Sarah Gertrude Shapiro

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Sarah Shapiro
Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, May 2016.jpg
Alma materSarah Lawrence College
Years active2005-
Known forUnREAL
Home townSanta Barbara, California

Sarah Gertrude Shapiro is an American filmmaker and television writer best known for co-creating the Lifetime television series UnREAL with Marti Noxon.[1]

Early life[edit]

Shapiro was born in Santa Barbara, California, to mother Diane Wolf (née Wallace) and father Perry Shapiro,[2] a professor.[3] She has a sister, Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza, who is an academic.

Shapiro said she started writing when she was five years old, a book called Ergant Cries Ignored.[4][5] At the age of 16, after attending a film class at Santa Barbara City College, Shapiro decided she wanted to be a director.[1]

Shapiro graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in with a BA in Fiction Writing and Filmmaking.[6]


After college, Shapiro interned at Christine Vachon's production company, Killer Films, and then worked for photographer David LaChapelle as a studio manager.[7] In 2002, affected by the events of September 11 attacks and wanting to be closer to family, Shapiro moved to Los Angeles, California.[1]

In Los Angeles, Shapiro found work on the reality TV show High School Reunion, unknowingly signing a contract with the production company that allowed them to move her to different shows at their discretion, and which committed Shapiro to "unlimited renewable options for perpetuity."[8] Shapiro would eventually become a producer on The Bachelor TV franchise, a role she strongly disliked, but which would play an influential part in her later career.[1] She worked on the show for four seasons over the course of two years, going from associate producer to field producer.[8]

In 2005, seeking to leave reality television and end her restrictive non-compete employment contract (which was only effective in California), Shapiro moved to Portland, Oregon,[9] where she worked at the advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy.[7] Shapiro was familiar with Portland from having interned at Portland's Northwest Film Center during college, where she met filmmakers Miranda July and other local artists and filmmakers.[9] Initially she planned to be a kale farmer.[1]

At Wieden + Kennedy, Shapiro worked as a director, creating content in the form of short forms and documentaries.[1] Wieden + Kennedy was an early supporter of her creative endeavors, allowing Shapiro to take leave and providing funding for a Kickstarter campaign for Sequin Raze.[9] Shapiro worked on Sequin Raze, which she called a passion project, for four years while working at Wieden + Kennedy.[10][11]

In 2012, she was one of eight women selected for the American Film Institute's Directing Workshop for Women (DWW),[12] where she wrote and directed the short film Sequin Raze, starring Anna Camp, Ashley Williams, and Frances Conroy.[13] The film went on to win Honorable Mention at South by Southwest Film Festival's Short Film Jury Awards as well as screenings at the New Directors/New Films Festival in New York (MoMA/Lincoln Center) and Palm Springs International film festival.[7][10]


A mentor at the ad agency in Portland, Sally DeSipio, connected Shapiro with Lifetime, where she pitched the show without an agent, and was paired with writer Marti Noxon.[9]

On July 30, 2013, Lifetime placed a pilot order on UnREAL, inspired by Sequin Raze. The pilot was written by Shapiro and Marti Noxon and was produced by A+E Studios. On February 6, 2014, UnREAL was green-lit, with a 10-episode series order,[14] and premiered in June 2015.[8]

Shapiro is credited as co-creator, writer, and supervising producer on the show. On July 6, 2015, the series was renewed for a second season of 10 episodes, to premiere in 2016.[15] She spoke about the creation of the series in a lengthy 2016 profile with The New Yorker writer D.T. Max.[16]

Shapiro's previous job working as a field producer on the American reality dating series The Bachelor was the inspiration behind both the short film as well as the Lifetime series.[17] She talked about her journey navigating the world of Hollywood in an independent Tedx TED Conference.[4]

Other work[edit]

While attending Sarah Lawrence College, Shapiro formed the band The New England Roses with Brendan Fowler and JD Samson of indie band Le Tigre.[18] During her time while working on The Bachelor, Shapiro was in a band called Mean Streak.[4]

Shapiro is also a visual artist who created and wrote the music for a hand-animated film called I Wish I was an Animal,[7][19] which was released on Doggpony Records.[20]


  • 2015-2016: UnREAL - TV series (executive producer, created by, written by, teleplay by)
  • 2013: Sequin Raze - TV short (producer, director, writer)
  • 2012: 2nd Best - short (director, writer)
  • 2005: Battlegrounds: King of the Court - TV series documentary (story producer)
  • 2002-2004: The Bachelor - TV show (associate producer, segment producer, field producer)
  • 2003: High School Reunion - TV show (associate producer)


  1. ^ a b c d e f Stanhope, Kate (1 June 2015). "'UnREAL' Co-Creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro: How I Made It in Hollywood". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  2. ^ "S Shapiro - United States Public Records". FamilySearch. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  3. ^ Hoffman, Lauren (15 June 2015). "Confessions of an Ex "Bachelor" Producer: "I Was Doing Stuff That, in My Gut, Felt Wrong"". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Shapiro, Sarah Gertrude (28 July 2015). "How to Borrow Male Privilege in Hollywood". TEDxOlympicBlvdWomen. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  5. ^ "TEDxOlympicBlvdWomen 2015: Speakers, Artists & Performers - Sarah Shapiro". TEDxOlympicBlvdWomen. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  6. ^ "Sarah Gertrude Shapiro". Sarah Lawrence College. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d "Sarah Gertrude Shapiro - Writer/Director" (PDF). Sequin Raze: A Film by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro. 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  8. ^ a b c Kaufman, Amy (28 May 2015). "Former 'Bachelor' producer gets real on Lifetime's 'unREAL'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  9. ^ a b c d Turnquist, Kristi (2 July 2015). "How Sarah Gertrude Shapiro went from working in Portland to co-creating 'UnREAL' for Lifetime". The Oregonian. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  10. ^ a b Wieden+Kennedy (7 March 2013). "SXSW Edition: Q&A With Filmmaker Sarah Shapiro". Wieden+Kennedy. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  11. ^ Lynch, Jason (5 April 2015). "A Filmmaker Gets an Opportunity of a Lifetime How an agency and a network made her TV dream a reality". Adweek. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  12. ^ Hurelle, Fabien (6 November 2014). "Discover the Directors & Films of the AFI Directing Workshop for Women 2013". Hollywomen. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  13. ^ "DWW Alumnae - Class of 2012-2013 - Sarah Shapiro". American Film Institute. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  14. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (6 February 2014). "Lifetime Picks Up Marti Noxon's Dark Comedy Pilot 'Un-Real' To Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  15. ^ O'Connell, Michael (6 July 2015). "Lifetime Renews UnREAL for Second Season". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  16. ^ Max, D.T. "Confessional". Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  17. ^ Blake, Emily (9 January 2015). "Lifetime's UnREAL pulls the curtain on reality TV". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  18. ^ Samson, JD. "My Herstory". Le Tigre World. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  19. ^ Shapiro, Sarah (27 September 2007). "I Wish I was an Animal". YouTube. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  20. ^ Shapiro, Sarah. "I Wish I was an Animal". Doggpony Records. Retrieved 7 August 2015.

External links[edit]