Leah Meyerhoff

Leah photographed for Constellation by Zayira Ray.

Leah photographed for Constellation by Zayira Ray.

Leah Meyerhoff is an award-winning filmmaker whose debut narrative feature film, I Believe in Unicorns, made its theatrical release in 2015 after premiering at SXSW, winning the Grand Jury Prize at the Atlanta Film Festival, and receiving additional awards from Woodstock Film Festival, Nashville Film Festival, First Time Fest, Tribeca Film Institute, IFP, NYU, and the Adrienne Shelly Foundation. Meyerhoff’s previous work has screened in over 200 film festivals and aired on IFC, PBS, LOGO and MTV.  She is a fellow at the IFP Emerging Narrative Labs, IFP Narrative Finishing Labs, Tribeca All Access Labs, and the Emerging Visions program at the New York Film Festival. Meyerhoff is also the founder of Film Fatales, an organization for female filmmakers based in New York with dozens of local chapters around the world. She holds a BA in Art-Semiotics from Brown University and an MFA in Directing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Leah Meyerhoff founded Film Fatales, an international network of female filmmakers, largely by accident. “I was in the process of making my first feature (2015’s I Believe in Unicorns), and I wrote to some of my favorite female filmmakers, such as Kimberly Pierce (Boys Don’t Cry) for advice. They all were very warm and helpful. I invited them over for dinner in my Brooklyn apartment, and there in my kitchen, Film Fatales was born.” 

Documentary directors from the New York chapter of Film Fatales at Film Fatales New York Documentary 2016. Photo by Tory Williams.

Documentary directors from the New York chapter of Film Fatales at Film Fatales New York Documentary 2016. Photo by Tory Williams.

The organization’s membership is now blooming, with local branches forming across the globe. Each group meets monthly and provides a supportive, candid environment for female filmmakers to discuss their careers, ideas, and projects in the works. To join the group, members must have completed a feature film. However, Meyerhoff hopes to expand the network to include a chapter focused on shorts filmmakers. “We now have a Film Fatales group in Costa Rica, so every month, a few women in Costa Rica meet-up and discuss their films,” she says with glee. 

Natalia Dyer in I Believe in Unicorns.

Natalia Dyer in I Believe in Unicorns.

Meyerhoff discovered filmmaking when she was young, becoming engrossed in films at her local indie cinema in San Francisco. It was there that she first saw Boys Don’t Cry, and was so happy to learn that the film was directed by a woman [e.g. Kimberly Peirce] and featured a protagonist to whom Meyerhoff herself could relate. After making nearly a dozen short films and winning a student Academy Award, Meyerhoff undertook her first feature: a dreamy yet tautly realistic coming-of-age tale called I Believe in Unicorns. “Through [the character of] Davina, I wanted to create an honest, relatable teenage girl. I worked a lot with Natalia Dyer, who plays her, to craft the character and make her modern.” The film also holds a deeply personal connection for Meyerhoff, as it was filmed where she grew up and features her mother in the cast. She even created the stop motion “in [her] Brooklyn living room.” 

As a passionate artist devoted to progressing her voice and the voices of others through films that bring women to the forefront, Meyerhoff now serves as a heroine in her own right for female filmmakers worldwide. ★