“Movies are the most powerful empathy machine in all the arts.” – Roger Ebert

Lisa Leeman believes that strong narrative and character-driven films can change the world, one story at a time.  She has produced, directed, written & edited award-winning feature & short documentaries for the last thirty years.  Her work mainly focuses two areas – what she calls ‘sideways social issue filmmaking’ and films that explore faith and spirituality.  

Many of her films illuminate contemporary social issues through intimate character-driven stories that follow people at critical turning points.  Roger Ebert named Leeman’s One Lucky Elephant as one of the best documentaries of 2011.  

Leeman is currently in post-production on a sequel to her groundbreaking first film, Metamorphosis: Man into Woman, which won the Filmmaker’s Trophy at the 1990 Sundance Film Festival & garnered top broadcast ratings on POV/PBS.  The new film, Trans*Formed, follows the film’s transgender artist at a new crossroads, while Lisa interrogates thorny ethical questions around the responsibilities filmmakers have to the people whose lives they film, and the blind spots inherent in being a cis-gender filmmaker profiling a gender-non-conforming person. 

Lisa believes biography is a powerful way to cinematically explore spirituality.  She co-wrote/directed/produced the award-winning feature documentary Awake, which screened in U.S. theaters for 48 weeks, and in 17 countries.  Awake is one of only 17 films directed by women in the 250 top-grossing films of 2014.  Leeman produced Crazy Wisdom, a portrait of the renowned Tibetan meditation master, Chogyam Trungpa, and is currently developing a narrative non-fiction series on the history of yoga and Vedanta in the United States, inspired by the books American Veda and The Subtle Body.  

Lisa recently produced and directed a series of #MeToo PSAs with an all-women crew of faculty and students at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, where she is a full professor.  Interview with Lisa here

Leeman is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, and has served as a judge at the Sundance Film Festival and as the president of the International Documentary Association.  Her work has been supported by Sundance, ITVS, the Producers Guild, the American Film Institute, and has screened in theaters, festivals, and broadcasts around the world, including IDFA, PBS, HBO, ARTE, Channel 4.   Lisa has taught master classes on documentary filmmaking in Azerbaijan, China, Jordan, Malawi, Portugal, the Republic of Georgia and the West Bank.