Enmeshed in a failing marriage and with two young children in tow, Joan Tewkesbury never stopped to consider her limitations, parlaying her experience as a stage director into work as a script girl for Robert Altman on "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" (1971). Her skills honed in the nurturing womb of New Hollywood, which rejected sexist prohibitions and encouraged collaboration, instinct and improvisation, Tewkesbury found fame at age 40, scripting Altman's Depression era crime drama "Thieves Like Us" (1974) and his Academy Award-winning masterpiece "Nashville" (1975). Suddenly a hot commodity in the film industry, Tewkesbury turned down more jobs than she accepted, ultimately bargaining her way into a bid as a first-time feature director with "Old Boyfriends" (1979), a collaboration with screenwriter brothers Leonard and Paul Schrader. The poor box office for Tewkesbury's directorial debut drove her back to the stage, and to television, where she earned high marks for her teleplays "The Tenth Month" (1979), "The Acorn People" (1979), and "Cold Sassy Tree" (1989). Proving herself a reliable director-for-hire, Tewkesbury helmed episodes of such acclaimed weekly series as "Northern Exposure" (1990-95) and "Chicago Hope" (1994-2000) while contributing a cameo to former mentor Robert Altman's "The Player" (1992). Focusing on theatrical work in later life, Tewkesbury kept a hand in cinema by mentoring young filmmakers via workshops, proving herself less interested in making her reputation than in making a difference.