Interview with the Filmmakers of Awake The Life of Yogananda

Summer of Peace 2014 > Community Peacebuilding > Arts & Culture
Broadcast on September 02, 2014
With Paola di Florio & Lisa Leeman & Peter Rader

Indian mystic Paramahansa Yogananda brought yoga and meditation to the West in 1920 and authored the spiritual classic “Autobiography of a Yogi.” By personalizing his own quest for enlightenment and sharing his struggles along the path, Yogananda made ancient teachings accessible to a modern audience. This documentary examines the world of yoga, modern and ancient, east and west and explores why millions today have turned their attention inwards, bucking the temptations of the material world in pursuit of Self-Realization.

Paola di Florio

Founder of Counterpoint Films, Oscar and Emmy-nominated Filmmaker

Paola di Florio is an Oscar and Emmy-nominated filmmaker and TV producer whose work has featured extraordinary individuals and the triumph of the human spirit. Most-recently, she co-wrote & directed the critically-acclaimed AWAKE: The Life of Yogananda (one of the top-grossing indie documentaries of 2014-15) and served as a Series Producer on CNN’s Emmy-nominated The Seventies. Her films have screened at the U.S. Congress and in the British House of Lords. They’ve been distributed theatrically throughout the world and broadcast on HBO, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, CNN, Sundance Channel, Court TV, TLC and A&E.

Her documentaries Speaking in Strings and Home of the Brave feature the lives of strong, maverick women who impacted American culture. These films premiered at Sundance, garnered numerous awards and were honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Writer’s Guild and the International Documentary Association. Other television work includes serving Series Director and Showrunner for TLC’s The Adam Carolla Project, and Executive Producer on a TV series for Canal Plus entitled Directors on Directors.

Di Florio graduated with honors from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She has served on film juries and panels, and guest lectured at UCLA, USC, Berkeley, Stanford and other universities and conferences. A mentor for teenage girls at the Spark Program, she is also a founding partner of Nerd Girls, a new media startup dedicated to creating new role models and empowering young women to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering, math and arts (STEAM). Nerd Girls has just been awarded the 2016 “Disruptive Innovations Grant” from IEEE to produce a web-based chat show.

Di Florio is married to filmmaker/author and Counterpoint Films partner Peter Rader, and is the proud mother of their two sons, Matteo and Luca.

Lisa Leeman

Co-Director and Producer AWAKE: The Life of Yogananda
Lisa Leeman believes that strong narrative and character-driven films can change the world, one story at a time, and that the path to social change is through the heart. Lisa’s groundbreaking first film, Metamorphosis: Man into Woman, won the Filmmaker’s Trophy at the 1990 Sundance Film Festival. Roger Ebert named Leeman’s One Lucky Elephant as one of the best documentaries of 2011. That film was broadcast on OWN as part of Oprah’s Documentary of the Month Club, and selected for the U.S. State Department's American Documentary Showcase. For the last 25 years, Lisa has directed, produced, written and edited feature and short documentaries. Other notable works include directing the feature doc Out of Faith (PBS) & producing the feature doc Crazy Wisdom: The Life & Times of Chogyam Trungpa (Alive Mind Cinema), films for Renee Tajima-Pena; Michele Ohayon; Micha Peled; and others. Lisa has collaborated with many acclaimed filmmakers, including Haskell Wexler, the renowned cinematographer with whom she co-directed Who Needs Sleep. She sits on the faculty of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, and has taught master classes on documentary filmmaking in China, Portugal, Jordan, & Malawi. Additional honors include an Emmy nomination and the once-in-a-lifetime AFI Independent Filmmaker Grant.

Peter Rader

Producer AWAKE: The Life of Yogananda
Peter Rader has worked as a film and television writer/director for twenty years. His first script, Waterworld, was produced by Universal in 1995. He has developed numerous projects for other studios, and industry leaders such as Steve Spielberg, Dino De Laurentiis, John Davis and Mario Kazar. He wrote and directed a remake of Escape to Witch Mountain for ABC/Disney. Rader attended Harvard University, where he graduated magna cum laude. He has taught writing workshops and is accomplished in a broad range of fields, including music and photography. He worked as a cinematographer on a number of award-winning documentary projects. Rader also directed episodes of the hit nonfiction TV show Dog Whisperer with Cesar Milan and authored Mike Wallace: A Life, a critically acclaimed biography of the legendary CBS journalist published by St. Martin’s Press. Rader was subsequently hired to adapt his book into a script for director Rob Reiner. He is currently writing a second book for Simon & Schuster.