Joan Tewksbury was eleven years old when she enrolled at the American School of Dance, where she studied on an off-and-on basis for the next six years. In 1947, Tewksbury made her first film appearance as a child ballerina in the MGM feature The Unfinished Dance. She went on to understudy Mary Martin in the Broadway musical Peter Pan, then worked as a stage, film and TV choreographer in the LA area. From 1958 through 1960, she attended drama classes at USC. In 1971, she went to work as a script supervisor for filmmaker Robert Altman. Under his guidance, she matriculated to co-scripter of Thieves Like Us (1974), finally achieving solo screenplay credit for Nashville (1975). After making her film directorial bow with Hempstead Center, a 1974 documentary on the life of Anne Freud, Tewsbury directed her first stage play, Cowboy Jack, and the following year made her feature-film directorial bow with the uneven but stimulating "woman takes charge of her life" drama Old Boyfriends (1979). Busiest as a television director in the past two decades, Tewksbury has helmed such made-for-TV features as The Tenth Month (1979), Wild Texas Wind (1991) and On Promised Land. She has also directed episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (the 1986 revival version), Northern Exposure, Doogie Howser MD and Picket Fences, and was also responsible for the teleplay of the well-received cable-TV movie Cold Sassy Tree (1992). In 1986, she joined the faculty of UCLA, teaching a filmwriting course. Despite her behind-the-camera activities, Joan Tewksbury has never completely abandoned acting; in 1993, she was seen in a cameo in Robert Altman's The Player.