David Leitner’s latest 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—Leitner’s sixth Sundance invitation—and won Havana Star for Best Film at the 2010 Havana Film Festival New York.
In 2001, Leitner directed “My Sister’s Wedding,” a romantic farce marking the screen debuts of actors Patrick Wilson (Mike Nichol’s “Angels in America.” “Phantom of the Opera”) and Blanchard Ryan (“Open Water”). In April, 2002, he co-founded Manhattan indie production company Damage Control, 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).
Briefly an IATSE 644 Director of Photography, his 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).
Documentary director/producer credits 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); and as Associate Producer, “The Gate of Heavenly Peace” (1995 New York Film Festival, 1996 Berlin Film Festival).
Documentary cinematography credits number over sixty films shot in South & Central America, the U.K., East & West Europe and former Soviet Union. Directors include Fred Wiseman, Allan Miller, Alan Berliner, Peter Friedman, DeWitt Sage, Oren Rudavsky, Doug Block, Judith Helfand, 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).
From 1995 until present, Leitner has photographed a series of hour-long documentaries about artists, architects, poets, and photographers for New York’s Checkerboard Film Foundation. Subjects include Constantin Brancusi, Joel Shapiro, John Szarkowski, Ellsworth Kelly, Billy Collins, Lynda Benglis, Roy Lichtenstein, Sir John Soane, Peter Eisenman, Yoshio Taniguchi, Daniel Libeskind, Thom Maynes, Steven Holl, Milton Glaser, Sol LeWitt, Picasso biographer John Richardson, author James Salter, 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 theatrically at New York’s Film Forum in 2007.
As a Cornell University undergraduate, Leitner was one of 12 chosen nationwide 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 16-to-35mm blow-ups, lens testing, and film-to-tape transfer. From 1986-87 he restored original 16mm lunar footage at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, enlarging it to 35mm for the Oscar-nominated “For All Mankind. In 1987 he was special instructor with Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jean-Claude Carrière at La Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV in Cuba, the school’s inaugural year.
In New York he served on the Independent Feature Project’s inaugural Gotham Awards Planning Committee (1991) and five years on the IFP’s Independent Feature Film Market Committee. He 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.
Beginning in 2000 he taught a series of courses on lighting and documentary production at the International Film & Television Workshops in Rockport, Maine, including a four-week combined history/production course co-led by distinguished documentary director Belkis Vega and a two-week session in Havana, Cuba.
Leitner is author of hundreds of articles on filmmaking in Filmmaker, Millimeter (“Leitner’s Cinematography Corner” column, 2009-10), Studio Daily, The Independent ("In Focus" column, 1981-88), International Documentary, Variety’s On Production, the SMPTE Journal, and contributing author of “The Filmmaker’s Handbook” by Steven Ascher & Edward Pincus. He wrote Eastman Kodak’s “Creating Better Video with 16mm Film” <1992> and a book, “En Algun Lugar del Arcoiris: Tratado de las Nuevas Technologias Aplicadas al Cine” <1989>.