Who in the film industry inspires you the most?

Sarah: Amy Sherman-Palladino. Her creation of Gilmore Girls was influential in depicting beautifully authentic and wonderfully flawed women on screen, who were not only intelligent and quick-witted, but made choices that were ambitious and wholly independent. Sherman-Palladino in interviews explains that its quick-paced, pop-culture-referencing heavy dialogue was intentional in that she never wanted to dumb-down her audience. She believed in her characters, her vision, and her dialogue. It inspired a movement across the country of mothers and daughters bonding over watching episodes (my mom and I included!), as well as book clubs based off Rory’s obsession with literature. Every young girl in America wanted to be Rory, and now more grown up, I love Lorelai just as much. I can’t really tell you how many lines of dialogue slip into everyday conversation, or how many times I’ve binged-watched all seven seasons. Needless to say, I’m excited for the Netflix reboot on Thanksgiving. Sherman-Palladino for the win.

Stephen: Robert Rodriguez. He is one of the biggest indie filmmakers today and he built his empire on his terms. He is “living the dream” when it comes to indie production companies and it all started in his mid-twenties and with $7,000. Now his company, Troublemaker Studios, is completely self-sufficient with top end post-production facilities including sound stages converted from old airplane hangers. All of which is built outside of LA and located in Austin, Texas. Outside of the production end, he writes, directs, composes, edits, produces, and more. He has created movies across multiple genres, created television shows and even has his own network, El Rey. The best part is that he has managed to do all this outside the studio system. If you were to ask me what my ultimate dream is for my career in this industry, my answer would be to replicate what Rodriguez has done in Austin, in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. To set up a creative space for indie filmmaking that works with Hollywood and not for Hollywood.

Courtney: Steven Spielberg. He changed what types of stories were told. How they were told, and film technology as a whole. If he wanted to film something a certain way he was willing to find/create the tech to do so in so many areas. I can’t imagine the entertainment industry without him. He is a visionary and artist. I admire how he has helped so many others get their start and has retained rights to so much of his work when that wasn’t often done in his early career. His insight and knowledge about stories and how audiences do and will come to view entertainment in the future is incredible. He is ever-evolving and a pioneer and to me the greatest inspiration.

Emily: J.J. Abrams. I might be partial to Abrams because he’s a fellow SLC alum, but his IMDB page speaks for itself. Aside from Abrams’ industry versatility as a director, producer, screenwriter, and composer, I also appreciate how much of his work advocates for gender equality. The female characters he creates are not only complex (and badass), but they’re often at the story’s center—Felicity, Fringe, Lost, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the highly-underrated Alias. Plus, I like his inclination toward stories where reality and the supernatural intersect. If you’ve ever wondered about Abrams’ obsession with mystery boxes, you should check out his TED talk. He explains how stories are like mystery boxes—they’re all about infinite possibilities.

Dan: I’m going to have to name two or three, one is just not enough. I have long been a fan of the success story of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The guy doesn’t speak the language, but moves to the U.S., not only becomes a successful entrepreneur, actor, producer, he even manages to win a gubernatorial election running as the minority party candidate. A vast majority of his success can be directly attributed to a can-do attitude being combined with an unstoppable work ethic and will to succeed. In an industry where so many people look at why they cannot do something (get the role, make their movie, etc.), he just stepped up and went out and made it happen. There were plenty of reasons he should never have had the career he has built. Instead, he built it, ignoring all the obstacles.

Likewise, I am a huge fan of Jill Soloway. She’s willing to acknowledge all the reasons the industry is a shitshow for women, but does not allow that fact to stop her from creating some of the greatest entertainment out there. She just does the work, and pushes on. Oh, and while doing so she creates massive amounts of opportunity for other diverse voices, artists and crew. She doesn’t just talk, she does. I love that she doesn’t play it safe either. I believe many people (male or female) would get opportunities to run a show, make a film, etc. and really play it safe with the content, hoping that it would succeed and go forever. She’s willing to take risks, tell meaningful stories in a creative way, and as a result we (the public) have some of the best entertainment on television. Again though, she has a mission, an “I can (and will) do anything” attitude, combined with a work ethic that many others lack.

Share who inspires you in the film industry in the comments below.

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