Lisa Donato is a writer, director, and activist from Billings, Montana and based in Los Angeles. Her award-winning work has screened at hundreds of film, music, and art festivals worldwide. Lisa strives to bring social awareness to marginalized and invisible communities and believes that comedy will mend the tense and politically-polarized culture of the U.S.
The first feature screenplay that she co-wrote with Fawzia Mirza, Signature Move, is a coming-of-age Muslim drama about a woman who takes care of her TV-obsessed mother and copes by taking lucha-style wrestling. It was invited to the Tribeca marketplace and world-premiered at SXSW (2017). It won many awards on the festival circuit, including GRAND JURY BEST U.S. NARRATIVE FEATURE at Outfest (2017) and BEST SCREENPLAY at OUT ON FILM ATLANTA.
Her new short film, Foxy Trot, is about a married lesbian couple who take ballroom dance lessons in a very heteronormative class (starring Laura Zak, Elizabeth Frances, and Julia Aks). She’s also working with actress and recent stroke survivor, Maggie Whittum, to make a feature documentary about the courage to heal through art and comedy called The Great Now What. Her mixed-media project, Hobo Salon, provides free haircuts for Austin’s homeless community and collects personal experiences through filmed interviews.
2017 was a successful year for her short film work: the comedy, Spunkle, won the LGBTQ EMERGING FILMMAKER SHOWCASE at Cannes (2017). It's about a brother who contemplates fatherhood when his older sister and her wife ask him to be their sperm donor. (It stars Fawzia Mirza, Laura Zak, and Jake Matthews.) The News Today, inspired by the Orlando Pulse Nightclub tragedy, was one of 35 short films in the world that was shortlisted for the prestigious UK Iris Prize. It highlights the last ordinary moments between two guys in love and stars Jake Matthews and Nick Neon. And her short documentary that she created with Fawzia Mirza, Reclaiming Pakistan, won the Ron Kovic Peace Prize and the Dan Eldon Activist Award at the My Hero Film Festival.
She's currently shooting a new short film called, There You Are, starring Jen Richards. It's about a trans woman who must dress like the boy she pretended to be in order to say goodbye to her dying grandmother in west Texas. It will be released to the festival circuit in June 2018.
Lisa founded the independent film studio, Sparkle Motion Films, and has a magic-wand wish to create visual media that promotes equality, heals trauma, and inspires comedy in uncomfortable situations. Other story and directing credits include shows for National Geographic Wild, Oprah Winfrey Network, PBS, published personal essays in the LA Times, Self Magazine, Curve Magazine, Austin Women, Whole Life Times, 5280 Magazine and multiple short films and music videos.