Humble Origins

TheMoviePool takes a look at some of our greatest inspirations to see where they got their start and discovers that not all who made this industry what it is today came from it.

Alfred Hitchcock

8/13/1899 – 4/29/1980

Notable Works: Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho, The Birds, North By Northwest

Achievements: 5 Academy Award nominations for direction (Rebecca, Lifeboat, Spellbound, Rear Window, Psycho), 16 total Academy Award nominations

Origin: After graduating from the London County Council School of Engineering and Navigation, Hitchcock worked as a draftsman and advertising designer.  He began his career working as a Title Card Designer for the silent films of the era for the London branch of what would eventually become Paramount Pictures.

Stanley Kubrick

7/26/1928 – 3/7/1999

Notable Works: Full Metal Jacket, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey

Achievements: 4 Academy Award nominations for direction (Barry Lyndon, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove), 13 total Academy Award nominations

Origin: A poor student, Kubrick found a love of photography and worked for Look magazine.  After some time, he was encouraged to work in motion pictures by a friend, and he began his industry career directing short documentary-style newsreels for The March of Time.

D. W. Griffith

1/22/1875 – 7/23/1948

Notable Works: The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance

Achievements: Directed the first American “Feature Film” (over 1 hour), The Birth of a Nation, Helped bankroll MGM Studios, Pioneered lighting/camera techniques used today

Origin: The son of a Confederate Army Colonel, Griffith’s family suffered extreme hardship after his passing when Griffith was 7.  To help the family, he worked numerous odd jobs and began his career as a playwright, but achieved limited success, selling only one play.  His career began when he became a frequent extra in theater and film to supplement his income.

Oliver Stone


Notable Works: Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, Natural Born Killers

Achievements: 2 Academy Award wins for direction (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July), 11 total Academy Award nominations

Origin: Stone, born into an affluent family, attended the Hill School in Pennsylvania.  After graduating, he attended Yale but dropped out after a year.  After college, Stone taught English in Vietnam for six months.  He then enlisted in the Army and requested infantry duty during the Vietnam War.  Afterwards, the G.I. Bill helped him graduate from film school.

Akira Kurosawa

3/23/1910 – 9/6/1998

Notable Works: Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Ran, Yojimbo

Achievements: 1 Academy Award nomination for direction (Ran), 11 films listed on TSPDT’s “1,000 Greatest Films”, Ranked #7 on TSPDT’s “Top 200 Directors”

Origin: Akira’s youth was fraught with hardship and death.   He survived the Great Kanto Earthquake and his brothers all passed by the time he was 23.  Early on he worked as a writer and painter.  Inspired by his late brother Heigo’s work as a benshi (silent film translator), Akira took an apprenticeship at PCL (later Toho) and worked under Kajiro Yamamoto.

Ingmar Bergman

7/14/1918 – 7/30/2007

Notable Works: The Virgin Spring, Through the Glass Darkly, Fanny and Alexander

Achievements: 3 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film (The Virgin Spring, Through the Glass Darkly, Fanny and Alexander), 13 total Academy Award nominations

Origin: The son of a strict Lutheran minister, Bergman endured a hostile upbringing.  He was sent to Germany to live and witnessed the rise of Hitler to power.  After two mandatory five-month military services, he attended Stockholm and studied Literature and Art.  He did not graduate but began his career when he discovered the theater department.

Sydney Pollack

7/1/1934 – 5/26/2008

Notable Works: The Way We Were, Absence of Malice, Out of Africa, Tootsie

Achievements: 2 Academy Awards for direction and production (Out of Africa), 7 Personal Academy Award nominations, 42 total Academy Award nominations (11 wins)

Origin: The son of Jewish-Russian immigrants, Pollack originally planned a career in medicine.  Leaving Indiana for New York City, he worked on a lumber truck while he studied under Sanford Meisner.  After two years service in the Army, Pollack returned to New York and began his career working as a dialogue coach for Director John Frankenheimer in Los Angeles.

Robert Altman

2/20/1925 – 11/20/2006

Notable Works: MASH, Nashville, Gosford Park

Achievements: 5 Academy Award nominations for direction (Gosford Park, The Player, Shortcuts, Nashville, MASH), 7 total Academy Award nominations

Origin: Having served in World War II and flying over 50 bombing missions over the course of the war, Altman worked as a publiscist for a company that specialized in tattoo identifiers for dogs.  He entered filmmaking purely on a whim when he sold a script he co-wrote with George W. George (Bodyguard) to RKO.

Charlie Chaplin

4/16/1889 – 12/25/1977

Notable Works: The Circus, The Great Dictator, The Gold Rush, City Lights, Modern Times

Achievements: 2 Academy Awards for music and direction (Limelight, The Circus), Noted to be the most influential and important filmmaker of the 20th Century

Origin: After his father left the family and his mother was institutionalized, Chaplin and his half-brother survived the London workhouse for paupers, where they eventually gravitated to the London Music Hall.  He spent his early years exceptionally poor (inspiring much of his work) and began his career touring the U.S. with the comedic Fred Karno troupe.

Michael Mann


Notable Works: The Last of the Mohicans, Heat, Ali, Public Enemies, The Insider

Achievements: 1 Academy Award for direction (The Insider), 4 total Academy Award nominations

Origin: In his early years, Michael immersed himself in the growing Chicago blues-music scene.  He studied English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and developed interests in history, philosophy, and architecture.  Inspired by Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, he moved to London to study cinema and began his career working on commercials.

It’s important to remember that no matter where you are in your career or what you’re currently doing, your ability to work as a filmmaker is entirely dependent upon you.  No one else but you will direct the course of your future and with the determination, dedication, and devotion required to be apart of this industry, you will find your place.  The people here never compromised, never backed down, and never forgot that they were, in their basest form, storytellers.  It was that vision, that imagination, that allowed them to succeed.

Keep your eyes to the sky and your mind and heart focused and you never know what you can accomplish.