writes, directs, produces, & edits documentary films. Her current film, AWAKE: The Life of Yogananda, co-directed with Paola di Florio, premiered to sold-out crowds at the Seattle Film Festival May 19, 2014. It won the Audience Award at the Illuminate Film Festival, and the Spirit of Cinema Award at the Maui Film Festival. Look for AWAKE in theaters in the fall.
ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT
Lisa’s last film, the award-winning One Lucky Elephant, premiered to sold-out crowds at the Los Angeles Film Festival, 2010, and continued to sell out screenings at festivals like IDFA, St. Louis, and the Starz Denver Film Festival. One Lucky Elephant premiered theatrically at Manhattan's Film Forum in June 2011. One Lucky Elephant won Best Editing, Feature Documentary, at the Woodstock Film Festival in 2010, and was acquired by Oprah Winfrey’s network, OWN. It was featured as part of OWN’s monthly documentary club in 2011. One Lucky Elephant was selected to be part of the U.S. State Department's American Documentary Showcase, and screened in Russia, Greece, Korea, & other countries in this program of "Documentary Diplomacy."
Leeman produced the feature doc Crazy Wisdom: The Life & Times of Chogyam Trunga, which profiles the influential and provocative Tibetan Buddhist teacher and his deep impact on the West (Director: Johanna Demetrakas). Crazy Wisdom premiered at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in 2011, sold out every screening, was programmed as Best of the Fest, and continued selling out screenings at festivals and theatrical screenings. Interview with Director Johanna Demetrakas here. DVD's & Downloads available at Alive Mind Cinema.
Lisa’s first film, Metamorphosis: Man Into Woman, won the Filmmakers Trophy upon its premiere at Sundance (1990). Metamorphosis was the first documentary film to intimately follow one person’s transformation from man to woman. Sheila Benson of the LA Times wrote:
“The power and intimacy in Leeman’s unsentimental portrait of animator Gary/Gabi and his/her four-year quest for a sexual identity change is equaled only by the honesty and bravery of the film’s subject.”
PBS broadcast Metamorphosis on its celebrated series POV, where it earned the highest audience rating of any POV broadcast. It screened in festivals around the world, has aired in over a dozen countries, and is screened regularly in university classes on psychology, sociology, sexuality, and women’s studies.
Lisa co-directed and edited Who Needs Sleep, with renowned cinematographer & director Haskell Wexler. Who Needs Sleep investigates the perils of sleep deprivation and long work hours in the movie business, and in our culture at large, and asks who is really protecting American workers.
Lisa followed Who Needs Sleep with the feature doc Out of Faith, an emotional character-driven film that explores conflicts over interfaith marriage and assimilation as seen through three generations of a family headed by Holocaust survivors. The film is close to her heart, as she herself is the product of an interfaith marriage. Out of Faith has screened in over two dozen festivals internationally, premiered theatrically in March, 2008, and was broadcast nationally on national PBS in the winter of ’09.
Writing credits include the theatrically released feature doc Naked in Ashes, which follows an ascetic yogi in India and a young disciple who undergoes a secret initiation; Origins of Yoga; and Not in God’s Name, which features the Dalai Lama and explores the similar values underlying all faiths, and their potential for bridging perceived differences. (PBS, 2010)
Lisa also co-wrote and edited the acclaimed Made in LA, which follows three Latina immigrants working in LA’s garment factories and their struggle for self-empowerment as they wage a three-year battle to bring a major clothing retailer to the negotiating table (Silverdocs 2007; Los Angeles Film Festival 2007; POV/PBS 2007).
In addition to producing and directing, Lisa has served as a judge at the Sundance Film Festival, the president of the International Documentary Association, and on the boards of the IDA and the National Coalition of Independent Public Broadcasting Producers. Lisa writes articles about the international documentary scene, and on the ethics of documentary filmmaking. She is on the faculty of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, and has taught documentary filmmaking in Beijing, China; Amman, Jordan; Lisbon, Portugal as part of the EU DocNomads Masters Program, and of course, Los Angeles.
Lisa has directed & produced short docs too. In 1997, she received an Emmy nomination for Fender Philosophers, a portrait of Americans as seen through our bumper stickers. Two years later, Lisa’s comedic video diary Breaking Up, which explores the heartbreak and humor at the end of romance, premiered on ARTE, Europe’s noted arts & culture station. Lisa wrote, produced and directed for the 2000 & 2001 seasons of the highly-rated series Medical Diary for the Discovery Health Network. Prior to that, she was commissioned to produce a short documentary for the World Festival of Sacred Music, a multi-cultural, multi-venue nine day event in Los Angeles, initiated by the Dalai Lama and attended by over 60,000 people across L.A. Other commissions include work for KCET’s Independent Eye; FNN’s Appreciating Art; and the Liberty Hill Foundation.
Leeman spent a decade editing award-winning social issue documentaries, including Renee Tajima-Pena’s The Journey Home (PBS Special); Michelle LeBrun’s Death: A Love Story (Sundance ‘99); Laura’s Simon’s Fear and Learning at Hoover Elementary (POV; Winner, Freedom of Expression Award, Sundance ‘97); Marco Williams’ In Search of Our Fathers, on women-headed African-American families (Sundance '92; FRONTLINE, PBS); Will My Mother Go to Berlin?, Micha Peled’s personal essay on Jewish-German relations (ARD, PBS); Stanley Nelson’s Methadone: Curse or Cure? (PBS); It Was A Wonderful Life, Michele Ohayon’s film on middle-class homeless women (PBS); and the TBS series The Native Americans and America’s Music: The Roots of Country.
Honors include the once-in-a-lifetime American Film Institute’s Independent Filmmaker Grant, the Western States Media Arts Fellowship, and the ITVS/PMN Station-Independent Partnership Program Grant, as well as numerous awards her films have received.