David Leitner

New York, New York, United States


David Leitner’s Director/Producer credits in documentary include VIENNA IS DIFFERENT (1989 Berlin Film Festival; 1990 Sundance Film Festival; Special Jury Award, 1990 San Francisco Film Festival); as Co-Producer, 1990 Oscar-nominated FOR ALL MANKIND (Jury & Audience Awards, Best Documentary, 1989 Sundance Film Festival); as Associate Producer, THE GATE OF HEAVENLY PEACE (1995 New York Film Festival, 1996 Berlin Film Festival). His latest documentary as director is his shortest: NEWTOWN CREEK DIGESTER EGGS: THE ART OF HUMAN WASTE (3 minutes). Commissioned by General Electric for the Focus Forward online series about innovation, it premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and screened at the Berlin, Los Angeles, and Tribeca Film Festivals. It profiles, as an exemplar of green technology, the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, from a standpoint of architecture and design. His credits in documentary cinematography include over sixty films shot in the U.S., South & Central America, the U.K., East & West Europe, former Soviet Union and Pakistan. Leitner has worked with directors Fred Wiseman, Alan Berliner, Peter Friedman, DeWitt Sage, Oren Rudavsky, Yale Strom, Murray Grigor, Louis Alvarez/Andrew Kolker, and Paul Stekler. Notable are Alan Berliner’s NOBODY’S BUSINESS (1996 New York Film Festival, 1997 Berlinale), Sandi Simcha DuBowski’s TREMBLING BEFORE G-D (2001 Sundance; Teddy Award Best Documentary, 2001 Berlinale), and PBS/Frontline’s SCHIZOPHRENIA: BROKEN MIND (four national broadcasts). Since 1995 Leitner has photographed a documentary series about artists, architects, poets, and photographers for New York’s Checkerboard Film Foundation. Subjects include Constantin Brancusi, Pablo Picasso, Joel Shapiro, Frank Stella, John Szarkowski, Ellsworth Kelly, Billy Collins, Lynda Benglis, Dorothea Rockburne, Roy Lichtenstein, Sir John Soane, Peter Eisenman, Robert A.M. Stern, Richard Meier, Yoshio Taniguchi, Daniel Libeskind, Thom Maynes, Rick Joy, Steven Holl, Milton Glaser, Sol LeWitt, Sir John Richardson, and legendary Yale Art History professor Vincent Scully. In 1999 Leitner was nominated for an Emmy in cinematography for Marion Cajori’s PORTRAIT-IN-PROGRESS: CHUCK CLOSE, which opened to acclaim at New York’s Film Forum in 2007. Leitner’s latest dramatic feature film as producer, MEMORIES OF OVERDEVELOPMENT (Memorias del Desarrollo), based on the novel by Cuban writer Edmundo Desnoes and directed by Miguel Coyula, premiered at Sundance 2010. It won Havana Star for Best Film at the 2010 Havana Film Festival New York and tied for Best 2010 Cuban Feature Film by La Asociación Cubana de la Prensa Cinematográfica (Havana). It has since collected over twenty festival awards. In 2001, Leitner directed MY SISTER’S WEDDING, a romantic farce featuring screen debuts of Patrick Wilson (Mike Nichol’s ANGELS IN AMERICA, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, LITTLE CHILDREN, YOUNG ADULT) and Blanchard Ryan (OPEN WATER). In April, 2002, he co-founded Manhattan indie production company Damage Control Filmproduction where he produced Scott Saunder’s THE TECHNICAL WRITER (Tatum O’Neal, William Forsythe/2003 Sundance Film Festival) and Doug Sadler’s SWIMMERS (Cherry Jones, Sarah Paulson/2005 Sundance Film Festival; Grand Jury Prize, Best New American Film, 2005 Seattle Festival). A former IATSE 644 Director of Photography, Leitner’s DP credits in drama include THE TECHNICAL WRITER (Kodak Cinematography Award, 2003 New Haven Film Fest.), Diane Orr’s LOST FOREVER (2000), and Gabriela Rangel’s CORAZONES NEGROS (Venezuela, 1994). Leitner was one of 12 nationwide chosen to participate in the 1976 Warner Brothers Summer Student Film Workshop. As Director of New Technology at Du Art Film Laboratory in the early 1980s, he created advances in Super-16, 16-to-35mm blow-ups, camera & lens testing, and film-to-tape transfer. He spent nine months at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in 1986, restoring original 16mm lunar footage and enlarging it to 35mm for FOR ALL MANKIND. In 1987, Leitner was special instructor alongside Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jean-Claude Carrière at La Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV in San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba (school’s inaugural year). In 1999 he presented the first seminar on MiniDV-to-35mm production in South America during the Tercer Encuentro Latinoamericano de Cine at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru, Lima. In 2000 and 2001 he taught production, editing, and lighting at the International Film and Television Workshops in Rockport, Maine, including a four-week course in documentary production and history co-taught with Cuban director Belkis Vega and a two-week documentary workshop in Havana. In February 2013 he was invited to give workshops on large-sensor digital cinema cameras at the Berlinale Talent Campus as part of the Berlin Film Festival. Leitner was Director of Programming at “docfest,” the New York International Documentary Festival (1998–2001), and a founding board member of the New York Documentary Center. He served five years on the Independent Feature Project’s Independent Feature Film Market Committee and was a member of the first Gotham Awards Planning Committee (1991). Leitner is contributing author to the last two editions of the classic “The Filmmaker’s Handbook” by Steven Ascher & Edward Pincus. Books he wrote include Eastman Kodak’s “Creating Better Video with 16mm Film” [1992] and “En Algun Lugar del Arcoiris: Tratado de las Nuevas Technologias Aplicadas al Cine” [1989]. He is also author of hundreds of articles in Filmmaker, The Independent ("In Focus" column, 1981-88), International Documentary, Variety’s On Production, and SMPTE Journal. For two decades he was Senior Contributing Editor of Millimeter (“Leitner’s Cinematography Corner” column). Currently he is Contributing Editor of Filmmaker Magazine and Motion Picture Chair of the New York Section of SMPTE.