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Lisa Nishimura’s exit from Netflix shocks the documentary world – Deadline

Lisa Nishimura’s exit from Netflix shocks the documentary world – Deadline

Netflix executive Lisa Nishimura has backed some of streaming’s biggest hits – Tiger KingAnd Tinder scammerAnd dog powerAnd Made a killerAnd American factory —but in an age of corporate cost-cutting, that wasn’t enough to save her job.

Her impending departure as vice president of independent film and documentary features, after a 16-year stint at Netflix, came as a particular shock to the nonfiction community, which saw her embrace Netflix as the dominant force in documentary and, in the process, become one of Netflix’s most visual execs.

(LR) Lisa Nishimura, Taylor Swift, and Ted Sarandos Attend the Netflix 2019 Golden Globes After Party

Photo by Tommaso Bodi/Getty Images for Netflix

said award-winning director Jeff Orlowski Yang, Director of Documentaries on Netflix The social dilemma And Coral hunt. She has championed documentaries and elevated them to the same status as written novels. You have greatly helped grow the industry.”

Academy Award-winning film director Alex Gibney added, “I’ve found Lisa one of the smartest creative executives in Hollywood.”

Nishimura had weathered several previous re-recordings, but the cold winds of austerity sweeping through the industry covered her and fellow executive Ian Brake, VP of Original Independent Film. And the chill isn’t just limited to Netflix — last month, Vinnie Malhotra was let go as executive vice president of non-fiction programming for Showtime Networks, and in late 2022 CNN Films ended its distinguished 10-year run to land outside-produced documentaries (including an Oscar). This year’s winner Navalny). This led CNN Films to send SVP Courtney Sexton on board, where she has worked before.

In a farewell statement to Nishimura and Brick, Netflix acknowledged Nishimura’s pioneering work on the documentary, as well as her previous direction of the comedy specials.

“Lisa Nishimura joined Netflix in the days of DVD, and as the company moved into streaming, she built our original division of documentaries and stand-up from the ground up and established Netflix as a strength in Both places.” Netflix movie, reported by Nishimura.

Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and Lisa Nishimura attend the 94th Annual Academy Awards

Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images

Nishimura joined Netflix in 2007 from Palm Pictures where she held the position of General Manager. At the time, the only significant distributors of documentary content were PBS and HBO. Under Nishimura, Netflix has become a major player in the space, scoring the platform’s first Academy Award nomination in 2014 for the documentary. Square The first win for the short document The White Helmets In 2017. Netflix started owning the Oscar doc run, winning the features Icarus (2018), American factory (2020), My octopus teacher (2021), and a short doc a period. the end of the sentence. (2019), as well as garnering nominations for films including Virunga (2015), What happened to Miss Simone? (2016), Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (2016), 13y (2017) and edge of democracy (2020).

“Lisa and Adam Del Dio were the ones who loved the first pre-release of the movie I brought back from Ukraine in 2014,” he said. Winter is on fire director Yevgeny Afineevsky,” and they were the ones who helped me with their notes to complete it. I definitely learned a lot from Lisa while working with her and Adam.” Winter is on fire. You gave great feedback and it was a great school for me as a young director, who was starting my way in Hollywood.”

Nishimura’s collaboration with Obama’s Higher Ground Productions resulted in an Oscar American factory and an Oscar nomination in 2021 for Crepe CampThe documentary that examined the rise of the disability rights movement.

(LR) EP Priya Swaminathan, EP Tonia Davis, director Nicole Newnham, EP Howard Gertler, director Jim LeBrecht, Lisa Nishimura, Ariane Wu, and Adam Del Deo attend the premiere of Crip Camp during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images

We will be forever grateful to Lisa for her insight Crepe CampSo said filmmakers Nicole Newnham and Jim Liebrecht Deadline. “In partnership with Netflix and Higher Ground, we have been able to produce a film that marks a defining moment in disability representation – dispelling misconceptions about disability and making a meaningful impact globally.”

Newnham and Librecht added: “You can’t make this kind of change without respect, listening and learning. Lisa and her team listened to our team members with experience lived with disabilities and thought outside the box with us so we could bring her in.” Crepe Camp to the world in a way that harnesses the potential of story – including finding ways to move the industry forward in making streaming movies more accessible. We are very proud of the work we’ve done together.”

However, the past two years have seen Netflix slip away from its dominance in the Oscar documentaries race. The broadcaster failed to claim a single nomination in that category in 2023 and 2022, although this year it won the short document category for whispered the elephant. A lot of thunder has been stolen lately by National Geographic and HBO Documentary Films.

“Two years ago, you would have thought Netflix would definitely be in the competition [for Best Documentary Feature]said Simon Kilmore, former executive director of the International Documentary Association. “It’s amazing… NatGeo has a number of great movies this year and Netflix not so many.”

Nishimura also supervised a documentary series for Netflix until 2020 when she moved to the film set. Its impact in the field of documentaries has never been greater than in series, given how important true crime, more than any other genre, is on every streaming platform.


You look at the document string and it was really in the shadow of Lisa’s vision Made a killer became hack [in 2015],” noted Kilmore. “It has transformed the field forever and may not have done so well because of the kind of approved boom for true crime docs. But, sure, you can’t argue with the impact of that.”

Nishimura’s sudden exit compounds concern in the documentary community about a shrinking range of content of interest to streaming platforms and other distributors. Rather than betting on talented filmmakers to come up with compelling content, some leaders in the field see decision-making driven by algorithms that predict what will be popular with subscribers.

Quoting Yance Ford (Jance Ford), Kilmore said:Strong Island) and Petra Costa (edge of democracy). “I think that’s changing. That kind of commercial pressure could narrow the risk space.”

“What a loss for Netflix,” said a senior freelance publicist, who asked not to be named to speak candidly. “It becomes less shocking to see top talent eliminated from the Netflix slate as they continue to navigate the ever-changing priority structure and content strategy.” Lisa and Ian [Bricke] are a teamwork – incredibly talented, thoughtful and innovative CEOs who are well respected across the industry.”

As Deadline reported Thursday, all live-action movie content on Netflix will now be moderated by Kira Goldberg, Ori Marmur, and Niija Kuykendall, reporting to Scott Stuber. Deadline understands Nishimura’s responsibilities in the document space will be held by Dan Silver for the US and Canada, and Kate Townsend will continue in the UK (Adam Dale Dio – Vice President, Original Documentary Series – and Brandon Rigg – Vice President, Unscripted Documentary Series) overseeing episodic factual content) .


Just a year ago Nishimura celebrated one of her biggest successes – the documentary Tinder scammer, which ranked for several weeks in 2022 as the most popular movie on Netflix, fiction or nonfiction. In an interview at the time, she told Deadline, “I used to be in a movie studio selling to Netflix [Palm Pictures]… I remember from the first days of the engagement [with Netflix] This, wow, this is a place that really respects and understands the documentary format.”

Netflix stock has regained some of its luster after a sharp drop last April that wiped out $50 billion worth of books in one day (it traded around $345 a share recently, up from $166 a share on May 11, 2022). But the shudder last spring, combined with continued headwinds affecting the broader economy, led to an industry-wide slash in spending. Netflix has taken a hard look at budgets, and earlier this month dumped the Nancy Meyers-directed romantic comedy due to inflated costs.

Nishimura’s comment on the deadline just a year ago about budgets seems strange in retrospect.

“We’re really driven by what’s going to bring joy to fans,” Nishimura told us back in February, referring to both the fictional and factual content. “In terms of cost and value, costs are really driven by their proportionate audience size. Something like that do not search Which has great engagement, a huge huge audience, is actually incredibly high value for us as well.”

Her mark will continue to be felt at Netflix. In his statement, Stober noted her role in upcoming narrative features They clone Tyrone, Rustin And NYAD. And many fans expect bright things in its post-Netflix future. One Oscar-nominated director wrote on Facebook, “This is a loss for Netflix, but I imagine streaming and premium competitors will be lining up to make offers for it.”

It will not be difficult to get recommendations.

“Lisa has always been a great pleasure to work with,” said Orlovsky Yang. “She trusted us artists to tell the story the way we wanted to tell it, always encouraging us to trust our instincts and let us do our work the best way we know how. Working with her has truly been one of the document-making milestones for me.”

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