Lisa Russell, MPH is an Emmy® Award-winning filmmaker who has 15+ years producing films and curating creative events that lie at the intersection of arts, social justice and global development. An established global speaker and thought leader, she is a two-time TEDx speaker, UN/NGO contracted storyteller and arts curator, Fulbright Specialist, speaker, writer and is a regular presenter at film festivals, storytelling summits, leading universities, international conferences and youth leadership programs.
Although having created a successful film career, filmmaking was not Lisa's first career choice. After completing her Master of Public Health (MPH) in 1998, Lisa worked as a humanitarian aid worker in Kosovo and Albania during the 1999 war. It was there, after witnessing unethical storytelling practices, she became inspired to become a storyteller herself and set out to learn all aspects of the filmmaking craft. Since then, Lisa has worked as a director, producer, writer, camera and editor of mostly short format films, pushing the boundaries of creative advocacy with global development and creating an extensive portfolio of work that spans the globe.
In addition to her filmmaking activities, Lisa is considered a leading advocate for the inclusion of diverse, creative communities in her work at the United Nations and in the global development space. As a teaching artist for young artists of color, Lisa embeds socially conscious performing artists in her filmmaking distribution and advocacy efforts. Lisa has collaborated with Grammy-nominated artist Zap Mama to create “The WOMAN Tour,” a three-week nationwide initiative of film screenings and musical performances to increase awareness of women's issues. Lisa was also co-founder with Grammy-winning singer Maya Azucena - , a new media site that unites artists and activists for maternal health. In 2014, she launched a new initiative called “I Sell the Shadow” that aims on building meaningful and sustainable partnerships between creative professionals and international agencies. Under this initiative, she has curated high level events at the United Nations with socially-conscious artists for the UN's High Level Meeting on Youth, High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS, the Launch of the World Youth Report, the ECOSOC Youth Forum, the International Day of Youth and other events. In 2016, she worked with Grammy-winning musician and actor Common and Tanzanian hip hop icon Fid Q on a film profiling an innovative HIV-prevention program targeting young African men. In 2018, she joined Pixar representatives, artists, musicians and other storytellers on a BLK SHP storyteller journey through the “rust belt” of America to uncover untold stories of resilience and innovation. Also in 2018, she released a short film and creative campaign called #Create2030 to engage artists in helping to meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs.)
Because of her unique and extensive expertise in arts, storytelling and global development, she is a sought-after speaker and thought leader in many new creative initiatives. This includes being an invited storyteller at the invite-only Future of Storytelling Summit, a keynote speaker for the first-ever World Conference on Creative Economy in Bali, Indonesia, serving as a festival juror for the first-ever UN SDG in Action Film Festival during the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and more. In April 2019, Lisa will be the curator for the first ever daylong event at the United Nations on Arts and the SDGs, helping to identify performers and panelists.
Lisa also applies her creative expertise in curating international film conferences, curating the Women Deliver Film Festivals in Vancouver, Canada (2019), Copenhagen, Denmark (2016), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2013) and Washington, DC (2010); the first-ever Bhutan International Film Festival, the IPVC Conference's Women at the Center Film Festival and the Union World Conference on Lung Health (2017). She also co-curated the Film Corner for the ICPD25 Conference in Nairobi and
Lisa's background is of Chinese/Mongolian descent and she has entered the television broadcast community through her work promoting diversity and inclusion. In 2007, she was chosen as one of 25 filmmakers for the prestigious CPB/PBS Producer's Academy and the National Black Programming Consortium's New Media Institute. Lisa is a two-time producer for WGBH's Lab Open Call and is a 2008 recipient of a New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) grant and a Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media Grant. In May 2009, she won a Boston/New England Emmy® Award in the "Outstanding Advanced Media Interactivity" category for her short poetry-based film, "Bi-Racial Hair."
Lisa has ventured into VR/360 filmmaking through her involvement as a participating artist in the 2016 and 2018 Art a Hack and the 2016 POV Digital Media Labs. In 2018, she began producing her first VR project on climate change called “Climate Hax”. She helped curate VR for Good experiences for the 2018 UN DPI/NGO Conference and for the upcoming 2019 Women Deliver Conference.
In 2018, Lisa was accepted as a Fulbright Specialist joining a diverse group of highly experienced, well-established faculty members and professionals who represent a wide variety of academic disciplines and professions.
Currently residing in Brooklyn, NY, Lisa continues her work as a teaching artist for young artists of color and conducts digital storytelling workshops in various countries. She is also writing her first feature-length screenplay called “Revolutionary Act” and her first book, entitled “Shifting the Story”.