Behind every great story, is a person with an arduous journey. To celebrate and commemorate authors and filmmakers, the storytellers that have significantly shaped the world today, the list below contains several brilliant creatives with their own upbringing, an element that has contributed to the perfection of their craft, resulting in their written and illustrated stories that will stand the test of time.


Steven Spielberg


Considered to be one of the most influential filmmakers of our time with the creation of iconic movies such as Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and Jaws to name a few. The director had a struggling past, having gone through a series of failures and constant bullying at a young age while he scuffled with dyslexia, leaving him two years behind his class since he was unable to read for the first couple years. Spielberg found refuge in filmmaking, as he felt a connection that developed his craft and imagination and at the age of twelve, he had created his first short film with the help of his three younger siblings, Anne, Nancy, and Sue. As any aspiring director, he decided to enter the prestigious University of South California, which rejected his admission three times due to his low grades. He got accepted into California State University Long Beach and started as an unpaid intern at Universal Studios. Despite the rejections, Spielberg passionately followed his vision, constantly working on perfecting his craft despite his failures, Spielberg has earned a reputable title in the film industry. with an achievement of 3 awards and 19 nominations at the academy awards.


Stephen King


Stephen King has entertained millions worldwide with his phenomenal horror stories. The author of numerous bestselling books namely; The Shining, Pet Sematary and Misery, King was a gas attendant, a high school janitor, and an English educator before becoming a full-time author. The king of thrills and chills was rejected 30 times for his book, Carrie, and gave up and threw the pages in the trash. Tabitha, King’s wife, picked up the pages and encouraged Stephen to never give up on his dreams. Soon enough, Doubleday saw its potential and purchased the novel, paving the way for King to a series of award-winning stories. The author battled through alcoholism which negatively affected his career, but with the constant support from his wife, he discovered a newfound determination to continue creating stories that would inspire the world with his creativity.


Octavia E. Butler


The first black woman to gain popularity as a science fiction writer and served as an inspiration to countless African American people. As a child, Butler witnessed racial slurs against her mother doing domestic work, which made her feel ashamed. The young Butler read insatiably despite her dyslexia, fueling her interest in writing her own story. When a reputable science fiction writer, Harlan Ellison, discovered her talent in a screenwriting workshop, he purchased a short story from Butler, and recommended her for the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop. Butler clinged on to odd jobs such as a potato chip inspector, a dishwasher, and a telemarketer, leaving her to write at 2 a.m. before her busy day. In 1976, she sold her first popular novel, Patternmaster, and in 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur “Genius Grant”. Butler passed away in 2006, and her stories continue to influence writers and scientists, and NASA paid tribute to her memory by naming the touchdown site of Mars Rover as the Octavia E. Butler Landing.


Ishmael Beah


The Sierra Leonean author and human rights activist is well known for his book, A Long Way Gone, a true story based on his life as a child soldier. In Mogbwemo, 1991, the rebels invaded Beah’s hometown, which separated him from his family and fled south with a group of boys. Beah was 13-years-old when he was forced to become a child soldier for nearly three years before being rescued by UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) and ended up in New York City, where he lived with his foster mother, Laura Simms. It was a difficult transition to a civilized society for Beah, as he was addicted to cocaine and gunpowder, their drug of choice during his time in the army. He earned a degree in Political Science at Oberlin College in 2004. A Long Way Gone was published in 2007, and has been sold worldwide. The acclaimed author now travels the world with his wife, Priscillia Kounkou Hoveyda, with their three children, and works as a UNICEF ambassador raising awareness for the extremity of child soldiers.


Maya Angelou


Marguerite Annie Johnson had a string of jobs and a traumatic childhood that served as a contribution to her numerous novels. At the age of eight-years-old, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, and after her revelation, her uncles kicked the offender to death. Petrified by the outcome, as she blames herself over the death of the rapist, she chose not to speak for nearly five years, consumed by books which developed her love for literature. At sixteen-years-old, she became the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco and later gave birth, leading her to other jobs to support her son. She became a professional dancer for a club, a singer, a composer, and a civil rights activist for Dr. Martin Luther King. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, her first autobiography that brought her recognition and acclaim, was published in 1969. Angelou also became Hollywood's first female black director for the film Georgia, Georgia, breaking the social stigma and inspiring other men and women of color.


Charlie Chaplin


Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr., most recognizably known as Charlie Chaplin, was an iconic English comic actor and filmmaker. At a young age, Chaplin‘s father was mostly absent and his mother struggled financially, leaving him no choice but to work at a warehouse, barely at the age of seven. Soon after, he started to work as a stage actor and comedian and was signed to the Fred Karno company who took Chaplin to the United States, which led to his fame after he developed the Tramp persona in Keystone Studios. He began to direct his own silent films such as Modern Times and City Lights. Chaplin played a huge part in shaping the film industry and switched the perception of comedy as a side-kick, to an important component in cinema.


Manoel de Oliveira


The Portuguese film director and screenwriter was born and raised in Cedofeita, Porto. In 1931, he released his debut film, Doura, Faina Fluvial, a silent film about his hometown. It was not until 1971 when he was able to release his second debut film, Past and Present, due to various factors that included political situations in portugal. It took Manoel de Oliveira nearly five decades to make his breakthrough and gain a respected name in the film industry, he continued to venture on his career until he became the only filmmaker in history whose career spanned from the silent era to the digital age. The filmmaker’s perseverance was remarkable, as he continued to direct films even at the age of a hundred years old, with The Strange Case of Angelica, as his last film that was released in 2010.


Alejandro G. Iñárritu


Alejandro G. Iñárritu is a Mexican filmmaker, producer, and screenwriter and is well known for creating psychological drama films. Iñárritu is the youngest of seven siblings, and when he turned five, his father, Hector González Gama, went bankrupt and his family struggled financially for years. Alejandro was seventeen-years-old when he got expelled from school due to his misbehavior and low grades. He soon left his hometown as a sailor on cargo boats and stayed traveling in Europe for a year. His career as a radio host began in 1984 and soon became the youngest producer for Televisa. He composed several music for Mexican films, and in the early 1990’s, he created Z films, a production company, with Raul Olvera. Alejandro directed his first feature film, Amores perros, a film that explores Mexican society. The renowned filmmaker has been praised with multiple rewards, including five Academy Awards and three Golden Globe awards. Babel, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), The Revenant, and Flesh and Sand are amongst his best works.


J.K. Rowling


After a string of unfortunate events, Rowling carried on with hope that would soon change the entire world with her brilliance. The idea of her Harry Potter characters came to her while waiting for a delayed train in 1990. Her idea was put on hold as her mother passed away a couple months after, making her move to Portugal as an English educator and meet a man she would marry and share a daughter with. A year after their marriage, they divorced, and she was jobless with no financial support for her daughter, which left her depressed and nearly homeless. In 1995, she completed the first of seven Harry Potter series, and was rejected by twelve publications which left her shattered. Soon after, Christopher Little, a small publishing house, accepted her book and agreed to publish a thousand copies. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone received the Nestle Smarties Book Prize and the British Book Award for Children’s Book of the Year. Today, J.K. Rowling is one of the highest paid authors with a billion-dollar franchise business.


Christopher Paolini


The author of Eragon, a four-book series based in the mythical land of Alagaësia, was raised in Paradise Valley, Montana, and was homeschooled and graduated high school at the age of fifteen, the same age he started writing his first novel and designed the first edition of the cover art. Paolini, along with his parents, promoted his book and toured over 135 schools and libraries, read and discussed Eragon while dressed in a medieval costume to capture audiences’ attention. Eragon quickly gained attention and soon enough, Alfred A. Knopf, an American publishing house, offered to publish Eragon for its second edition and the rest of The Inheritance Cycle. Paolini became a New York Times-best selling author at the age of nineteen and attained the Guinness World Record as the youngest author of a bestselling book series in 2011. A film adaptation on Eragon was produced by Fox 2000 Pictures and was released worldwide. Paolini continues to be awe-inspiring to fans with his creativity, releasing The Fork, The Witch, and the Worm, a book series set in the world of Alagaësia, and has recently released his first science fiction novel, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars.

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