Image by Kari Shea
  • Romy Kraus

'I never lack awe at people' Netflix Exec Lisa Nishimura

Lisa Nishimura, the streaming giant’s head of documentary and comedy programming, is changing the way filmmakers and viewers approach nonfiction TV.


“I never lack awe at people. Why people react the way they do, what are they hoping to achieve, what holds us back.”

In July 2015, filmmakers Chapman and Maclain Way pitched a documentary series to Netflix executive Lisa Nishimura that they had spent the previous year developing. The brothers knew they had a compelling tale in the long-forgotten story of Rajneeshpuram, a commune in rural Oregon built in the 1980s by the followers of an Indian guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. The brothers’ project encompassed free love, Utopianism, attempted murders, arson, and bioterrorism. Still, they worried that what they had in mind fell too far outside the realm of the traditional true-crime documentary to be of wide interest.


“We already know what the crimes were; people already pled guilty to these crimes, so there’s not a lot of detective investigation work,” Maclain says. Instead, the brothers’ aim was more adventurous: “It was really about peeling back the cultural and political layers and re-examining what led this group to commit the largest biochemical terrorist attack in the history of the United States.”