Before Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers directed their first features, there was Joyce Chopra. She's not a household name like Ephron and Meyers, but Lady Director: Adventures in Hollywood, Television and Beyond affirms that Chopra was a boundary breaker and that the story of a jagged career path can be much more interesting than the story of a steady ascent.
Chopra, who was born in 1936, had a middle-class childhood in Brooklyn before she attended Brandeis University, after which, beguiled by cinema, she resolved to work in film. Set on doing features, she began with documentary work, zigging and zagging professionally until she realized her ambition: 1985's Smooth Talk, which won Sundance's Grand Jury Prize for Best Dramatic Feature. Chopra's attempts to direct more movies fizzled and resulted in "a new phase of my directing career": a move to television at a time before "prestige" routinely appeared before the word.
Chopra relays her disappointments without handwringing, and her humility and practicality will earn her the respect of readers. (Dishy accounts of working with Diane Keaton and Vincent D'Onofrio will earn her their gratitude.) Chopra's persistence is all the more admirable given setbacks resulting from gender bias, panic attacks and grope-y industry insiders: "It was considered annoying but normal, something I had to simply accept as a woman if I wanted to work in that all male world." How fortunate for readers of Lady Director, and for every woman now in the film and television business, that she persevered. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer