A note from Gianna…
My dear friend Lisa Landers is a story-teller and documentary film maker who is passionate about sharing messages that change the way we see the world. Her work has taken her to remote and exotic destinations all over the world where she’s had the opportunity to meet all kinds of interesting people. She approaches each of her projects with tenacity and enthusiasm but her latest project, Giants Rising is truly a passion project for her. The giant coastal Redwoods of northern California and specifically Marin captured her heart years ago and lured her to the Bay Area where she and I met several years ago.
Who inspired you?
In my early twenties I had an opportunity to spend some time with Sylvia Earle – an intrepid and world-renowned oceanographer often referred to as “Her Deepness.” She’s also an author, a speaker, a mother and so much more. I had always admired her adventurous spirit and her commitment to ocean conservation. When I met her, within minutes I found myself talking about an idea I had for a documentary. I don’t remember what the idea was, but I do recall how she responded because I’ve carried her words with me ever since. She told me to follow my curiosity, lean into my passions and have confidence in my ideas. Those words have propelled me in countless ways over the years. At 87, Sylvia is still touring the globe to advocate for the oceans, and I’m still swimming in her wake of inspiration.
What is your favorite memory?
One of my favorite memories is from a trip I made to Botswana in 2004. We were there to film researchers who were studying crocodiles. Each night they would capture a croc or two on the river, and pump their stomachs to find out what they were eating (and then release them after). Cruising the Okavango River under the stars was a memorable experience, but it was actually a moment I had while sitting in the camp outhouse -- of all places -- that left the greatest impression on me. The outhouse was open on one side and in the distance, I could see a couple of elephants walking across the storybook African landscape. There was something about the banality of being in the bathroom coupled with the sight of these beautiful giants that made the experience feel all the more extraordinary. If only every trip to the bathroom was as magical.
Where do you feel most at home?
That’s easy. Ever since I was a kid I have been drawn to forests. Although I’ve spent many years living in urban areas like NYC, Boston, and Washington DC -- I would escape to the woods every chance I got. Large photographic prints of trees have always hung in my homes, including an Ansel Adams image of a redwood forest that I bought some 30 years and have carted around ever since. When I moved to Marin I didn’t hang it up though because I could see the real thing out my window. It’s a sight that still blows me away, every day.
When did you experience the greatest challenge?
I’ve had my share of medical “mishaps” over the years – from picking up dengue fever on a film shoot in Brazil to a camping trip in Maine that left me with a scratched cornea. But getting diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021 really took the cake. For the next few months while waiting for pathology reports I was like a zombie. I could barely see straight through the thick veil of anxiety. As someone known to faint at the sight of my own blood, I knew I had to toughen up for the road ahead. I gathered up the courage I needed from many sources, but mostly from family, friends and the incredible network of breast cancer survivors that funneled their wisdom and strength straight into my veins. Getting through this ordeal was one of my greatest challenges, but now on the other side of it, I have a newfound sense of clarity of purpose and calm. Here’s hoping I can hang on to it.
Learn more about Lisa Landers