June 22, 2011, 7:00 P.M.

The Albert and Dana Broccoli Theatre, SCA 112, George Lucas Building, USC School of Cinematic Arts, 900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007

The SCA Summer Screening Series, Crossover Productions and Sandbar Pictures invite you and a guest to a special preview screening of:

One Lucky Elephant

Directed by Lisa Leeman
Written by Lisa Leeman, Cristina Colissimo
Produced by Cristina Colissimo, Jordana Glick-Franzheim
Co-produced & Composed by Miriam Cutler
Edited by Kate Amend, Tchavdar Georgiev

Followed by a Q&A with the crew
Moderated by SCA Associate Dean Michael Renov

7:00 P.M. on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

The Albert and Dana Broccoli Theatre
George Lucas Building, SCA 112
900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007


Opens in Los Angeles on Friday, June 24th, 2011

About One Lucky Elephant

Where does an elephant go after a life in the circus?  Sixteen years have passed since circus producer David Balding adopted Flora, the orphaned baby African elephant he lovingly raised as part of his family and made the star of his show. As Flora approaches adulthood, he realizes that she is not happy performing. Ultimately, David must face the difficult truth that the circus is no place for Flora. She needs to be with other elephants. The road to Flora’s retirement, however, is a difficult and emotional journey which tests their bond in unexpected ways. Ten years in the making, One Lucky Elephant explores the consequences of keeping wild animals in captivity, while never losing sight of the delicate love story at its heart.

Provided courtesy of Crossover Productions and Sandbar Pictures. Not rated.

To visit the Official Website and view the trailer, click here.

About the Guests

LISA LEEMAN - Director, Co-Writer
Lisa Leeman’s film work has taken her to the Himalayas, Chernobyl, Australia, and her back yard of Venice Beach, California. Lisa directs, produces, and writes documentary films -- her first feature doc, Metamorphosis: Man into Woman, won the Filmmakers Trophy at Sundance, and garnered high ratings on its broadcast on PBS’s acclaimed series POV. Other credits include co-directing and editing Who Needs Sleep with renowned cinematographer & director Haskell Wexler (Sundance), and directing the feature doc Out of Faith (PBS). Leeman produced the feature doc Crazy Wisdom: The Life & Times of Chogyam Trunga, which profiles the influential and provocative Tibetan Buddhist teacher and his deep impact on the West. Crazy Wisdom World premiered to sell-out crowds at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and was honored to be included in The Best of the Fest.

Lisa is currently co-directing, with Paola di Florio, a feature documentary about the famed swami Paramahansa Yogananda. Writing credits include the acclaimed Made in LA and Naked in Ashes. Leeman has served as a judge at the Sundance, AFI, & Los Angeles Film Festivals; as the president of the International Documentary Association, and has sat on the boards of the IDA and the National Coalition of Independent Public Broadcasting Producers. She writes articles about the ethics of documentary filmmaking, and on the international documentary scene. She is on the faculty of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, and has taught documentary filmmaking in Beijing and Amman and for Film Indepenent in Los Angeles. She spent a decade editing social-issue documentaries, including the acclaimed MADE IN LA.

Director's Statement

We started out to make a film about David Balding trying to do right by Flora, the elephant he’d adopted sixteen years ago and made the star of his circus. He dreamed of returning her to Africa, and that's the story we thought we were following. It seemed like a simple, feel-good story. But it wasn't that simple..... As David learned more about the situation of elephants in Africa, where poachings take place even in protected reserves, he felt he'd better reconsider all the options. The problem is, there aren't many good options for a mature elephant who's lived with humans most of her life, and couldn't fend for herself in the wild.

As the story unfolded over a period of 10 years, I learned how elephants live in the wild, and how rarely elephants' needs are met in captivity. I realized that David and Flora's story is not only the redemptive story of a man trying to right a wrong he didn't even know he was committing years ago (raising an elephant alone, training her to perform in the circus) - it’s also a cautionary tale. Watching David try to find the best home for Flora was to see, finally, that she’s caught between two worlds, and belongs fully to neither. She was raised among humans, but they cannot fulfill her deepest needs; she needs to be with other elephants, but she hasn’t learned how to integrate with her own kind. She’s a fish out of water, whether with humans or with other elephants.

David has said many times that the world is becoming a smaller and smaller place, and that humans and animals have to learn to live with each other. Most people assume that means that animals must adapt to us - they must live in smaller habitats; not devour our crops or raid our food storehouses; and that they should be docile and obedient when interacting with humans. But perhaps the answer is something else entirely - perhaps we should stop encroaching into their habitats and destroying their food sources; and perhaps we shouldn’t assume that we have the right to dominate them into submission. Perhaps they have just as much right to be respected and left alone in their places on this earth as we do....

I always knew that the strength of this story was in David and Flora’s relationship. They are intertwined, for better or worse. I wanted the film to be an intimate, character-driven story, with David and Flora as equal protagonists. This isn’t an overtly ‘social issue film’ - it doesn’t have ‘experts’ decrying the mistreatment of elephants in circuses and zoos. But at its heart, this film asks -- demands -- that we reconsider our relationship to all animals. I've become interested in more than simply showing that circuses and zoos are not good environments for elephants – I want to open hearts and minds to the possibility that we should reconsider how we regard, and treat, animals, and ultimately, the earth herself. That perhaps our impulse to dominate our surroundings, whether it’s other species or our environment, is misguided.

The film doesn’t provide answers, but it does raise a lot of questions. I leave it to audiences to grapple with the questions...

- Lisa Leeman

Check-In & Reservations

This screening is free of charge and open to the general public. Please bring a photo ID or print out of your reservation confirmation, which will automatically be sent to your e-mail account upon successfully making an RSVP through this website. Doors will open at 6:30 P.M.


The USC School of Cinematic Arts is located at 900 W. 34th St., Los Angeles, CA 90007. Parking passes may be purchased for $8.00 at USC Entrance Gate #5, located at the intersection of W. Jefferson Blvd. & McClintock Avenue. We recommend parking in outdoor Lot M or V, or Parking Structure D, at the far end of 34th Street. Please note that Parking Structure D cannot accommodate tall vehicles such as SUVs. Metered street parking is also available along Jefferson Blvd.

Contact Information

Name: Alessandro Ago
Phone: 213.740.2330