Born and raised in the suburbs of New Jersey, Josh Sternfeld studied English literature at Washington University. Afterward, he went to New York University's Graduate Film Program at Tisch School of the Arts and graduated in 1998. Sternfeld won critical acclaim when his first film, Balloons, Streamers (1997), premiered at the 1997 New York Film Festival and then screened at the 1998 Sundance Festival. Later, the broadcast rights for the film were sold to Canal+ in Europe and Showtime Networks/Sundance Channel in the U.S. His thesis short, Colin's Date (1999), screened at the 1999 Haig Manoogian Screenings in Los Angeles.
After completing his second film, Sternfeld worked as an assistant director at Steeplechase Films in New York. While there, he worked on Ric Burns's 2000 Emmy-winning series, New York: A Documentary Film (1999). It was while Sternfeld was commuting uptown to his job at Steeplechase that he wrote his first feature screenplay, Winter Solstice (2005).
Each year the Sundance Institute hosts a range of labs at the Sundance Village in the Utah Mountains for filmmakers, writers, playwrights, film composers and other artists. Winter Solstice was one of 12 scripts chosen from hundreds of entries to be developed at the 2001 Screenwriter's Lab. The lab is a five-day writer's workshop that allows emerging artists to work intensively on their feature film scripts with the support of established screenwriters.
"I wanted to explore the concept of fear--fear of expressing yourself, fear of your own emotions, fear of change," said Sternfeld, "--and the Screenwriter's Lab was a chance to have an open dialogue with people I really respect. Ultimately, I believe it led me to better writing."
Winter Solstice is about a suburban widower (Anthony LaPaglia) simultaneously confronting his older son's decision to leave home, his younger son's self-destructive behavior, and his romantic feelings for a new neighbor. In addition to being Sternfeld's feature writing debut, it is also his feature directorial debut. After finishing Winter Solstice, Sternfeld wrote an article for FLM Magazine outlining the seven steps required to make a film. In step seven, answering the question: Why did I do this? he says, "There are approximately two hundred reasons not to make a film, and only one reason to go forward with The Marathon. If you're like me, one is enough.
"And for those people contemplating this life, I will say the same thing I say at every party: Keep going, it's worth it. It is absolutely worth it."
Winter Solstice (2005)