Lisa Cholodenko (born June 5th, 1964) is an American screenwriter and director. Cholodenko wrote and directed the films High Art (1998), Laurel Canyon (2002), and The Kids Are All Right (2010). She has also directed television, including the miniseries Olive Kitteridge (2014) and Unbelievable (2019). She primarily directs New Queer Cinema style films and television, with large themes surrounding feminism and the LGBTQIA+ community.
|Born||June 5th, 1964|
|Education||San Francisco State University|
The Kids Are All Right
Early life and education
Cholodenko is from Los Angeles, and grew up in a liberal Jewish family. Her paternal grandparents emigrated from Ukraine. Cholodenko's paternal great grandfather was from Kyiv, Ukraine. She came out at age 17, allowing her life experiences to influence her queer cinema films.
Cholodenko received a BA from San Francisco State University, where she studied anthropology, ethnic studies, and women's studies. After graduation, she travelled to India and Nepal and spent 18 months in Jerusalem.
She got her start in the film industry in New York in the early 1990s. She worked as an apprentice editor on John Singleton's Boyz n the Hood and as an assistant editor on Beeban Kidron's Used People. Upon entering the film and television industry, Cholodenko was automatically faced with the label of a 'lesbian director', bringing her many challenges in the industry. This label expected her to create only specialized queer and gay projects, however, she was able to move towards creating more mainstream projects as well.
While at Columbia, Cholodenko wrote and directed a number of short films, including Souvenir (1994), which screened at numerous international film festivals and Dinner Party (1997), which aired on UK, French, and Swiss television, and was a winner of the British Film Institute's Channel 4 TX prize.
Miloš Forman provided mentorship and encouragement as Cholodenko made her feature film debut with High Art. High Art won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival as well as the National Society of Film Critics award for Ally Sheedy's performance. Both High Art and her next film, Laurel Canyon, premiered at Cannes Director's Fortnight. The Joni Mitchell record Ladies of the Canyon was the catalyst for Laurel Canyon, which was set and filmed in the heart of the Hollywood Hills.
After completing Laurel Canyon, Cholodenko decided to move to LA permanently. While in the process of trying to conceive a child via anonymous sperm donor, she met with screenwriter Stuart Blumberg, who was a sperm donor in college. Together, they decided to write a screenplay, which would eventually become The Kids Are All Right. However, the project took five years to get to production. Filmed in 23 days, Cholodenko directed the film on a $3.5 million budget, a much smaller amount than her fellow 2011 Oscar nominees. The film was made with three different sources of equity financing, with Focus Features picking up the film for distribution.
In June 2014, Cholodenko was the guest director of the 20th annual Los Angeles Film Festival.
Cholodenko directed the 2004 film Cavedweller for Showtime; it earned Independent Spirit Award nominations for cast members Kyra Sedgwick and Aidan Quinn. She has directed episodes of Homicide: Life on the Street, Six Feet Under, The L Word, and Hung.
In 2014, Cholodenko directed the HBO four-part mini-series Olive Kitteridge starring Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins. Olive Kitteridge is based on the novel of the same name by Elizabeth Strout. Bill Murray, Jesse Plemons, Zoe Kazan, and John Gallagher, Jr. co-starred. Olive Kitteridge premiered at the 2014 Venice Film Festival to overwhelmingly positive reviews. The show received widespread critical acclaim when it premiered on television in November. It received three Golden Globe nominations, and Cholodenko received a Directors Guild Award and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for her work on the miniseries.
In her more recent works Olive Kitteridge and The Slap, Cholodenko challenges political devaluation that has been associated with these recent projects, by encouraging the work of other women and queer artists and filmmakers.
The Kids Are All Right
Lisa Cholodenko examines family values along with domestic-romantic relationships in this feminist romantic comedy, with a same-sex twist. The film explores the challenges between the same sex couple, as well as the newly developing relationship between their children and their sperm donor. Cholodenko followed a non-heterosexual plot, as well as a non-normative plot. For this production, Cholodenko used a more conservative Hollywood film industry so it would be able to reach a larger audience; as films with same sex scenes automatically receive a restricted rating. Though the film has a non-heterosexual plot, Cholodenko has admitted in interviews that a portion of the films budget was put towards finding a strong male lead that would attract and appeal to the male viewers of the film.
Cholodenko received inspiration for her film The Kids Are Alright through her own personal experiences. She created the plot for the film when she and her girlfriend had decided to have a baby through a sperm donor. The co-writer of The Kids Are Alright, Stuart Blumberg, was a previous sperm donor, allowing the two to provide both point of views for the film.
Awards and Nominations
Cholodenko has headlined the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (LLGFF), as well as the London Film Festival. Cholodenko has been nominated for a Golden Globe award for best screenplay for her film The Kids Are Alright, and won Best Screenplay for The Kids Are Alright at the Independent Spirit Awards. She has received the Waldo Sat Screenwriting award for her first work High Art at the Sundance Film Festival. She also received the Best First screenplay award for High Art at the Independent Spirit Awards.
Cholodenko’s television career has also provided her with some awards in return, including a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series for the HBO limited series Olive Kitteridge.
- 1998: CICAE, Golden Camera (nominee) for Laurel Canyon
- 1998: Sundance Film Festival, Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for High Art
- 1998: Sundance Film Festival, Grand Jury Prize (nominee) for High Art
- 1999: Independent Spirit Awards, Best First Screenplay for High Art
- 1999: Independent Spirit Awards, Best First Feature (nominee) for High Art – with Dolly Hall (producer), Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte (producer), Susan A. Stover (producer)
- 2002: CICAE, CICAE Art Cinema Award (nominee) for Laurel Canyon
- 2010: Humanitas Prize (nominee) for The Kids Are All Right – with Stuart Blumberg
- 2010: New York Film Critics Circle, Best Screenplay for The Kids Are All Right – with Stuart Blumberg
- 2010: Women in Film, Dorothy Arzner Directors Award
- 2010: Women Film Critics Circle Awards, Best Woman Storyteller for The Kids Are All Right
- 2011: Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (nominee) for The Kids Are All Right – with Stuart Blumberg
- 2011: BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay (nominee) for The Kids Are All Right – with Stuart Blumberg
- 2011: Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay (nominee) for The Kids Are All Right – with Stuart Blumberg
- 2011: Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (nominee) for The Kids Are All Right
- 2011: Independent Spirit Awards, Best Director (nominee) for The Kids Are All Right
- 2011: Independent Spirit Awards, Best Screenplay for The Kids Are All Right – with Stuart Blumberg
- 2011: Writers Guild of America, Best Original Screenplay (nominee) for The Kids Are All Right – with Stuart Blumberg
- 2014: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special for Olive Kitteridge
- 2014: Venice Film Festival, Silver Mouse for Olive Kitteridge
- 2015: Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Miniseries or TV Film for Olive Kitteridge
|1991||Boyz n the Hood||Apprentice Editor|
|1992||The Lawnmower Man||Assistant Editor|
|1992||Used People||Second Assistant Editor: Los Angeles|
|1994||Crawl short film||Director, Producer|
|1994||Souvenir short film||Director, Writer, Producer|
|1995||The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love||Third Grip|
|1996||Some of These Days||First Assistant Director|
|1997||Dinner Party short film||Director, Writer, Editor|
|1998||High Art||Director, Writer|
|2002||Laurel Canyon||Director, Writer|
|2010||The Kids Are All Right||Director, Writer|
|Upcoming||Toni Erdmann||Director, Writer|
|1999||Homicide: Life on the Street||Director||"The Same Coin"|
|2001||Six Feet Under||Director||"Familia"|
|2002||Push, Nevada||Director||"The Letter of the Law"|
|2005||The L Word||Director||"Lynch Pin"|
|2014||Oliver Kitteridge miniseries||Director||"Pharmacy", "Incoming Tide", "A Different Road", "Security"|
|2015||The Slap||Director, Executive Producer||"Hector"; Executive Producer 8 episodes|
|2018||Here and Now||Director||"Fight, Death", "Wake"|
|2019||Unbelievable miniseries||Director, Executive Producer||"1.1", "1.2", "1.3"; Executive Producer 8 episodes|
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- Bradbury-Rance C. (2013) Querying Postfeminism in Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right. In: Gwynne J., Muller N. (eds) Postfeminism and Contemporary Hollywood Cinema. Palgrave Macmillan, London
- Merete, Lie; Lykke, Nina (2016). Assisted Reproduction Across Borders: Feminist Perspectives on Normalizations, Disruptions and Transmissions. Routledge. ISBN 9781317200673.
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