Lisa Cortés shows passion for storytelling with Little Richard documentary

The director aspires to give the full picture to viewers

Lisa Cortés is a director and film producer who completed her education at Yale University. The Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning film executive enjoys the act of storytelling through documentaries.

Her most recent film, Little Richard: I Am Everything, allows viewers to experience the legendary artist through the eyes of those who worked with him.

Cortés opened up about her passion for directing, how she got involved in the Little Richard documentary, and unknown facts about the artist.

Where did your passion for directing come from?

Well, I started my first career in the music industry at Def Jam. [I] went on to be an A&R person, run a label, moved into film on the narrative side as Lee Daniels producing partner, and then I moved into documentaries.

I was first [a producer], but I think what is always driving me, is I am interested in the stories of people. You think you know who they are and you think you know what the story is, and then you’re going to learn and have a lot of revelations about the fullness of who people are. Think of Precious, that character was somebody [where you would be] like, “Wow, we know what she’s about,” and that story revealed that she had such a rich interior life. In the documentary space, it’s really allowed me as a director, to give the mic to the people, even if they’re not here anymore, to give us the full picture of who they are.

How did you get involved with this film project?

I think the big thing is when he passed away in 2020, we were in the middle of a pandemic and it was a challenging time. When someone passes away, you hear their music all the time. I [kept] hearing his music and getting so much joy. Then thinking about as a kid, how I loved jumping around to “Tutti Frutti” and seeing the range of people who talked about how important he was to them [moved me]. When I discovered there was not a feature film on him, it just really was like, “Wow, he’s deep and he lived a long time. So, many different artists were touched by him, inspired by him, and mentored by him.” So, that all makes for some very rich storytelling, coupled with this roller-coaster ride he goes on between being a saint and a sinner, the rock ‘n’ roll music and God’s music. I think that added to the complexity and the emotional[ism] of Richard.

What’s the one thing that you want people to walk away knowing about Little Richard that they didn’t already know?

Well, I think a great life lesson to walk away [with] from his journey is to never let someone else define you. He didn’t let that happen.

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