American filmmaker Steven Shainberg has worked all over the film set in addition to being an accomplished writer, producer, and director. After studying English literature and East Asian studies at Yale, he went straight to work behind the scenes as a production coordinator, assistant director, and producer on a number of projects. At the American Film Institute he started writing and directing his own short projects, including The Prom starring Jennifer Jason Leigh. He took his short films around to major festivals, and eventually his short film series "Mr. Viril" was shown in segments on MTV. In 1998, he made his feature-film debut with the film noir Hit Me, based on the novel A Swell-Looking Babe by Jim Thompson (who also wrote The Grifters). The film starred Elias Koteas and did well with festival audiences, but his breakthrough film came about in 2002 with Secretary. Adapted by his colleague Erin Cressida Wilson from a short story by Mary Gaitskill, Secretary was a controversial yet touching and honest film starring Maggie Gyllenhaal in her first leading performance. A hit at festivals, it won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance. As the principal director in the advertising company Lunch, Shainberg has also directed several high-profile television commercials.