Producer and Documentary filmmaker, Adina Pliskin admits that as a young teen, she was the person that parents warned their kids to stay away from. “I was hanging out with a rough crowd, smoking, drinking, you name it”, she says. Her upbringing in South Euclid was fraught with struggle, as her mother’s mental health issues and subsequent divorce from her father, forced Adina and her older brother Ariel to grow up quickly. These days, the busy producer/director is living in Los Angeles with her husband of four years, the Emmy-nominated comedian, Mike Lawrence.
Adina attended SEL Schools from K-12, and found the teachers there to be a lifeline when things got tough. “In third grade when my parents got divorced, my teacher at Rowland, who was a Hungarian immigrant, took me aside and we had many conversations about what was happening, which made me feel less alone. Because my parents were immigrants (from Argentina and Israel) too, I felt we had a special bond”, recalls Adina. In addition to school, Adina took refuge in art. “My grandparents had a deep love of arts and culture and made sure that I was exposed to art classes for kids at the Cleveland Institute of Art. In spite of her grandparents’ positive influence, by the time Adina reached middle school, she was often getting into trouble.
Things changed when Adina joined a youth theater program called, “What’s Love Got to Do With It”—a program created by the Free Clinic of Cleveland that brought sketches about teen health issues into inner city schools. This was followed by a job with the AIDS Task Force, as a youth outreach worker where she handed out condoms and AIDS prevention information. She created “zines” and flyers to help get the word out about safe sex. Adina had found her purpose in activism.
At Brush, Adina got involved with the art program. Two brand new teachers, Sarah Curry and Hadley Conner became important influences in her life, as Adina found a home in the art department. Ms. Curry encouraged Adina to consider moving to New York City following graduation to pursue her creative interests and meet like-minded people. Adina took her advice and obtained a degree in painting from Hunter College. During college, Adina spent a year abroad in Argentina, studying documentary filmmaking. Film was the fusion of Adina’s passion for art and her love of movies and television.
After graduation, Adina found work as a waitress while attempting to find jobs in film production. A dinner out with a friend on Cinco de Mayo proved to be an unlikely turning point. “My friend and I were in a crowded restaurant, and woman knocked over my drink. I recognized her from the show ‘Party of Five’. It turned out that her companion was a documentary filmmaker. He gave me his card. I ended up working for him for four years”, recalled Adina. An impressive number of documentary film credits ensued. One of the most memorable and poignant for Adina was a film about the Holocaust called Defiant Requiem. Adina’s paternal grandfather was a Holocaust survivor, so working on the project, which was filmed in Prague, held deep meaning. Back in New York, a stint filming segments for Sesame Street ensued—a favorite project that remains close to Adina’s heart. “For several seasons, we did around six minutes of every episode of the show, producing the segments ‘Word on the Street’ and ‘Murray Has a Little Lamb’ featuring Murray the Monster”, said Adina. Comedy has also been a focus of much of Adina’s work. Last year, Adina directed a four episode web series for Amazon profiling four young female comedians to accompany the series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She also produced and directed six shorts for Harper Collins starring Abigail Breslin.
In 2010, Adina met Mike Lawrence. The two bonded over their love for bad zombie movies, and by the third date, they knew that they were meant to be together. They were married in 2014. During the summer of 2017, the couple relocated from New York City to L.A.
Adina feels the recent publicity around the near-daily reports of sexual abuse scandals perpetrated by powerful men, is helping to call attention to the plight of women, especially in male dominated industries like film. “The industry is very misogynistic. There are not many women behind the camera. It’s hard to get respect and I’ve found I have to prove myself over and over”, said Adina.
Adina wholeheartedly agrees with the observations of writer Lindy West who said, “The solution is putting people into positions of power who are not male, not straight, not cisgender, not white. This is not taking something away unfairly—it is restoring opportunities that have been historically withheld.”
These days, as a seasoned producer and director, Adina is most interested in telling stories with strong, fully developed female characters. According to Adina, “Things are finally changing. Female driven stories are selling tickets”. Woman like Adina Pliskin are blazing a trail for the next generation of female directors. We can’t wait to see her next act.