A pug-nosed New York performer turned independent filmmaker Eric Schaeffer began as an actor-writer-director in Off-Off-Broadway productions and also dabbled as a TV writer for the Fox "reality" series "America's Most Wanted" and the animated "Beverly Hills Teens" (syndicated). It was his work as NYC cab driver, however, that helped inspire "My Life's in Turnaround" (1993), the ultra low-budget, light romantic comedy he co-wrote, co-directed and co-starred in with bartender-friend Donal Lardner Ward. Set amidst the NYC independent filmmaking community, the autobiographical story featured Schaeffer as a cabbie and Ward as a bartender, looking for girlfriends and financing for a first-movie, and real-life taxi encounters with Phoebe Cates and Martha Plimpton made their art-imitating-life way into the picture, as did cameos by Casey Siemaszko and John Sayles as sleazy industry types. Praise for its off-kilter humor helped the pair sell a series idea, enabling them to create, produce and star in the short-lived Fox sitcom "Too Something/New York Daze" (1995-96).
With his solo directorial effort, "If Lucy Fell" (1996), Schaeffer attempted to reinvent the romantic comedy for the 1990s with his tale of two friends who have agreed to a suicide pact if neither has married by the time they are thirty. In addition to co-producing and acting in the film, which co-starred Sarah Jessica Parker (in a role prefiguring her "Sex and the City" character) and Elle Macpherson, he wrote a screenplay representing a quantum leap from his debut, but the picture met with a mixed reception at the box office, despite its more cohesive style and narrative. He fared even worse with "Fall" (1997), a sexually obsessive reworking of the beauty and the beast myth starring Schaeffer (again as a cab driver) opposite Amanda De Cadenet as a married fashion model. Largely dismissed by critics and ignored by audiences, the character study of two people trying to create and maintain a serious relationship displayed Schaeffer's gifted ear for dialogue, though De Cadenet's model came across as unsympathetic.
During the late 90s, Schaeffer began turning up more frequently as an actor-for-hire. After essaying the part of Gwynne in "Gunshy" (1998, which premiered on Cinemax before its video release), he landed a regular role as the twice-divorced doctor son of Jeffrey Tambor and Jill Clayburgh in the short-lived NBC sitcom "Everything's Relative" (1999) and later starred in the DreamWorks-produced CBS sitcom pilot "Legal Aid" (lensed 1999), playing one of an assortment of lawyers in a NYC public defender's office. He returned as an actor-writer-director with "Wirey Spindell" (1999), a teen sex comedy for the grown-up art-house crowd that employed four actors to portray the titular character at different ages. Its story of a sexually preoccupied man on the eve of his marriage to a woman for whom he has lost his sexual desire was not without its rough spots, but Schaeffer's quirky view of life helped put the sexy film across. He then acted in Harold Zwart's "One Night at McCool's" (2001), which starred Michael Douglas, Matt Dillon and Liv Tyler.
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Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Wrote and directed "The Blameless", produced at Duality Playhouse, NYC
With Donal Lardner Ward, made feature debut as producer. director, writer and star of "My Life's in Turnaround"
Appeared in "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes", Disney's TV-movie remake of its 1970 feature of the same name
Solo directorial debut, "If Lucy Fell" (also actor, co-producer, screenwriter)
Wrote, produced, directed and starred in third film, "Fall"
Portrayed Gwynne in "Gunshy", a well written and acted entry to the crime genre starring William Petersen; aired on Cinemax before video release
Co-starred in the unsold CBS comedy pilot, "Legal Aid"
Had co-starring role on the very short-lived NBC series "Everything's Relative"
Wrote, directed and starred in the comedy "Wirey Spindell"
Acted in Harold Zwart's "One Night at McCool's", starring Michael Douglas, Matt Dillon and Liv Tyler
Had featured role in the NBC drama series "First Years", based on the British series "This Life"
Produced, wrote and directed "Never Again" (filmed 2000), a romance about a couple in their 50s who fall in love