The Department of Communication Welcomes New Faculty: Robbie Leppzer

Robbie Leppzer

Filmmaker Robbie Leppzer, Email:

Current Courses

ADVANCED LIGHTING & CAMERA for Digital Media Communication 497LA | Fall 2022 | Thursdays 2:30 - 5:45pm | ILC N317

Robbie Leppzer Bio

Robbie Leppzer is an award-winning independent documentary film director, digital film editor, cinematographer, and location sound recordist, who has directed over thirty television and public radio documentaries over the past forty years. His critically acclaimed feature-length and short documentaries, as well as commissioned television news magazine segments, about contemporary social issues and multicultural themes, have been broadcast by CNN International, NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, HBO/Cinemax, PBS, CNN, Sundance Channel, HDNet, Black Entertainment Television, Link TV, Free Speech TV, National Public Radio, and Pacifica Radio. 

Since 1985, Leppzer has been director of Turning Tide Films, an independent documentary film production company, previously located in Wendell, Massachusetts, now located in North Bennington, Vermont. 

From the environmental protests of the 1970s, to the growing social justice, environmental and global peace movements of the new millennium, Leppzer has chronicled grassroots social movements over the last four decades.

“I film stories of people who stick their necks out to take risks for grassroots social change and build bridges across cultures,” says Leppzer.

Turning Tide Films website:

Robbie’s previous feature-length documentary, POWER STRUGGLE chronicles a successful grassroots citizens’ effort to shut down a problem-plagued nuclear power plant in Vermont. Produced in association with NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation). A 50-minute Japanese version was co-produced and broadcast nationally by NHK in Japan. Nationally broadcast on Free Speech TV and Link TV. Currently airing on Vermont PBS.

Robbie’s most recent film project (2022), INDIGENOUS VOICES: STORIES FROM THE CONNECTICUT RIVER VALLEY OF MASSACHUSETTS, is a collection of 10 short videos, ranging in length from 5 - 16 minutes, presenting a portrait of Native life past and present in the Connecticut River Valley of Massachusetts. Produced with Jennifer Lee (Northern Narragansett) as an educational resource for public schools in collaboration with the Nolumbeka Project, dedicated to the preservation of the history and contemporary life of Native Americans in New England.

Robbie is currently working on a new feature-length documentary (to be released in 2023) BREAD & PUPPET: THEATER OF THE POSSIBLITARIANS, a portrait of the multicultural transnational Bread and Puppet Theater of Vermont, founded in New York City in the 1960s, and their iconoclastic 87-year-old director Peter Schumann, known for their epic-scale performances with giant papier-mâché́ puppets and empowering social justice themes.

Teaching Statement from Robbie Leppzer

            When I teach students filmmaking, I begin with conveying the importance of developing a fundamental knowledge and mastery of filmmaking equipment and techniques. Being grounded in the technology, allows a budding filmmaker to let their artistic creativity to flow and for the finished work to have the strongest impact with an audience. I share stories from my own experiences and screen clips from my own documentaries and films by other filmmakers as a catalyst for discussion.

            A filmmaker juggles many things and wears many hats throughout the many stages of production: pre-production research, production planning, identifying key characters, filming, developing interview questions, conducting interviews, transferring and organizing the raw footage, logging, creating an edit plan, assembly editing, rough-cut editing, fine-cut editing, sound mixing, color correction and creating the final edit master.  Attention to fine detail, communication and organization are essential skills to cultivate for a student to work productively in the filmic realm.

            I believe that students learn best about filmmaking when they are engaged in hands-on exercises and assignments of utilizing the equipment and creating works of digital media to share in class.  It is empowering for students to realize their skills and abilities through direct experience and practice.  "Seeing" the results on screen and hearing feedback and constructive critique from myself, as a filmmaker mentor, along with their fellow students, is an essential part of the learning process.

            At its core, filmmaking is fundamentally about creative problem solving.  How am I going to convey a message?  What is the issue, story or theme I want my film to be about? How do I best utilize the technology to tell this story?  What happens in the field when technical or subject matter-related problems come up?  How do I adapt in the moment?  How do I ensure that I film enough footage to be covered in the editing room?  How do I make this sequence of images and sound work for a viewer who knows nothing about my subject matter?  How do I inspire audiences to care about what I care about through my film?

            I see myself as a catalyst/facilitator and creative springboard muse for students to begin on their journey to pursue their filmmaking dreams.