Enthusiastic, optimistic, and determined, Elizabeth “Liz” Ryan continues to thrive in her career as a director and producer. She grew up in an environment centered around television and movies, and it bothered her that none of those productions reflected true life experiences. She decided to get involved to change that; she wanted to show others the challenges people face on a daily basis and change who society viewed as heroes. Ms. Ryan proceeded to earn a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University in 1981, which propelled her to her first position in the field: trainee with the Directors Guild of America. She worked her way to the top, making connections and building her portfolio, and she never looked back.
Today, Ms. Ryan is known for her directorial work on shows like “NYPD Blue,” “The Office,” “Green Card,” “Leave It to Beaver,” “Freaks and Geeks,” “The Green Mile,” and “Alien 3,” among many others. She is drawn to stories involving personal growth and specializes in big action projects with lots of moving parts, so these were all ideal projects for her. Since 1992, she has been connected to Universal Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, Paramount Pictures, and Indie Studios. She has run her own company, Ryanworks, Inc., since 1986.
Reflecting on her career thus far, Ms. Ryan is most proud of her longevity in such a tough business. She really loves her work; she is grateful to be in a position to help other women and minorities, and to have had the opportunity to work with so many talented people. One moment that stands out in particular was when she was working as the first assistant director on the move, “Broke Down Palace.” They were filming a scene in downtown Manila, and had to work with the Philippine military to reroute traffic for 20 blocks. This allowed her to set the scene for hundreds of extras, and both Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale participated in the shoot. Some of Ms. Ryan’s other highlights include winning the Frank Capra Award from Directors Guild of America in 2008 and being elected to the board of directors of the Harvard Alumni Association from among 300,000 alumni.
When Ms. Ryan isn’t working, she enjoys writing and keeping in touch with her community. She has been a freelance writer for Premier Magazine and Time Inc. in both New York City and Los Angeles since 1986, as well as a freelance script doctor and a member of the Producers Guild of America. She is also affiliated with the Producers Training Program at the Directors Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild, New York Women in Film & Television, and Women in Film in Los Angeles. Additionally, she is a career advisor at Harvard University.