Susan O'Connell has been in the film industry for forty years. She studied theatre, film and television at UCLA. In 1971, while still at UCLA, she co-founded Video Studios, Inc. She also designed and constructed a mobile, four-camera video van for Leon Russell and Shelter Records. Simultaneously she worked as a professional actress and guest-starred in over a dozen television episodes (for example, IRONSIDES, FBI, and HAWAII FIVE-O.) as well as in four feature films (including Sam Peckinpah's THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE) and played Tara on the New York soap opera ALL MY CHILDREN.
In 1977 she, along with two other associates, formed a feature film production company, Godmother Productions, Inc. They produced the award-winning film TELL ME A RIDDLE, starring Melvyn Douglas, Lila Kedrova and Brooke Adams and directed by Lee Grant. Saul Zaentz was the Executive Producer. Her company followed by executive-producing a TV Movie of the Week for ABC and Columbia Pictures Television called THE OKLAHOMA CITY DOLLS, starring Ronnie Blakely, Susan Blakely Eddie Albert and Waylon Jennings. As an officer and director of Godmother Film Productions, Inc., O'Connell worked with private investors to create several partnerships to develop and package high-quality feature films. In partnership with Margot Kidder, she optioned and developed the novel SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT by Rita Mae Brown. At the request of George Lucas and with Francis Coppola as Executive Producer, she optioned the Gore Vidal novel, DEATH IN THE FIFTH POSITION. She also optioned the screenplay BORN WITH A TRUNK by Gen Le Roy, for Michael Smuin to direct. This project was invited to the Sundance writing and directing workshop.
In 1989 she founded Pacific Film Fund Management Inc., a venture capital management company specializing in high-quality, low budget films. Her offices were in Francis Coppolla's Zoetrope building. She Executive Produced a feature film called SKELETON WOMAN, directed by Vivi Letsou. She financed and completed (with the help of Lucasfilm) post-production of a Soviet-American dramatic feature film about the Chernobyl accident, called RASPAD, and financed and Executive Produced an independent film called STEAL AMERICA. Also with Pacific Film Fund, O'Connell developed the feature film CHECKMAN, based on the treatment by David Eyre, with Harvey Keitel as Executive Producer.
In 1993, she assisted Bumbershoot Productions in selling the film rights to the Pulitzer Prize winning novel A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES to Paramount Pictures and is attached as Co-Producer. O'Connell serves on the board of Bumbershoot Productions and continues to work on project development. O'Connell has served as a fundraiser and/or consultant for a dozen other independent filmmakers across the country.
O'Connell was the founder of the Northern California chapter of Women in Film, and was responsible for establishing chapters of Women in Film in both Chicago and Dallas. She has taught screenplay writing at Menlo College and is currently residing in a Zen Buddhist temple in San Francisco. She was ordained as a Zen priest in 1999 and is continuing to study and train as a Zen teacher.