Jack Leustig Artist Statement: Born and raised in farm-country east of Cleveland, Ohio, Jack Leustig began his professional career as a photographer in the early 1970s in New York City working for United Press International. In the mid-seventies he studied acting and directing for three years with Lee Strasberg and acted in several New York productions including a starring role at the Actors Studio. In the late 1970s, Jack moved to Los Angeles where he managed the Aquarius Theater, a 1,200-seat, legitimate theatre in Hollywood that presented major Broadway musicals with their original casts. In 1981, after working on his first film, Zoot Suit, shot at the Aquarius with director Louis Valdez, Jack took a position at Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios. Throughout the 1980’s he worked on many films in various capacities including writing, casting, and acting (acting opposite Jessica Lange, Richard Gere, Sam Shepard, Michael Keaton and others). In 1989, Jack directed his first film, the acclaimed psychological short Triplicity, which he also wrote and produced.
Immediately after that he directed The Making of Dances With Wolves for Kevin Costner before beginning his most ambitious and important project, 500 Nations, in 1990. After four years in the making, 500 Nations, the eight-hour, prime-time documentary on the history of the indigenous nations of North America, aired on CBS in the spring of 1995. Created, written, produced and directed by Jack, the prime-time network mini-series was among the largest and most honored documentaries in network history. Howard Rosenberg in the L.A. Times wrote, “…stunning storytelling. Magnificently directed by Jack Leustig,” and Daily Variety echoed his sentiments by calling Jack’s direction “superb.” In 1996 in Washington, D.C., Jack was honored with the NEA Award for the Advancement of Learning Through Broadcasting. During the same period of the early 90s, Jack’s photography and digital imaging had a resurgence with many of his images being published in books, CD covers, and magazines (including two national covers).