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Lisa Nishimura’s Netflix Exit Shocks Documentary World: “She Has Massively Helped Grow This Industry”

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Netflix executive Lisa Nishimura backed some of the streamer’s biggest successes – Tiger King, The Tinder Swindler, The Power of the Dog, and American Factory – but in an era of corporate cost-cutting, it wasn’t enough to save her job.

Her imminent departure as VP of independent film and documentary features, after a 16-year stint at Netflix, has come as a particular shock to the nonfiction film community, which saw her build Netflix into a dominant force in documentary and become, in the process, one of Netflix’s most visible execs. “Lisa has hands-down been one of the most influential people to bring non-fiction film into the popular mainstream,” said award-winning filmmaker Jeff Orlowski-Yang, director of Netflix documentaries The Social Dilemma and Chasing Coral. “She championed documentaries and elevated them to the same stature as scripted narratives.

She has massively helped grow this industry.” Nishimura weathered several earlier reorgs, but the cold winds of austerity sweeping the industry enveloped her and fellow exec Ian Bricke, VP of original independent film.

The chill hasn’t been limited to Netflix – last month, Vinnie Malhotra was let go as EVP of nonfiction programming for Showtime Networks, and late in 2022 CNN Films ended its distinguished 10-year run acquiring outside-produced documentaries (including this year’s Oscar winner Navalny).

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