Family & Companions
A multi-talent, New York-born, Connecticut-bred Sarah Kernochan dropped out of college to pursue a writing career with the Village Voice. By her mid-20s and while still an active journalist, she co-produced and directed the fresh, penetrating Oscar-winning documentary "Marjoe" (1972), about the peripatetic evangelical work of preacher-turned-hippie actor Marjoe Gortner. Instead of using this success as a springboard for further films, Kernochan instead tried her hand as a recording artist for RCA with two solo albums of her own compositions, "House of Pain" (1973) and "Beat Around the Bush" (1974). Neither jump-started singer-songwriter's musical career so she returned to her writing career, penning the 1997 novel "Dry Hustle" and traveled extensively throughout the Middle East.
As the 1980s dawned, Kernochan was back with her music, composing the score for the stage work "Sleeparound Town" which was produced Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizon. Returning to the scene of her biggest success--film--she was one of the credited writers (along with Patricia Louisiana Knop and Zalman King) on the sexually-charged. intense look at sadomasochism, "9 1/2 Weeks" (1986). Her first solo effort, "Dancers" (1987), offered a strong role for ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov as a lothario involved in backstage politicking, but the overall execution of the piece lacked coherence. Kernochan fared better collaborating with her husband playwright-director James Lapine on "Impromptu" (1991), an historical drama that adopted a predominantly lighthearted tone in detailing the the sexual shenanigans of such figures as George Sand, Frederic Chopin, Franz Liszt and their circle. Her literate script and Lapine's astute handling of a dream cast (that included Judy Davis, Bernadette Peters, Emma Thompson and Julian Sands) resulted in a gem-like spin on the oft-told tales.
As a follow-up, Kernochan worked on the screenplay for "Sommersby" (1993), the Americanization of the successful 1982 French film "Le Retour de Martin Guerre/The Return of Martin Guerre." She was hired specifically to develop the female lead in this version of the story which shifted the setting from 16th-century Europe to 19th-century America just following the Civil War. While the film captured the period feel and offered a reasonable reinterpretation of the original, something was lost in the final translation, although much of the blame lay in the lack of romantic chemistry between leads Richard Gere and Jodie Foster than with the script. Five years later, Kernochan mined her own upbringing for her feature directorial debut "The Hairy Bird," about the impending merger of two same sex schools to form a co-ed institution. While not strictly autobiographical, the writer-director drew on her experiences as a student at the all-female Rosemary Hall (which eventually merged with the all-male Choate) for this delightful incursion into teen girl power. Well-cast with established and rising talent (Kirsten Dunst, Heather Matarazzo, Rachael Leigh Cook, Gaby Hoffman, Monica Keena, etc.), the film was relegated to a regional release under the uninspired title "Strike" by Miramax. Producer Ira Deutchman so believed in the project he entered into protracted negotiations to re-acquire distribution rights, finally succeeding in late 1999. Re-launched in 2000 under yet another title "All I Wanna Do," the film received several positive notices but little audience support. Kernochan returned to non-fiction filmmaking profiling NYC street performer Stephen Kaufman a.k.a. "Thoth" (2001), in a documentary short that earned an Academy Award nomination.
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Co-produced and directed documentary film, "Marjoe", while working as a journalist; won Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary
Made two records of her own songs for RCA
Published the novel "Dry Hustle"
Composed score for "Sleeparound Town", staged at Playwrights Horizon in NYC
Co-wrote (with Patricia Louisiana Knop and Zalman King) screenplay for "9 1/2 Weeks"; also appeared briefly in one scene
First solo screenplay, "Dancers"
Scripted "Impromptu" about the salon of author George Sand; film directed by husband James Lapine
Contributed to the screenplay of "Sommersby", an American retelling of "The Return of Martin Guerre" which moved the story to the post-Civil War era
Feature directorial debut. "The Hairy Bird/Strike"; also scripted and penned songs; loosely based on her years in an all-girls school; received limited theatrical release by Miramax before its video release; rights repurchased by Redeemable Features, retitled and re-released in 2000 under title "All I Wanna Do"
With Clark Gregg (and working from an idea by Steven Spielberg), contributed the story for the supernatural thriller "What Lies Beneath"
Directed the Oscar-winning documentary short "Thoth"