Adam Leipzig is an entrepreneur, filmmaker, producer, publisher, and the author of Filmmaking in Action and Inside Track for Independent Filmmakers. He is the COO of CreativeFuture, a non-profit organization advocating for the creative community. He is also the CEO of Entertainment Media Partners, which provides informed guidance for independent media companies, financiers, and producers, and is the publisher of Cultural Weekly. Adam teaches at Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, in the Executive Education program of UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business, and in UCLA's Professional Producing Program. He has overseen more than 25 movies as producer, executive, or distributor, including March of the Penguins; Dead Poets Society; Titus; Honey, I Shrunk the Kids; Amreeka; and The Story of the Weeping Camel. Adam served as president of National Geographic Films and as senior vice president at Walt Disney Studios, and in each of those positions was responsible for the movie industry's most profitable film of the year.
You’re both a filmmaker and an educator. What are your favorite courses to teach, and how do your Hollywood experiences inform your teaching?
I enjoy teaching marketing and distribution because it sounds so dry, but it is really exciting. The class brings in their laptops every day. We burrow into databases and learn how to reverse-engineer trailers, one-sheets and distribution patterns. They teach themselves. In this way, we discover how to demystify Hollywood really operates. Everything I do is informed by my Hollywood experience because that's the world I come from and students love practical as-it-really-happens information.
You also have a lot of experience as a public speaker outside of the classroom, including a talk for TEDx. How does teaching compare to, say, delivering a keynote address to an industry audience?
Well, teaching is interactive. In fact, when you're teaching, the more the students participate and do the work themselves, the better the learning outcomes. When I give a keynote, I'm pretty much doing the work.
What advice to you have for instructors who teach filmmaking and production courses?
The film and production educators I have met are so smart and committed, they could probably give me advice!
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges students interested in filmmaking and video production face?
1. Have higher standards -- your work can always be better. 2. Get over the idea that you want to be a director. The world does not need a zillion more directors, and there are more than 200 other fabulous creative jobs in film and media. 3. Only 20% of the jobs in film and media are in Los Angeles or New York. Most of the jobs are elsewhere in the nation, and not in traditional movies or TV.
What inspired you to get into the world of instructional/educational publishing with Inside Track and Filmmaking in Action?
At a certain point in your life, you just want to share information. I have been down all these roads before. I see the next generation of independent filmmakers in the rear-view mirror, and I would like to give them a faster track to knowledge and success.
How does your work as CEO of Entertainment Media Partners inform your work as an educator? Or vice versa?
Entertainment Media Partners keeps me in the day-to-day of film and media. I stay current and I'm always learning new things.
You have a pretty busy schedule. Do you get a chance to go out to the movies much? Have you seen anything you really loved lately?
Last night I watched a Korean noir-action movie called The Divine Move on Netflix. Terrific movie that’s way better than its title. Kept me up ‘til three in the morning. I am paying for it today.
What was the last book you read?
Speculative Relationships, Volume 2, by Tyrell Cannon.
What are some of your hobbies outside the film industry?
Bike riding. Love it.
What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you? Your “fun fact,” in other words.
I'm a really good cook. Want to come over for dinner?