Frederic Alan Schepisi was born in Melbourne, Victoria, the son of fruit dealer & car salesman Frederic Thomas Schepisi and Loretto Ellen (née Hare). He began his career in advertising and directed both commercials and documentaries before helming his first feature film, The Devil's Playground, in 1976.
Asked about the "gypsy-like existence" of a filmmaker, Schepisi has said: "It's the hardest thing. I think we're today's circus people. It's very hard on your family. [His wife] Mary travels with me and when everyone was younger and it was possible, I liked them to travel with me and be with me. Fortunately, Mary's an artist; she paints, and often finds inspiration from our locations."