showed less famous but no less important athletic achievements in the "other Londons" around the world. But the spot here, "Jogger," showed how much greatness can live in the simplest possible idea, executed to Olympian standards.

Nonny de la Peña

Journalist-turned-filmmaker Nonny de la Pena brought the real world to the Sundance Film Festival. Sort of. De la Peña used game software, motion tracking, and a head-mounted virtual reality display to create an experience that allowed festival-goers to witness a real event that took place in a food line in L.A. Her work puts a new lens on journalism, storytelling, and bringing real issues to people in a way that stick.
Read about it here.

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Creators We Love: The 13 People Who Made The World More Creative in 2012

From entertainment titans to independent collectives, from journalists-turned-filmmakers to multi-talented multi-hypenates, these are the creators that destroyed creative boundaries (and had the best stories to tell).

This holiday season is reason enough in itself for celebration but it also marks Co.Create’s one-year anniversary.

Over the past year, we’ve talked to a mind-expanding array of creative people—from feature film directors, TV showrunners, writers and editors to ad creatives, strategists, artists, CMOs, CEOs, photographers, illustrators, tech developers, and many more people who can’t be categorized. They shared the secrets to their creativity and the stories behind their work. They helped us demonstrate how creative borders are disappearing and how creative minds are working across disciplines that were off limits or didn’t exist a few years ago. But mostly, they just had great ideas that they made happen in really excellent ways.

Here, a small sampling of the creators whose stories and methods and quotes most stuck with us.

Fox Searchlight Pictures

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