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As storytellers and artists, we all take inspiration from the world around us. Read on for some of our Collab advisors’ sources of inspiration.

“There’s a painting by Frida Kahlo called The Broken Column. It’s a self-portrait. She’s got all these nails sticking out of her body, there’s this long gash going down her torso and a broken stone column where her spine would be. It’s beautiful and horrific and inspiring. She endured so much physical pain in her lifetime, and yet she still found the spirit to be creative. I don’t know how she did it.” 

–Contributed by Angela LaManna, Sundance Collab Advisor (The Haunting of Bly Manor, Behind Her Eyes). 

For more from Angela LaManna, sign up for TV Writing: Core Elements, a self-paced course.


“I turn to the satires of Ishmael Reed. He has been my mentor since I began as a novelist and I try to infuse his irreverence in all my film work as well. His book Mumbo Jumbo just exploded my conception of what a novel could be and showed me the possibilities of Black satire.  Everything I aspire to do in my screenwriting and fiction stem from his deep roots and I suspect the same could be said of other contemporary filmmakers like Donald Glover, Boots Riley and Jordan Peele and novelists Paul Beatty, Victor LaValle and Colson Whitehead.” 

–Contributed by Trey Ellis, Sundance Collab Advisor (King in the Wilderness, The Tuskegee Airmen)

For more from Trey Ellis, sign up for Screenwriting: Core Elements, a self-paced course.


“Cartoonist Lynda Barry got me through this past year. Her book Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor changed how I think about my work, and other people’s work, and creativity in general. I’m a process nerd, and she offered so much insight and freedom, and got me drawing. I’d always done ‘morning pages’ à la The Artist’s Way, or journaled, or brainstormed, but now thanks to Barry I do timed drawings (draw one thing—a dragon, for example—in 5 minutes, 90 seconds, 30 seconds, 10 seconds, 5 seconds) or a self-portrait before I even try to write.”

–Contributed by Semi Chellas, Sundance Collab Advisor (Mad Men, American Woman)


“My muse is Nora Ephron. She inspires me because she reminds me that a writing career spans over many years and that finding your voice can take many forms. In the ‘60s she was a journalist, in the ‘70s she became known as an essayist and humorist, in the ‘80s she wrote screenplays (Remember Silkwood with Meryl Streep?) That same year, she came out with a novel, Heartburn, which she also adapted into a screenplay. Fun fact: the book was inspired by her divorce from Carl Bernstein (yes, the investigative journalist from Watergate). In the late ’80s, there was the iconic When Harry Met Sally and in the ’90s and early 2000s, she directed Sleepless in Seattle and her foodie classic, Julie and Julia.  She was also an accomplished playwright and won a posthumous Tony for her play Lucky Guy. There is so much more not mentioned here, but her body of work is tremendous and a reminder that there is always something new to explore as a writer. She wrote fearlessly with honesty and always managed to convey some inkling of wit and humor with her words, no matter what the topic, be it love, life or even the Wonderbra. She reminds me that stories are all around us. Her favorite motto was that no matter what happens in life, ‘Everything is copy.’ Words to live (and write) by.”

–Contributed by Alana Sanko, Sundance Collab Advisor (Just for Kicks, Murphy Brown)

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