Emmy Award winning and Oscar nominated filmmaker Lisa Shreve has edited and produced over one hundred television documentaries, narrative films and shorts of various genres.
She has worked with such figures as Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Mike Wallace, Peter Jennings and Michael Bay among others.
Lisa earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in film from Tisch School of the Arts where Martin Scorcese was her professor. Prior to her career in films, she acted in Off-Off Broadway theatre, worked as a still photographer and sang backup in “The Stilettos”, a seventies New York rock group.
She is currently a producer/editor on the independent documentary “Miracle on 42nd Street” and Associate Producer /Consulting Editor on “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas In His Own Words” appearing in theatres nationwide and airing on PBS in 2020. She is also embarking on a new career teaching film history and theory at the New York Film Academy.
T2C: When did you first move into Manhattan Plaza and how did you get into the building?
Lisa Shreve: I moved into the building with my roommate Mallory Jones Danaher and her young daughter Kristen in January 1978. Mallory and Kristen were accomplished actresses and I was beginning a career as a film editor. We’d been living in an unheated loft on the Bowery. There was a record-breaking blizzard on our moving day, with several feet of snow. We got into the building in the first wave because Mallory had a boyfriend who applied and insisted that she apply too. Shortly after we had all moved into the building, they broke up. I was not sorry, as I never liked the guy but he did us both a huge favor and we owe him a debt of gratitude!
T2C: What are your fondest memories of living in the plaza?
Lisa Shreve: I have spent many fun evenings at dinners and gatherings in friend’s apartments in the building. And I fondly recall the era when the Good and Plenty takeout and the Little Pie Company on 43rd Street had outdoor tables. I spent many nice afternoons sitting out there with friends, greeting other people as they passed by. Actually most trips out my apartment door are a pleasure – its such a good feeling to say hello to neighbors and building staff. We’re not strangers, we greet each other and chat and it’s hard to feel lonely living here!
T2C: You loved the building so much you did this documentary. How did that come about?
Lisa Shreve: Casting Directors Mary Jo Slater and Nancy Perkins both lived in the building and moved to California in the eighties. Years later in LA they came up with the idea for the film. I am a film editor/producer and Mary Jo asked me and the director Alice Elliott to work on the film. Manhattan Plaza has done so much for my life and the lives of so many others and I jumped at the chance to tell this inspiring story in a film.
T2C: What didn’t make it into the movie that you would have liked to see.
Lisa Shreve: There’s a segment in the film about Arnold Wilkinson starting the Little Pie Company from his apartment. The segment was truncated in the interest of time and a wonderful aspect of the story was lost. When Arnold was filling pie orders for his first Thanksgiving he was overwhelmed and asked his neighbors in the 20 other apartments on his floor to let him have their keys so he could use their ovens. Arnold says, “and the amazing thing is – they ALL said yes! He set timers and ran in and out of the apartments baking the pies. It is such a beautiful Manhattan Plaza story. In what other building would you find every neighbor on your floor giving you their keys to help you succeed?
T2C: Who did you meet in the building and who are your friends.
Lisa Shreve: My housemates Mallory Danaher and her husband Thomas and I have a wonderful “family” home here. For many years our dear friend the actress, director and world renowned acting teacher Elizabeth Kemp and her border collie Pearl were an extension of our household and Pearl lived back and forth between our apartments.
Elizabeth died suddenly of cancer in 2017, a terrible heartbreak for the Danahers and me, and Pearl died a few months later. We were really each other’s “community”. Elizabeth was very beloved by the larger Manhattan Plaza community who mourned with us and have remained a great comfort. I have other longtime friends – actors Bob Adrian, Ed Setrakian, Charles Turner, playwright Kate Grant, former ballerina Janice Herbert – and I’ve met wonderful people in the building through working on the film.
T2C: What have been the biggest changes to the neighborhood and your business?
Lisa Shreve: The blighted neighborhood changed very incrementally throughout the eighties and then blossomed in the nineties and 2000s. Living in the middle of this extraordinary turnaround has been a great life lesson. If this terrible neighborhood could change so drastically for the better, any bad situation can change!
T2C: What did living in the building allowed you to accomplish?
Lisa Shreve: I’ve been lucky enough to succeed as a filmmaker, but freelancing means good times and not so good. I have been able to take chances and turn down boring work for more risky artistic opportunities because my rent was so reasonable compared to other NYC buildings. If I were not living here I would have had to turn down those chances and take a lot more routine work, just to make the rent.
T2C: How did living in the building make you feel?
Lisa Shreve: I lived in a beautiful, safe apartment in a building with a “small town” atmosphere where people know and take care of each other. I have a sense of security and belonging that is hard to find in NYC.
T2C: What would you change from your time living in Manhattan Plaza
Lisa Shreve: I am single and would prefer to have met and married a great man. But if you’re going to be single in New York, Manhattan Plaza is the place to be and I am not lonely. In fact I wouldn’t change places with anyone in the world!
T2C: What would you like us to know that we haven’t asked you?
Lisa Shreve: We were fortunate to get interviews in the film with Alicia, Larry David, Sam Jackson and the other stars who came out of the building. But I wish our many, many other success stories could have been mentioned in the film. Some are famous names like writers Tom Fontana and Tom Meehan or composer Alan Menken (8 Academy Awards) and a number of famous jazz musicians. Others are great achievers who may not be household names like Marin Alsop, the first female conductor of a major American orchestra. We have highly acclaimed choreographers, musicians, directors, filmmakers, performers and artists of all kinds but there was no way to include everyone. I just don’t want to give the impression that the stars who were interviewed are the only big success stories to come out of Manhattan Plaza. There are too many to count!
The documentary Miracle on 42nd Street, is available on Amazon and will soon be available to stream.