Sarah Pillsbury

Producer
Producer Sarah Pillsbury was most prolific as part of the Sanford/Pillsbury production team, working alongside Midge Sanford in a pairing well-known for their acclaimed and popular character-driven independents. Before ... Read more »
Born: in New York, USA

Filmography

Producer (17)

The Color of Water 2014 (Movie)

(Executive Producer)

Quid Pro Quo 2008 (Movie)

(Producer)

Nailed 2001 (Movie)

(Executive Producer)

The Tic Code 2000 (Movie)

(Producer)

The Joyriders 1999 (Movie)

(Producer)

The Love Letter 1999 (Movie)

(Producer)

How to Make An American Quilt 1995 (Movie)

(Producer)

Love Field 1992 (Movie)

(Producer)

Immediate Family 1989 (Movie)

(Producer)

Eight Men Out 1988 (Movie)

(Producer)

Home Again 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Co-Executive Producer

River's Edge 1986 (Movie)

(Producer)

Desperately Seeking Susan 1985 (Movie)

(Producer)

And the Band Played On (TV Show)

Producer

Letter to My Killer (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Seeds of Tragedy (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Counterfeit Contessa (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Biography

Producer Sarah Pillsbury was most prolific as part of the Sanford/Pillsbury production team, working alongside Midge Sanford in a pairing well-known for their acclaimed and popular character-driven independents. Before the beginning of her association with Sanford, Pillsbury worked on documentaries, starting her career as associate producer of the 1976 Oscar-nominated white supremacist documentary "The California Reich". She produced the Ron Ellis live action Academy Award-winning short "Board and Care" (1979) before meeting up with Midge Sanford in 1980. After raising capital, they formed Sanford/Pillsbury Productions in 1982, a company that has consistently released high-caliber independent films, working with directors including John Sayles, Susan Seidelman and Jonathan Kaplan. In 1995, the producing team signed a first look development deal with DreamWorks SKG, leading to their involvement in the 1999 releases "The Love Letter" and "The Joyriders".

Pillsbury and Sanford marked their joint feature producing debut with 1985's "Desperately Seeking Susan", a successful cult favorite partially due to the presence of co-star Madonna. Susan Seidelman's vision of Leora Barish's screenplay captured a diverse audience, the New York City downtown atmosphere interesting a group that may not have otherwise been compelled by the bored housewife (played by Rosanna Arquette) looking for a new life.

The dark teen drama "River's Edge" (1987) marked Pillsbury's next producing venture. Teaming up again with Sanford, the producers ran into difficulties finding a director to take on the fascinating but potentially controversial project. The story of the strangely apathetic reaction of a group of teenagers who find the body of their friend who was murdered by another, "River's Edge" was quite unlike other 80s films geared toward young people. Finally director Tim Hunter signed on to direct Neil Jimenez's script and created a moving and non-exploitative portrait of wasted youth, providing Keanu Reeves with his breakthrough screen role.

While "Eight Men Out" was the third feature produced by Pillsbury and Sanford, it was the first script they set to develop, having optioned it shortly after beginning their partnership. The project, the story of the notorious 1919 Black Sox scandal, was halted at every turn, studios citing that the unheroic sports tale with no standout star wouldn't find an audience. Finally greenlighted by Orion Pictures, the John Sayles film was released to critical praise in 1988. Strong performances by a deftly assembled cast, including John Cusack, D.B. Sweeney and David Strathairn, raised the movie's watchability, even for those uninterested in baseball.

Director Jonathan Kaplan's "Immediate Family" marked the first time that Pillsbury and Sanford would be approached to produce a film they had not initiated themselves. A 1989 drama dealing with an infertile couple (Glenn Close and James Woods, in rare likable form) who seek to adopt an unborn child from a young couple played by Mary Stuart Masterson (in a first-rate performance) and Kevin Dillon, Kaplan felt that as women and mothers, Pillsbury and Sanford would be suitable producers for this delicate and dynamic subject. Although engaging and entertaining, the film didn't generate as much interest as the producers' previous efforts. "Love Field", a 1992 drama set just after the assassination of President Kennedy was Pillsbury and Sanford's second collaboration with the director. A charming story of interracial romance in the 60s, "Love Field" followed a Southern woman who idolizes and adopts the dress of Jacqueline Kennedy and her travel to the president's funeral. Along the way she meets up with a northern black man (Dennis Haysbert) who is on the lam after kidnapping his abused daughter. Jocelyn Morehouse's "How to Make An American Quilt" (1995) was a more successful venture for the producing team, as audiences were drawn to the star-studded cast (i.e., Winona Ryder, Anne Bancroft and Ellen Burstyn). A life-affirming drama featuring frequent flashback scenes, "How to Make an American Quilt" made up for some of its predictability with its genuine warmth and strong performances. 1998's "The Tic Code" starred Gregory Hines as a saxophonist who meets up with a young jazz enthusiast (Christopher George Marquette), who like himself is afflicted with Tourette's Syndrome. A very original film with inspiring performances, "The Tic Code" served as an interesting, if not terribly successful, entry in Pillsbury and Sanford's producing credits.

In addition to Pillsbury and Sanford's many feature credits, they also produced some notable films for television, including the 1993 Emmy-winning drama "And the Band Played On". An HBO original picture featuring an audience grabbing star packed cast, "And the Band Played On" told of an important chapter in contemporary United States history by tracing the discovery and management of the AIDS epidemic. The film served a great public service, awakening Americans to the little-known political posturing surrounding the medical research communities in the early years of the crisis. By employing a cast featuring dozens of sought-after actors, and developing a well-made and moving and personal film, Pillsbury and Sanford ensured that this production would reach a much larger audience, thereby educating even more people. Additional TV work has included the fascinating docudrama "Seeds of Tragedy" (Fox, 1991), the chronicle of a coca seedling from harvest to cocaine processing to its incarnation on the streets of Los Angeles which manages to do a compelling job of showing the effects the seed has on all those it touches. 1994's "The Counterfeit Contessa" (Fox) proved that Pillsbury and Sanford could excel with lighter fare as well, with an amusing tale of a Brooklyn woman (Tea Leoni) mistaken for an Italian countess.

Relationships

Richard Kletter

Husband

Nora Kletter

Daughter
born c. 1984

William Kletter

Son
born c. 1988

EDUCATION

Yale University

New Haven , Connecticut 1974

Concord Academy

Massachusetts 1969
graduated

Milestones

1999

Was producer of "The Joyriders" a drama about a depressed man kidnapped by joyriding teens, marking the production team's DreamWorks SKG debut

1999

Produced the charming romantic comedy "The Love Letter" for DreamWorks SKG

1998

Produced "The Tic Code", a drama starring Gregory Hines as a jazz musician with Tourette's Syndrome who meets a young jazz enthusiast with the same ailment

1995

Sanford/Pillsbury Productions signed two-year, first look agreement with DreamWorks SKG

1994

Produced the light and entertaining Fox TV movie "The Counterfeit Contessa", starring Tea Leoni as a Brooklyn woman mistaken for an Italian countess

1993

With Midge Sanford, produced the star-studded HBO original film "And the Band Played On", an historical and emotional look at the AIDS epidemic in the United States

1991

Produced the acclaimed Fox television docudrama "Seeds of Tragedy", following the life of a coca bean from its harvest to its life on Los Angeles' streets as cocaine

1989

Produced the engaging "Immediate Family", an infertility drama starring Mary Stuart Masterson and Glenn Close

1988

"Eight Men Out", Sanford and Pillsbury's first optioned script is finally completed and released, eight years after first optioning

1987

Was producer of the troubling teen drama "River's Edge"

1985

Produced first feature film (with Sanford), "Desperately Seeking Susan"

1982

Official inauguration of Sanford/Pillsbury Productions

1980

Formed partnership with Midge Sanford

1979

Produced the Academy Award-winning short subject "Board and Care"

1976

Began career as associate producer of documentary, "The California Reich"

Raised in Wayzata, Minnesota

Worked as assistant to Martin Ransohoff and Arnold Kopelson

Bonus Trivia

.

Pillsbury on deciding which projects she and partner Midge Sanford take on: "The idea is not as important as the characters. So if the writing isn't good enough to make those characters into people we fall in love with, then we aren't likely to get involved with the project. We like to see the main character go through some kind of an arc, to go through some kind of psychological, moral, political episode that takes him to a different place." --quoted in American Film, October 1989.

.

Pillsbury on the dynamic between director and producer: "Neither of us wants to direct at all. I think if we wanted to direct, our feelings might be different. I fell that I really don't want to do the director's job, and I think that we'll get to work with better directors if we maintain that principle." --quoted in American Film, October 1989.

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