Although Stephen Gyllenhaal has several feature credits, he has distinguished himself primarily as a television director. After a childhood spent in rural Pennsylvania, he obtained his degree from Trinity College and embarked on a career making industrial films in NYC. He moved into TV with afternoon specials before settling in Los Angeles and finding steady work with primetime TV-movies, most based on true stories. Gyllenhaal first won attention for "The Abduction of Kari Swenson" (NBC, 1987), which managed to avoid sensationalization. He also steered the CBS miniseries "Family of Spies" (1990) and earned an Emmy nomination for "A Killing in a Small Town" (CBS, 1990) which featured a mesmerizing star turn by Barbara Hershey. Moving to fiction, he guided Hershey and Dennis Hopper to strong critical notices in "Paris Trout" (Showtime, 1991), based on the Pete Dexter novel. The film also was selected for the Directors Fortnight at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.