One of independent cinema's most successful purveyors of familial dysfunction, writer, producer, and director David O. Russell first thrust his vision into the faces of filmgoers with his 1994 film Spanking the Monkey. A darkly hilarious account of a young man's sexually torturous and seemingly interminable summer "vacation" spent in the company of his bored and bedridden mother, the film was a critical favorite, particularly at that year's Sundance Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Best Picture.
A native New Yorker, Russell attended Amherst College, where he majored in English and Political Science. Following graduation, he worked as a union organizer in Maine and taught literacy in Boston. Harboring an interest in filmmaking, Russell spent his spare time writing scripts and documenting his experiences; his video documentation of workers' conditions led to an internship with Smithsonian World for PBS in Washington, D.C. After completing his internship, Russell returned to New York, where he wrote and directed the short, Bingo Inferno, which was accepted into the 1987 Sundance Festival.