Director Gillian Zinser is bringing to London-based production company Lief a fresh and inspired voice in human-interest storytelling.

Lief is not just about the very established; its #NEWLIEF division is where founder Margo Mars and her team discover, introduce and build directing talent that have clarity. And the perspective of Zinser, a filmmaker, actress, activist and photographer with a background in humanitarian aid and journalism, is firmly fixed on the underdog.

Zinser’s directorial work marries a raw, intimate style with a focus on unique and fringe communities searching for acceptance. Her short films and advertisements aim to promote connection and empathy, explore and confront stereotypes, and broaden our understanding of beauty.

“We are very excited to have Gillian on board,” says Margo Mars. “Her curiosity and compassion shine light into hidden corners of our world, showing us that the exquisite can be found in unexpected places.”

Zinser has directed several short films, each one poignant. Among them are the docu-pieces “Kodak Presents: Nightlight” and “Get Off Your Damn Phone,” and the brilliant 8-minute “Whoever You Are” about a Vietnam vet who finds salvation in a stranger and in which Zinser plays the supporting role.

Her talent for capturing authenticity from her subjects and diffused, ethereal style has naturally led her into the commercial space, crafting work for clients such as Chanel, Bode, Datura, Araks, Dôen, Matches Fashion, Free People, and the XP Foundation.

Zinser’s artistic talent stretches to her career as an actress, most famously for playing Ivy Sullivan in The CW reboot of 90210. Says Zinser,

“Acting has given me such an incredible education and foundation for directing. It allows me to engage with my subjects in a far more personal way, knowing and appreciating the vulnerability it takes to be on their side.”

Given her travel and humanitarian work, Zinser’s current focus is creating documentary films that combat stereotypes, celebrate resilience and which deepen our understanding for one another. One such project focuses on liberation and bravery within the transgender community in Cuba, inspired by Adela Hernández, a trans woman who was elected to public office despite the systemic cultural repression of the LGBTQ+ community there.

On her first official signing with a production company, Zinser says,

“Mars has such incredible taste and a remarkable understanding of how and where to push this industry’s boundaries. I’m very grateful to have found a true creative partnership with the Lief team who are not only interested in supporting my projects, but also invested in challenging my process and cultivating my artistry in this early moment of my directing career.”