Born 8/17/46 in New Haven, Connecticut, Martha Coolidge acted in a small acting group in Cheshire, Ct., in the 1960s called Blackfriars.

Martha Coolidge studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, New York's School of Visual Arts, and the New York University Institute of Film and Television graduate school. She graduated from NYU in 1971. Her first directorial job was a short film, Not a Pretty Picture (1975), examining a high school date rape. It was based on an experience in her own life.

Her film school documentary, A Portrait of My Brother, was about her brother's drug addiction.

Her first feature film was 1983's Valley Girl. She met with the head of Atlantic Records, which was funding the movie through foreign pre-sales. "I want you to know we must have naked breasts in this movie four times," she recalls him saying. I said, 'Well, I don't have a problem with that as long as I can do it my way.' He said, 'I don't care how you do it, I just want naked breasts.' I said, 'Fine.' So we shook hands and then he said, 'Welcome to the team.'" (Gun, pg. 149)

She became first female president of the Directors Guild of America in March 2002.