Adam Leipzig

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Adam Leipzig, 2013

Adam Leipzig is the CEO of Entertainment Media Partners, an American film and theatre producer and executive, as well as an author. As a former Disney executive, he supervised such films as Dead Poets Society (1989) and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989).[1] He went on to produce such films as Titus (1999), The Way Back (2010) and A Plastic Ocean (2017). While president of National Geographic Films, he acquired the international rights to March of the Penguins and created the US version. He is the author of two books on film making.

Leipzig is credited with pioneering the art of turning nature documentaries into "box office gold" by upgrading the production values and voice over narrative.[1][2][3][4]


Leipzig attended Yale University receiving a B.A. in literature in 1979.[5] He also trained as Fellow in Arts and Public Policy at Coro Foundation.[6]

Theatre career[edit]

Leipzig joined the Los Angeles Actors’ Theatre in Hollywood in 1979 as a stage manager and eventually became the theatre's dramaturge and one of its producers.[citation needed] In 1984, he was one of the members of Los Angeles theatre companies that successfully negotiated with the Los Angeles Olympic Arts Festival for local theatre inclusion in the festival.[7] In 1985 the Los Angeles Actors’ Theatre changed its name to the Los Angeles Theatre Center and moved to a four-theatre performing arts complex in downtown Los Angeles.[8]

Leipzig was involved in plays by Dario Fo,[9] Jon Robin Baitz, David Henry Hwang, Miguel Piñero, Joyce Carol Oates, Charles Marowitz, William Mastrosimone, Steve Carter, Michael Frayn, Marlene Meyer and Emmanuel Fried. He was one of the producers of Secret Honor, written by Donald Freed and Arnold M. Stone and directed by Robert Altman, which Altman had also made into a 1984 film.[10] Leipzig left his staff position at the Theatre Center in 1986, but continued to consult and do translations for the company.[11] Leipzig worked with Iranian theatre artist Reza Abdoh, and after Abdoh's death in 1995 organized the archiving of his works.[12] In 1999, Leipzig was responsible for the Internet success of Bang, Bang, You’re Dead by William Mastrosimone.[13] More recently, he produced two plays by Donald Freed: American Iliad (2001)[14] and The Einstein Plan (2010).[15]

Film career[edit]

Leipzig joined Walt Disney Studios as a creative executive in 1987 and in 1991 was promoted to senior vice president of motion picture production.[16][17] Films he supervised included Dead Poets Society, Good Morning, Vietnam, The Doctor, Billy Bathgate, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, 3 Ninjas, The Program, Mad Love, Fire Birds and Paradise. He left to become a producer with PolyGram Entertainment's Interscope Communications in 1993, where he produced films including The Associate, Roommates, Two Much and Dead Silence.[18][19] Leipzig started his own production company called Terra Bella Entertainment in 1999,[20] where he produced films including Titus and I Was a Teenage Faust.[19]

In 2003 Leipzig became president of National Geographic Films,[3][21] where he supervised acquisition and distribution of films including March of The Penguins, The Story of the Weeping Camel, Amreeka, Kekexili: Mountain Patrol and God Grew Tired of Us; and he produced The Way Back , The Last Lions and Arctic Tale.[22][19] In October, 2008, National Geographic Films announced $100 million in financing with an equity investment from Abu Dhabi Media Company and a credit facility from JP Morgan.[23] Leipzig left National Geographic Films in March, 2010.[24]

In 2014 he founded Entertainment Media Partners, a film consultancy,[25] that also produces films,[26] such as A Plastic Ocean.[27] From 2015-2016, Leipzig served as the Chief Operating Officer of CreativeFuture, a non-profit organization that advocates for creative communities, and is currently their Senior Creative Adviser. He also serves on the advisory board of the philanthropic social media platform and app, Pixhug.

March of the Penguins[edit]

Leipzig is credited with creating a new genre by showing the potential to turn a nature film genre into "box office gold" by taking a French nature film about penguins and retrofitting the didactic documentary for the American market, with features that included adding "Morgan Freeman's voice-of-God commentary and a new music score."[1][2][3] The Los Angeles Times characterized this "new genre of wildlife film-making" as a "hybrid" that takes " natural events and dress(es) them up for mass consumptionn... the effect is not unlike boosting brown rice with a little nacho cheese sauce, or customizing a Prius for drift- racing."[4] In Leipzig view, "Traditional documentaries are not entertaining enough anymore and don't really appeal to a wide enough audience. We really are trying to expand and create new genres of storytelling."[4]

According to the reviewer for the Los Angeles Times, "March of the Penguins, narrated by Morgan Freeman, is no typical nature documentary: It has elements of romantic drama, romantic comedy, suspense and even, however briefly, a happy, Hollywood-like ending."[28]

In 2005, when he was at National Geographic, Leipzig was co-producer of March of the Penguins;[29] the film was a major box office success, made $77 million domestically and over $133 million[29][30] worldwide to become the second-highest grossing documentary of all time[31] and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary. Leipzig became aware of the film when it was being shot in Antarctica and negotiated with the film's U.S. distributor Warner Independent, to purchase the film at Sundance for $1 million and create a new English-language version with narration voiced by Morgan Freeman (written by Jordan Roberts) and a new musical score composed by Alex Wurman.[32] The film's success marked a turning point for National Geographic.[33]

Teaching career[edit]

Leipzig is on faculty at the University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business, where he teaches in the MBA and Executive Education programs,[34][6] and at Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.

Public speaking[edit]

Leipzig has given two TEDx Talks. "The Real Culture Wars" was given at TEDx Fullerton in 2010.[35] His next talk, given in 2013, "How to Know Your Life Purpose in 5 Minutes," is one of the most popular TEDx Talks of all time, with more than 15 million views.[36]


Leipzig has written for American Theatre, Written By, Screen International, and High Performance, and he was the founding editor of Theatre LA magazine.[37] In 2005 Leipzig wrote two articles[38][39] for The New York Times about how the movie business works for theatrical and home video releases.


  • Inside Track for Independent Filmmakers: Get Your Movie Made, Get Your Movie Seen (2013, Macmillan; ISBN 978-0988534209)
  • Filmmaking in Action: Your Guide to the Skills and Craft, a comprehensive textbook (2016, Macmillan; ISBN 978-0312616991) - written with Barry S. Weiss and Michael Goldman.


  1. ^ a b c Thomson, Desson (29 July 2007). "March of the Cuddly-Wuddly Documentaries". Washington Post.
  2. ^ a b Carvajal, Doreen (26 September 2005). "Penguins help lead way in documentaries' surge French movie's success buoys filmmakers in a transformed genre". International Herald Tribune.
  3. ^ a b c Revkin, Andrew (23 July 2007). "'Arctic Tale': Global warming goes family friendly". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Crabtree, Sheigh; Piccalo, Gina (22 July 2007). "It's a not-a-doc -- and truth is inconvenient". Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ (Retrieved 2010-09-07)
  6. ^ a b "Adam Leipzig | Faculty Directory | Berkeley-Haas". Retrieved 2016-10-01.
  7. ^ L.A. Times press for 1984 Olympic Arts Festival (Retrieved 2010-09-07).
  8. ^ Christon, Lawrence. "Theatre Center Lists Opening of Roster Plays." L.A. Times 25 April 1985. Web (Retrieved 2010-09-07).
  9. ^ Christon, Lawrence. "Stage Review: Dario Fo Playlets Make A Trip To The Burbage." L.A. Times 4 March 1986. Web (Retrieved 2010-09-07) [1]
  10. ^ Zuckoff, Mitchell. Robert Altman: An Oral Biography. Random House, Inc., 2009. Web (Retrieved 2010-09-07).[2]
  11. ^ Drake, Sylvie. "L.a. Theatre Center Still Eclectic." L.A. Times 30 April 1987. Web (Retrieved 2010-09-07).[3]
  12. ^ Stayton, Richard. "STAGE: Theater on the Edge: Teetering near financial ruin, LATC dares to stage one of its most costly, controversial shows, Reza Abdoh's outrageous 'Bogeyman'." L.A. Times 25 August 1991. Web (Retrieved 2010-09-07).[4] Mufson, Daniel. Reza Abdoh. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999. Print. ISBN 0-8018-6124-1
  13. ^ (Retrieved 2010-09-08) Archived November 27, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Weinart, Laura. "American Iliad." Black Stage West 14 June 2001. Web (Retrieved 2010-09-07). [5]
  15. ^ The Einstein Plan production team profile (Retrieved 2010-09-07) Archived July 29, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "EXECUTIVE CHANGES". The New York Times. 24 July 1991. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  17. ^ (Retrieved 2010-09-07)
  18. ^ James, Caryn (10 January 1997). "A Thriller With a Two-in-One Hero". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  19. ^ a b c (Retrieved 2010-09-07)
  20. ^ Chetwyn, Josh. "Leipzig sets up prod'n company." The Hollywood Reporter 26 February 1998. Web (Retrieved 2010-09-07). [6]
  21. ^ Thompson, Anne. "National Geographic a natural for Hollywood." The Hollywood Reporter 29 April 2005. Web (Retrieved 2010-09-07). [7]
  22. ^ Revkin, Andrew (23 July 2007). "Arctic Tale". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  23. ^ "Academy Award-Winning National Geographic and Imagenation Abu Dhabi Form Joint Venture to Finance Feature Films: Partnership to Commit $100 Million to Finance 10 to 15 Features over Next 5 Years." National Geographic 8 October 2008. Web (Retrieved 2010-09-07). [8]
  24. ^ Finke, Nikki. "EXCLUSIVE: Daniel Battsek Becoming President Of National Geographic Films; Adam Leipzig Leaving To Produce." Deadline Hollywood 5 January 2010. Web (Retrieved 2010-09-07). [9]
  25. ^ Brooks, Barnes; Cieply, Michael (13 January 2014). "More Movies At Sundance Sidestepping Big Screen". The New York Times.
  26. ^ French, Agatha (3 August 2017). "Money talk for writers and other creatives". Los Angeles Times.
  27. ^ "A Plastic Ocean". Archived from the original on 2016-10-01. Retrieved 2016-10-01.
  28. ^ Ramsey, Nancy (26 June 2005). "Lives of cold comfort; 'March of the Penguins' details the birds' remarkable quest to survive their Antarctic environment (film review)". Los Angeles Times.
  29. ^ a b "A Warm and Fuzzy 'Arctic'". The Washington Post. 3 August 2007.
  30. ^ "La marche de l'empereur (2005) - Financial Information". Retrieved 2016-10-01.
  31. ^ Blair, Elizabeth. "'March of the Penguins' a Box Office Surprise." NPR 31 October 2005. Web (Retrieved 2010-09-07). [10]
  32. ^ Carvajal, Doreen. "Compared With Their Filmmakers, the Penguins Have It Easy." The New York Times 28 September 2005. Web (Retrieved 2010-09-07).[11]
  33. ^ Kay, Jeremy. "North America - Natural selection." Screen Daily 12 January 2007. Web (Retrieved 2010-09-07).[12]
  34. ^ Barney, Chuck (5 February 2017). "FRACTIOUS TIMES BEDEVIL SUPER BOWL ADVERTISERS". The Mercury News.
  35. ^ TEDx Talks (2010-09-19), TEDxFullerton - Adam Leipzig - The Real Culture War, retrieved 2016-10-01
  36. ^ TEDx Talks (2013-02-01), How to know your life purpose in 5 minutes | Adam Leipzig | TEDxMalibu, retrieved 2017-07-06
  37. ^ (Retrieved 2010-09-07) Archived July 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  38. ^ Leipzig, Adam. "The Sundance Odds Get Even Longer." The New York Times 16 January 2005. Web (Retrieved 2010-09-07). [13]
  39. ^ Leipzig, Adam. "How to Sell a Movie (or Fail) in Four Hours." The New York Times 13 November 2005. Web (Retrieved 2010-09-07).[14]

External links[edit]