Lisa Heller serves as Co-Executive Vice President, HBO Documentary & Family Programming, responsible for development, production and acquisition of documentary and family programming. She was named to this position in December 2017.
Heller originally joined HBO in 2000 and was elevated to Vice President in 2001, followed by Senior Vice President in 2012. Prior to joining HBO in 2000, she served as an executive producer of the PBS series P.O.V., where she was responsible for all programming and broadcast-related initiatives amplifying audience engagement and innovative filmmaking. In public broadcasting, she has held positions in program development at Thirteen/WNET in New York and public affairs production at Wisconsin Public Television. Heller has also worked in distribution and production on a number of independent non-fiction films. She has participated in a wide range of industry related panels, juries and committees for organizations including the Sundance Institute, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. She currently serves as a board member of Creative Capital, an organization that pioneered a venture philanthropy model to support artists working in all disciplines. She holds a BA in Philosophy and Communications from the University of Wisconsin and a Master’s in American Studies from Columbia University.
Last year, Heller was included in Hollywood Reporter’s 2022 Women in Entertainment Power 100 as well as Cablefax’s Most Powerful Women of 2022.
Heller, alongside Co-EVP Nancy Abraham, has delivered an unparalleled slate of groundbreaking and genre-defining features and documentaries this year. During this exceptionally challenging year in television and film, their slate has played a pivotal role in distinguishing HBO and providing audiences with meaningful, thought-provoking content. The documentary slate roared into 2023 with three Oscar-nominated films (All The Beauty And The Bloodshed, All That Breathes, How Do You Measure A Year?), an Independent Spirit Awards feature doc win (All The Beauty And The Bloodshed), an award-winning documentary at Sundance (The Stroll), five premieres at SXSW, and six premieres at Tribeca. This momentum continued in July, when HBO received 12 Primetime Emmy nominations across the features Being Mary Tyler Moore and Moonage Daydream and the second season of docuseries 100 Foot Wave, whose first season won an Emmy. That was followed by 16 News & Documentary Emmy nominations and 6 wins, the most of any network or platform, including for the timely doc The Janes, as well as Escape From Kabul, Hostages, and How To Survive A Pandemic. HBO Documentary Films have won the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Non-Fiction Program 4 out of the last 5 years, since 2018.
This summer was an especially strong season for HBO documentary programming, with Last Call: When a Serial KillerStalked Queer New York, an investigative story that dives deeply into homophobia in the early 1990s as a serial killer preyed upon gay men in New York City; After the Bite, which explores the far-reaching repercussions for a beach community when rapid changes in the natural world begin to clash with a cherished way of life; and Telemarketers, which chronicles the darkly comedic, unexpected 20-year journey of two unlikely office buddies, who stumble upon the murky truth behind the work they’ve been doing at a seedy New Jersey call center. Additionally, under their sports documentary purview, Heller and Abraham oversaw the latest installment of Hard Knocks: Training Camp with The New York Jets, the series 18th season, as well as BS High, 38 at The Garden, Say Hey, Willie Mays!, SHAQ and The Golden Boy – a two part portrait of boxer Oscar De La Hoya.
Earlier this year, HBO produced a collection of intimate portraits, including Love to Love You, Donna Summer, exploring the highs and lows of a life lived on the global stage; Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed, an intimate view of an icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age, whose public persona was carefully manufactured but was privately living as a gay man; and Jason Isbell: Running With Our Eyes Closed, the latest installment of The Music Box Series.
HBO and Max’s powerhouse documentary slate continued to dominate this season with The Ringleader: The Case of the Bling Ring, a candid, first-time interview with Rachel Lee, the so-called teenage mastermind behind a string of high-profile celebrity robberies in 2008 and 2009; Last Stop Larrimah, which had its world premiere at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival; and aka Mr. Chow, detailing the vibrant and varied life of actor, artist, and restaurateur Michael Chow. Upcoming titles include Stand Up and Shout: Songs From a Philly High School, You Were My First Boyfriend, Albert Brooks: Defending My Life, and David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived.
Under Heller and Abraham, HBO Documentary Films has been a trailblazer in the crime documentary space. In 2015, The Jinx: The Life And Deaths of Robert Durst, premiered on HBO and ushered in a new era of true crime documentary filmmaking. They were also responsible for popular titles including McMillion$, The Case Against Adnan Syed, and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark Most recently, their slate has featured Burden of Proof, a psychological thriller about a brother’s search for answers after the disappearance of his sister; Mind Over Murder, a complex story of six individuals who were came to believe they committed a murder they didn’t commit; and The Vow, Part 2, an exclusive look at the fall of NXIVM.
Over the years, their seminal slate has kept them at the forefront of documentary filmmaking, with a breadth of work that’s also included acclaimed and award-winning titles including Allen v. Farrow, The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, Katrina Babies, Leaving Neverland, Nuclear Family, Tiger and more. Upcoming programming highlights include Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project, reveal the enduring influence of one of America’s greatest living artists and social commentators; and Stax, a documentary series telling the story of the fabled Memphis-based label.
With Heller and Abraham at the helm since 2018, HBO Documentaries has remained the premier destination for filmmakers within the documentary world and the brand continues to be in a league of its own, unique in their ability to work with creative talent and let the story, art, and craft drive each title. With a deep respect for filmmakers and creative collaborators, both renowned and emerging, their commitment to diverse stories and storytellers means that their slate always features a unique mix of styles and subject matters. Their approach to the craft of documentary filmmaking seeks to dig deeper than the surface issue, crime, or controversy through the stories of unique and compelling characters in an effort to explore broader societal contexts and reveal something deeper about the human condition. This approach not only distinguishes them among filmmakers in the genre, but it is also a major key to their success in making HBO the top home for documentary fans around the world.