Filmmaker Sam Pillsbury was born in New York City and raised in Connecticut, but at age 14, he moved to New Zealand. In his early 20s, Pillsbury joined the country's National Film Unit, working among a group of progressive-minded young filmmakers. During the late '70s, he specialized in documentary features, including his acclaimed '78 film, "Birth with R.D. Laing", which examined the often controversial practices of R.F. Laing, a psychiatrist from Scotland. In 1982, Pillsbury transitioned over to traditional features, debuting with "The Scarecrow", a mysterious horror film adapted from a novel by Kiwi author Ronald Hugh Morrieson--notably, it was the first New Zealand-produced film to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival. Pillsbury's career throughout the '80s and beyond followed a strange, eclectic trajectory: In 1988, he directed the Depression-era drama "Starlight Hotel", which starred a young Greer Robson; and in the '90s, Pillsbury helmed a variety of projects, none of which seem to be the work of the same director. In 1991, he directed a goatee-sporting Nicolas Cage in the poorly received romantic thriller "Zandalee", and in 1997, he turned toward family-oriented fare, directing the adventure sequel "Free Willy 3: The Rescue". Pillsbury worked on several projects early in the 2000s, including "Where the Red Fern Grows", a sweet-natured Disney re-make of the classic Wilson Rawls novel. After a five-year absence from the film industry, he returned in 2009 to helm the largely ignored comedy "Endless Bummer".