Martha Coolidge is a prominent American film director who has also helmed important television movies as well as episodes of major TV series. In the 1970s, she made a number of award-winning documentaries and helped to found the influential Association of Independent Video & Filmmakers. After joining the Directors Guild of America in 1983, she served continuously on important committees and played a key role in establishing the Artists Rights Foundation. In 2002, she was elected president of the powerful guild - the only woman to hold that office. Music, War & Love is her thirteenth theatrical feature.

Coolidge’s work is distinguished by outstanding performances, impeccable production values and a nuanced sensitivity to human frailties and relationships - be they familial, friendship or romantic. Rambling Rose (1991), one of her most admired films, received two Academy Award nominations - for Laura Dern and Diane Ladd - as well as three IFP awards for best picture, director and supporting actress. Valley Girl (1983), was a hit comedy which launched the career of Nicholas Cage. Real Genius (1985), a comic perspective on true-blue genius, starred Val Kilmer and remains in a class by itself.

The subject matter of many Coolidge pictures reflects her keen interest in women’s lives. Rambling Rose centered on a teenage housekeeper; Angie (1994) starred Geena Davis as an independent woman who breaks up with her boyfriend after becoming pregnant; Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999) is a television movie about the noted singer/actress who made history as the first black woman to receive an Oscar nomination. ‘Dandridge’ received eight Emmy nominations, including one for Martha’s directorial prowess, as well as multiple nominations from both the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes, with star Halle Berry winning best actress honors from all three institutions.

If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000) broke structural ground with its depiction of three different lesbian relationships by decade. Vanessa Redgrave won the best supporting actor honor from all three entities. Other memorable work from Coolidge includes The Ponder Heart (2001), from a Eudora Welty novella, and Crazy in Love (1992) in which Holly Hunter, Gena Rowlands and Frances McDormand portray three generations of women living on an island in Puget Sound.

The director’s early documentaries set a new standard in personal expression. David: Off and On (1972) was a short about her brother; An Old Fashioned Woman (1974) featured her remarkable grandmother; Not a Pretty Picture (1976) was based in part about her own personal experience with date rape.

The daughter of modernist architects, Coolidge was born in New Haven, Connecticut on August 17, 1946. She has a younger sister and brother and is distantly related to the 30th U. S. president through her grandfather, Arthur W. Coolidge, former Lt. Governor of Massachusetts. When she was a little girl, she often accompanied her father to his work-sites, avidly watching workmen carry out his designs. His sudden death when she was nine severely impacted her childhood.

As a child, she enjoyed drawing but was perhaps even more drawn to music. She sang in church choirs and semi-professionally as a teenager, and also acted in stage productions. Nudged towards design by her mother, she entered the Rhode Island School of Design where she soon found her life’s calling. In her sophomore year, she persuaded the school - which didn’t offer film courses - to allow her to study the film medium independently. “I was home. Nothing ever felt that right before.” She spun out a handful of short films before impetuously moving to New York, enrolling in classes at the School of Visual Arts and Columbia University. In the spring of 1968, the university was shut down by politicized students, leaving Martha without access to filmmaking equipment. She moved again - to Montreal - where she wrote and produced a children’s show, Magic Tom. After returning to the States, she entered New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts; she graduated in 1972 with a Master of Fine Arts degree.

The Seventies was a productive decade for Coolidge. Having solidified her command of the craft with fifteen student films, she moved on to documentaries. David On and Off (1972) won her the John Grierson Award as ‘best young director.’ School Without Walls won a Blue Ribbon at the American Film Festival. Old Fashioned Woman (1976) screened at prestigious venues, including the New York Film Festival and Kennedy Center in Washington D. C., and brought a second Blue Ribbon from Cine Golden Eagle. This work set the stage for acceptance of Not a Pretty Picture (1976), a semi-autobiographical film about date rape. The film marked her as a filmmaker with something to say.

Wishing to expand into fiction filmmaking, Coolidge entered the American Film Institute’s internship program in 1976. The assignment - working with director Robert Wise on his new film, Audrey Rose - facilitated her first cross-country leap into Los Angeles - a.k.a. “Hollywood.” She permanently re-located a couple of years later, when Francis Ford Coppola invited her to join his newly-formed Zoetrope Studios. She developed several projects under his aegis, including Photo Play, which she planned to direct, when financial instability shut down the studio. Ever-resourceful, Coolidge returned to Canada, and started all over again.

In addition to her directorial responsibilities, Martha Coolidge teaches filmmaking at Chapman University in Orange, a small city south of Los Angeles. She also raises horses on her farm in Sunland. Married to production designer James Spencer, she has one son, Preston, from a former marriage.

Feature Films
2016 Music, War & Love (Leo Suter, Adelaide Clemens, Stellan Skarsgard)
1997 Out to Sea (Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon)
1995 Three Wishes (Patrick Swayze, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio)
1994 Angie (Geena Davis)
1993 Lost in Yonkers (Richard Dreyfuss)
1991 Rambling Rose (Robert Duvall, Diane Ladd, Laura Dern)
1985 Real Genius (Val Kilmer)
1983 Valley Girl (Nicholas Cage)

Episodic Television
2014 Madame Secretary
2012 The Unknown
2006-2010 CSI:Crime Scene Investigation
2002 Sex and the City
1985-1987 The Twilight Zone

Awards & Honors The Robert B. Aldrich Award, 1998, from the Directors Guild of America.
The Crystal Award from Women in Film, 1992.
The Breakthrough Award from Women, Men & Media.
Dean’s Advisory Board for UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film & Television.