To Own a Dream: Lisa Erspamer
written by Tina Tyler
TO OWN A DREAM LISA ERSPAMER
EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF PRODUCTION & DEVELOPMENT, OWN: OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK
BY TINA MARIE TYLER
Lisa Erspamer grew up in Westminster, California in a normal neighborhood, with a normal family. Her father was an engineer. Her mother is a fourth- grade teacher, and her two older brothers are, well, normal. “We were your average, everyday, basic family. We went to Catholic schools, were less than middle income…normal.”
Beneath that normalcy and structure and rules and societal restrictions emerged a passionate dreamer whose path was clearly defined. “I was one of those lucky people who sort of was born with a dream that I always believed I would achieve. When I was in the first grade I would draw pictures of me with a microphone or write stories about having my own show. I loved television and entertainment … it was always my dream.”
Her fascination with Johnny Carson and Phil Donahue hinged upon their ability to share real stories about real people and issues. And then came Oprah Winfrey. “When I was 18, I was taking a class that required us to create a vision board. My vision board had Oprah Winfrey on it. In under eight years I am now working for Oprah Winfrey. It’s been amazing!”
Harpo Productions, Inc., was just the fertile creative soil Lisa needed to cultivate her craft, but it wasn’t easy. “I started at The Oprah Winfrey Show when I was 26 and it was hard. I learned a lot about producing but also about life, creativity, and believing anything was possible.”
“We would have these pitch meetings and Oprah would ask, ‘What is the intention? Why would we do that? What’s in it for the viewer?’ It really took a level of maturity to understand what Oprah meant by that. Really knowing why you’re putting something on television and how it is going to impact the viewer. Oprah has been my greatest teacher. She taught me that television should “feel” like some- thing. It should shine a light in a dark corner, show us something we haven’t seen before.” The little girl who was once the self- described “odd duck” blossomed into the co-executive producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show, responsible for some of television’s most memorable moments.
In January 2010, Lisa’s dream came full circle when she joined the network. While discussing the upcoming slate of shows, I was struck by the increased energy in her voice, an exuding passion that was almost palpable, and the sheer texture of a woman who has truly come into her own. Her power comes from a deep belief that anything is possible and being living proof of such.
Six months on the air, Lisa sings about the Fall line-up while acknowledging that as a network “We are still learning about our audience. Our goal is to be in service to our audience.” With signature programs that include the return of Rosie O’Donnell to television, financial guru Suze Orman’s America’s Money Class with Suze Orman, the OWN Documentary Club, and the launch of Oprah’s Next Chapter, the future of OWN shines brightly.
“It’s an honor to watch people create and to be a part of that process. My goal is that when you watch shows on this network, you feel something as a result, even if you laugh!”