Selling Democracy Project Director and Marshall Plan Film Historian
Sandra Schulberg is the eldest child of Stuart Schulberg, Chief of the Marshall Plan Motion Picture Section from 1950 to 1952, and was born in Paris during his tenure there. As a child of the Marshall Plan, she grew up knowing many of the Marshall Plan filmmakers and their children, but had never seen the films. In 2003, in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, she traveled to various archives to screen the Marshall Plan films for the first time. Their value to contemporary audiences and policy-makers at a time when Americans were wrestling with the notions of “democratization” and “nation-building” seemed evident, and she became the driving force behind their preservation and international exhibition. In February 2004, her first Marshall Plan film retrospective -- entitled Selling Democracy and consisting of 40 films was presented as a special event of the Berlin Film Festival. (She curated the 10-day program with Dr. Rainer Rother, then director of the Deutsches Historisches Museum-Kinemathek.) In October 2004, she and Richard Pena presented a 25-film Selling Democracy retrospective as a special event of the New York Film Festival. Beginning in 2005, with support from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (particularly Mike Pogorzelski and Ed Carter of the Academy Film Archive), she developing a touring program which continues to travel to major cities and universities in North America. In 2007 and 2008, the U.S. Department of State sent her on a tour of European countries. She is currently producing a DVD collection and TV series of Marshall Plan films, including interviews with surviving filmmakers and scholars, as well as a companion book. With her uncle, Budd Schulberg, she is also working on a book called The Celluloid Noose, about the Schulberg brothers’ role in preparing the Nazi film evidence for the Nuremberg Trial.
Sandra Schulberg began her career in non-profit arts administration, working at Open Channel in the field of public access television, and at Young Filmmakers, an organization that trained minority media artists. Two years later, she moved into news and public affairs, becoming a researcher and production assistant for veteran NBC reporter Gabe Pressman. In 1974, Barbara Schultz recruited her to serve as Story Editor for the PBS drama series, Visions, based at KCET in Los Angeles. After two years, she was made Associate Producer of one of the Visions movies, Robert M. Young’s Alambrista, about the plight of illegal farm workers. She then developed KCET’s first regular news show, 28 Tonight, and served as a producer/on-air reporter the first year.
She returned to New York to work as Production Manager on Marco Ferreri’s first American movie, Bye Bye Monkey, starring Gerard Depardieu and Marcello Mastroianni. In 1978, she presented a number of Visions movies at the Rotterdam Festival, and Alambrista at the Cannes Festival, where she sold the distribution rights internationally. Alambrista won the Cannes Camera d’Or and Bye Bye Monkey won the Special Jury Prize. She then raised the finishing funds for Northern Lights, and launched its domestic distribution with co-directors John Hanson and Rob Nilsson. Those experiences persuaded her there was a market for American independent films and laid the groundwork for the Independent Feature Project, which she founded in January 1979. When Northern Lights won the Cannes Camera d’Or that spring, she secured the commitment of key foreign buyers to attend the first IFP Market a few months later, and international buyer attendance became a key ingredient in the successful growth of the IFP. In 1980, she and eight other filmmakers co-founded the film distribution company, First Run Features, which is still operating. The same year, with Hanson and Nilsson, she founded New Front Films, a company that produced five features over the next decade.
During the 1980’s, Schulberg distinguished herself as one of the few American independent producers capable of generating foreign pre-sale and co-production financing. She produced Wildrose (1984 Berlin Festival) and Waiting for the Moon (1987 Sundance Grand Prize winner), handling festival launches and international sales, and line produced Belizaire the Cajun (1985 Cannes Festival).
In 1989, Schulberg established the international arm of the PBS-TV series American Playhouse, with headquarters in Paris and later Berlin, to secure foreign financing; and in 1994 she co-founded and served as Senior Vice President of its movie production subsidiary, Playhouse International Pictures. During her 7-year stint with Playhouse, she secured about $24 million in foreign financing for the series, served as Executive Producer of Roosters and Shimmer, and worked the financing and marketing of I Shot Andy Warhol, Amateur, Safe, Angels and Insects, Reckless, and Palookaville, among many others.
During the second half of the 1990’s, she gained fluency with tax-based film financing. Under the aegis of Schulberg Productions, she co-produced Ann Hu’s Shadow Magic, filmed in Beijing (a Sony Classics 2001 release), and raised completion monies for Barbara Kopple’s Woodstock documentary, My Generation. From 1998 to 2001, she managed the film investments for a German media fund, Hollywood Partners, GmbH. She served as Executive Producer for its films, including Undisputed, the 2002 Miramax release starring Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames; the Oscar-nominated Quills, starring Geoffrey Rush and Kate Winslet, produced with 20th Century Fox Searchlight; I’ll Take You There; and The Last Yellow. She oversaw post-production and delivery of In A Savage Land, Passion, and Simon Magus.
In 2001, she developed an interest in speculative fiction, and founded Phobos Books and Phobos Entertainment. Phobos Books published four anthologies (the first two edited by Orson Scott Card) -- Empire of Dreams and Miracles, Hitting the Skids in Pixeltown, Absolutely Brilliant in Chrome, All the Rage This Year and five novels, including Nobody Gets the Girl, Counterfeit Kings, Mike Resnick’s Dragon America. Phobos Entertainment developed a TV movie with Brainstorm Media, Crimson Force, which aired on the Sci Fi Channel in June 2005.
Schulberg’s primary organizational affiliation has been with the Independent Feature Project, which she founded in 1979, now in its 30th year. She served on its Board from 1980 to 2001, including many years as President or Treasurer. She was one of the first nominators to the Sundance Institute's Filmmakers Lab, and served on the Sundance Film Festival Advisory Committee for 5 years. She also served on the Board of ITVS (Independent Television Service) for three years, during which time it successfully applied for a license to operate a satellite channel with Internews, now called LinkTV. She was a founding Board member of the New York Documentary Center and its film festival, DocFest. She received a special IFP Spirit Award in 1994 in recognition for her contribution to independent cinema, and the LVT Valerie Award in 2003 for her body of work as a producer.
Schulberg is fluent in French, Spanish and German. She was educated in anthropology and linguistics at Swarthmore College, and did field work in Mexico. She is currently Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Film Division of Columbia University’s Graduate School of the Arts, where she teaches film financing, and commutes to Los Angeles, where she is pursuing a master’s degree in public diplomacy at the University of Southern California.