For Academy Award-winning filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, the only way to make the film that would launch his career was to do so on his own terms. After living in both Germany and the United States during his childhood, von Donnersmarck went on to study philosophy at Oxford University and Russian in St. Petersburg. He even interned for Sir Richard Attenborough before going back to his native Germany to join the Directing Class of the Munich Film Academy. There, von Donnersmarck worked on many short films, but none of his projects satisfied his creative needs, so in 2001, he left the school to make a full-length feature called The Lives of Others. Set during the 1980s in East Germany, the movie tells the story of a secret-service agent who becomes strangely preoccupied with the couple he spies upon. Five years went by as von Donnersmarck dealt with the process of writing, directing, and producing the film, but in 2006, the movie was released and met with tremendous critical acclaim, winning an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.