Guided by Voices

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Terp Enjoys Reel Success as Hollywood Producer
by Liam Farrell | collage by Hailey Hwa Shin

Producer Stacey Sher ’83 learned early in her show business career that resilience is a necessary trait, especially if it involves Twisted Sister.

Working as an assistant on the music video for 1984’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” Sher had to track down the actor who played the main antagonist in “Animal House” so the concept could be pulled off. She found Mark Metcalf—better known as Neidermeyer—at an off-Broadway theater and flew him out cheap to film one of the most memorable music videos of the 1980s.

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“Film is a meritocracy,” she says.

And Sher has succeeded in Hollywood by consistently bringing iconic voices to movies and television, producing everything from Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” and Steven Soderbergh’s “Out of Sight” to Zach Braff’s “Garden State” and even the Comedy Central cop-farce “Reno 911!”

“I love singularity of voice and story combined in a genre,” she says. “What I have really been interested in is influencing the mainstream.”

Sher grew up in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in a film-loving family that introduced her to the 1970s Golden Age of cinema defined by directors like Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese and Hal Ashby. She originally contemplated a career in sports broadcasting, but a lack of female role models and encouragement from UMD professor emeritus Douglas Gomery led her to pursue producing.

She graduated with an M.F.A. in 1985 from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, and the first script she brought to a studio was made into the 1987 film “Adventures in Babysitting.” A few years later, Sher noticed a write-up in Variety that a lot of well-known actors were attached to an unknown director’s project. She got hold of the script, “Reservoir Dogs,” and through friends she met Tarantino, making a blind deal for whatever his next project would be—in this case, “Pulp Fiction.”

Sher says she’s drawn to projects that have a “combination of unique voices along with an exploration of the human condition, even if it’s in a stoner comedy like ‘How High.’”

Nominated twice previously for Oscars, she's got another award-winning project this year, with Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight" taking home a Golden Globe in January for best original score and earning Academy Award nominations in categories for best supporting actress, cinematography and original score. Sher, who recently started her own production company, tries not to pay attention to awards, preferring to just focus on creating work she loves, whether that means getting coffee for someone on set or navigating the untimely injury of a star actor during filming.

“For a producer, there is no job too big or too small,” she says. “You hold the vision intact for everyone.”

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