Lara Stolman is an award-winning producer/director/writer of documentaries. Her work has appeared on Netflix, PBS, NBC, MSNBC, AMC, VH-1 and The New York Times' website. Lara produced and directed "Swim Team," a feature documentary chronicling the rise of a competitive swim team made up of diverse teenagers on the autism spectrum. For "Swim Team," Lara was named an IFP Documentary Completion Lab Fellow and was awarded funding from the Aetna Foundation, Easterseals, the Karma Foundation and New York Women in Film and Television among others. "Swim Team" has screened at over 50 international festivals, won 13 awards, was released in US theaters in July, 2017 with its debut at New York's IFC Center and aired on PBS' acclaimed non-fiction showcase POV. "Swim Team" is now streaming on Netflix.
What do I do best?
I am a storyteller. I really enjoy the process of figuring out how to tell a story and all the research and discovery that goes into knowing your subject and characters. I get into the weeds and relish the details. I am generally curious about people, a natural interviewer and I tend to think everyone is interesting and everyone has a story. I think the best film and television stories are, at their core, about people and reflect our common humanity. I make television and film because I believe it has tremendous power to do good in the world by connecting us.
What makes me the best version of myself?
I never would have made Swim Team nor would I have achieved its distribution goals (PBS’ POV and Netflix) if I hadn’t learned how to push through rejection. Making an independent film and shepherding its distribution was a new experience for me and incredibly challenging, mostly because I was independent, I was all alone and I was told no a lot. If I turned around and gave up with the first or even the second or third no, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now. I’ve learned that no is complicated. No can mean not now or not me. No can become yes six months later and of course yes can become no. I guess I am the eternal optimist. Even in face of repeated rejection, I refused to give up and believed I’d find the right allies and partners and the film would find its audience. And it did and incredibly continues to as I am still being asked to screen the film, talk about the film and travel with the film.
What are my aspirations?
I’d like to continue to be happy in my family life and raise healthy, strong and kind children. Professionally I have always aspired to make the world a better place. As I get older that becomes even more important as I am more aware of the brevity of life. I don’t want to waste my time.
My Biggest Success?
My family. I have a husband whom I adore and we have fun together and my kids are fabulous. Sorry if that’s braggy but they’re all such great people and I really get a kick out of being with them.
My Most Challenging Moment?
When I was in my early twenties, I decided to quit my job in the movie business in Los Angeles and move back to New York because I missed the East Coast. It was perhaps the most difficult decision I’ve made professionally. I think this hamstrung my film career as there are just so many more opportunities in LA but I also believe it allowed me to meet my husband and create the family that I cherish.
This is taped to my computer monitor and helped me get through the dark days of making my first independent film: “Life is like a wild tiger. You can either lie down and let it lay its paw on your head or sit on its back and ride it. Ride the Wild Tiger.”
My Favorite People/Role Models?
There’s a great book I am reading with my daughter now called “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.” It’s filled with profiles of women who beat the odds and succeeded in areas women and people of color are traditionally denied access to - we are discovering new role models like Fadumo Dayib, Somalia first female presidential candidate and NASA engineer Margaret Hamilton. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is also a favorite.
My new favorite person is Sia, the singer-songwriter who watched Swim Team on Netflix recently and decided to sponsor the team in the film, the Jersey Hammerheads. They are so deserving and it’s testament to the power of film and Sia’s big heart.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
I adore Paris. I lived there as a student and try to go back at least once a year. I am forever inspired and renewed by its architecture, food, history and art. I also love Asia and Mexico. I definitely have wanderlust and am often dreaming of where to go next. My wish list includes Cambodia, India and Patagonia.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
My iPhone X. I don’t go anywhere without it.
My Current Passions?
Boxing and kickboxing, when I am not swamped with work. Since I’m in my 40s and I’ve had three children, my body needs its ass kicked regularly and often in order for me to feel healthy and strong.
Boxing is doing that for now and I like it.