Adam Leipzig

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Adam Leipzig
TNW USA 2013 - Day 2 (10326942656).jpg
Adam Leipzig in 2013
Bornborn circa 1958[1]
Alma materYale University
  • Film producer
  • Theater producer
  • Author
  • Educator
Years active1979–present
Known for

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).[2] He went on to produce such films as Titus (1999), The Way Back (2010) and A Plastic Ocean (2016). While president of National Geographic Films, he acquired the international rights to March of the Penguins and created the US version, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.[3] 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.[2][4][5][6]

Leipzig currently serves as CEO of MediaU, an online learning center in the domain of filmmaking and television.[7] Leipzig is also Founder of Cultural Daily (former Cultural Weekly), a daily digital publication and media project for participatory civic journalism.[8] He lectures in the MBA and Executive Education programs at the University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business.[9]

Early life and education[edit]

Adam Leipzig grew up in Reseda, Los Angeles, a neighborhood in San Fernando Valley, California.[10][1] He attended Yale University and graduated with a B.A. degree in literature in 1979.[9] He also trained as Fellow in Arts and Public Policy at Coro Foundation.[9] After graduating from Yale, Leipzig began his career in the Los Angeles Theatre Center (formerly the Los Angeles Actors’ Theatre) as an unpaid assistant stage manager, where he eventually became a dramaturge/associate director.[1][11]


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.[12] 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.[13]

Leipzig was involved in plays by Dario Fo,[14] 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 of the same name.[15] Leipzig left his staff position at the Theatre Center in 1986, but continued to consult and do translations for the company.[16] Leipzig worked with Iranian theatre artist Reza Abdoh, and after Abdoh's death in 1995 organized the archiving of his works.[17][18] In 1999, Leipzig was responsible for the Internet success of Bang, Bang, You’re Dead by William Mastrosimone.[19] He also produced two plays by Donald Freed: American Iliad (2001)[20] and The Einstein Plan (2010).[21]


Leipzig joined Walt Disney Studios/Touchstone Pictures[11] as a creative executive in 1987 and in 1991 was promoted to senior vice president of motion picture production.[22][23] 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,[24] 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.[25][26] Leipzig started his own production company called Terra Bella Entertainment in 1999,[27] where he produced films including Titus and I Was a Teenage Faust.[26]

In 2003 Leipzig became president of National Geographic Films,[5][28] 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.[5][26] 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.[29] Leipzig left National Geographic Films in March, 2010.[30]

In 2014 he founded Entertainment Media Partners, a film consultancy,[31] that also produces films,[32] such as A Plastic Ocean.[33] 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 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."[2][4][5] 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 consumption... the effect is not unlike boosting brown rice with a little nacho cheese sauce, or customizing a Prius for drift- racing."[6] As Adam Leipzig rationalized his approach in the same article, "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."[6]

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."[34]

In 2005, when he was at National Geographic, Leipzig was co-producer of March of the Penguins;[35] the film was a major box office success, made $77 million domestically and over $133 million[35][36] worldwide to become the second-highest grossing documentary of all time[37] 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.[38] The film's success marked a turning point for National Geographic.[39]


Leipzig is on faculty at the University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business, where he teaches in the MBA and Executive Education programs,[40][9] 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.[41] 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.[42]


Leipzig has written for American Theatre, Written By, Screen International, and High Performance, and he was the founding editor of Theatre LA magazine.[43] In 2005 Leipzig wrote two articles[44][45] 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.


Year Title Credit Notes
2020 Mentally Al Executive producer Documentary
2019 #NoJoke Executive producer Documentary
2018 'StreetCreative Producer Documentary Short
2016 A Plastic Ocean Producer Documentary
2011 The Last Lions Executive producer Documentary
2010 The Way Back Executive producer Film
2007 The Choir Executive producer Documentary
2007 Arctic Tale Producer Documentary
2002 The Biggest Step Producer Film
2002 I Was a Teenage Faust Executive producer (TV movie)
1999 Titus Co-producer Film
1997 Dead Silence Executive producer TV movie[11]
1996 The Associate Producer Film[11]
1995 Two Much Executive producer Film[11]
1995 Roommates Executive producer Film[11]


  1. ^ a b c Michaelson, Judith (September 15, 1985). "Bill Bushnell Polishes His Dream". Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ a b c Thomson, Desson (July 29, 2007). "March of the Cuddly-Wuddly Documentaries". Washington Post.
  3. ^ "THE 78TH ACADEMY AWARDS in 2006". Oscars Nominations And Ceremonies In 2006.
  4. ^ a b Carvajal, Doreen (September 26, 2005). "Penguins help lead way in documentaries' surge French movie's success buoys filmmakers in a transformed genre". International Herald Tribune.
  5. ^ a b c d Revkin, Andrew (July 23, 2007). "'Arctic Tale': Global warming goes family friendly". The New York Times. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Crabtree, Sheigh; Piccalo, Gina (July 22, 2007). "It's a not-a-doc -- and truth is inconvenient". Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ "21st Century Skills for Today's Content Creators". MediaU.
  8. ^ "BigSpotlight: Adam Leipzig, Film Producer, Creative Leadership & Communications Expert". Big Speak. May 31, 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d Adam Leipzig : Lecturer, Haas School of Business

    Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved December 29, 2022.

  10. ^ "Adam Leipzig: The Movie Yoda". SoulVision Magazine. February 28, 2019.
  11. ^ a b c d e f "Leipzig bows Terra Bella Ent". Variety. February 26, 1998.
  12. ^ L.A. Times press for 1984 Olympic Arts Festival. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  13. ^ Christon, Lawrence (April 25, 1985). "Theatre Center Lists Opening of Roster Plays". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  14. ^ Christon, Lawrence (March 4, 1986). "Stage Review: Dario Fo Playlets Make A Trip To The Burbage". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  15. ^ Zuckoff, Mitchell (2009). "Robert Altman: The Oral Biography". p. 384. ISBN 9780307267689. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  16. ^ Drake, Sylvie (April 30, 1987). "L.A. Theatre Center Still Eclectic". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  17. ^ Stayton, Richard (August 25, 1991). "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'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  18. ^ Mufson, Daniel (1999). Reza Abdoh. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-6124-1.
  19. ^ "Adam Leipzig : President, National Geographic Films and National Geographic World Films". National Geographic. Archived from the original on November 27, 2009. Retrieved September 8, 2010.
  20. ^ Weinart, Laura (June 14, 2001). "American Iliad. Black Stage West". Retrieved September 7, 2010.[dead link]
  21. ^ "This is our team". Archived from the original on July 29, 2010. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  22. ^ "EXECUTIVE CHANGES". The New York Times. July 24, 1991. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
  23. ^ (Retrieved September 7, 2010)
  24. ^ "Leipzig joins Interscope ranks". Variety. February 26, 1993.
  25. ^ James, Caryn (January 10, 1997). "A Thriller With a Two-in-One Hero". The New York Times. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
  26. ^ a b c (Retrieved September 7, 2010)
  27. ^ Chetwyn, Josh. Leipzig sets up prod'n company The Hollywood Reporter 26 February 1998. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  28. ^ Thompson, Anne. National Geographic a natural for Hollywood The Hollywood Reporter 29 April 2005. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  29. ^ 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. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  30. ^ Finke, Nikki (January 5, 2010). "EXCLUSIVE: Daniel Battsek Becoming President Of National Geographic Films; Adam Leipzig Leaving To Produce". Deadline.
  31. ^ Brooks, Barnes; Cieply, Michael (January 13, 2014). "More Movies At Sundance Sidestepping Big Screen". The New York Times.
  32. ^ French, Agatha (August 3, 2017). "Money talk for writers and other creatives". Los Angeles Times.
  33. ^ "A Plastic Ocean". Archived from the original on October 1, 2016. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  34. ^ Ramsey, Nancy (June 26, 2005). "Lives of cold comfort; 'March of the Penguins' details the birds' remarkable quest to survive their Antarctic environment (film review)". Los Angeles Times.
  35. ^ a b "A Warm and Fuzzy 'Arctic'". The Washington Post. August 3, 2007.
  36. ^ "La marche de l'empereur (2005) - Financial Information". Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  37. ^ Blair, Elizabeth. 'March of the Penguins' a Box Office Surprise NPR 31 October 2005. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  38. ^ Carvajal, Doreen. Compared With Their Filmmakers, the Penguins Have It Easy. The New York Times 28 September 2005. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  39. ^ Kay, Jeremy. North America - Natural selection Screen Daily 12 January 2007. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  40. ^ Barney, Chuck (February 5, 2017). "FRACTIOUS TIMES BEDEVIL SUPER BOWL ADVERTISERS". The Mercury News.
  41. ^ TEDx Talks (September 19, 2010), TEDxFullerton - Adam Leipzig - The Real Culture War, archived from the original on December 21, 2021, retrieved October 1, 2016
  42. ^ TEDx Talks (February 1, 2013), How to know your life purpose in 5 minutes | Adam Leipzig | TEDxMalibu, retrieved July 6, 2017
  43. ^ (Retrieved September 7, 2010) Archived July 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  44. ^ Leipzig, Adam. The Sundance Odds Get Even Longer The New York Times 16 January 2005. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  45. ^ Leipzig, Adam. How to Sell a Movie (or Fail) in Four Hours The New York Times 13 November 2005. Retrieved September 7, 2010.

External links[edit]