Yony Leyser, a writer director hailing from Chicago and based in Berlin since 2010, is a versatile storyteller whose intimate, real, and colorful work spans documentary, commercial, theater, TV, film, and branded content. With an MFA in Film, Leyser brings a unique perspective to storytelling, exploring diverse topics and perspectives, particularly those related to culture, artists and the LGBTQIA+ Community.

Leyser has directed and produced feature films, documentaries, docuseries, and miniseries that have received worldwide acclaim and recognition at various international festivals and platforms, such as IDFA, BFI London IFF, Hot Docs, Viennale, Slamdance, Seattle IFF, ZDF, ARTE, RTL+, and Netflix. Last year, Leyser created a branded docuseries for NYX Professional Makeup (L’Oréal) in Germany titled “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Changing The Game,” highlighting the stories and talents of diverse and inspiring LGBTQIA+ talent.

With a passion for creating engaging and authentic narratives, Leyser’s work often challenges stereotypes and norms, reflecting real lived experiences and communities. Projects have ranged from a portrait of the American author William S. Burroughs to exploring Berlin’s vibrant nightlife to documenting a drag wrestling collective.

Leyser’s award-winning feature films include William S. Burroughs: A Man Within (2010), Desire Will Set You Free (2015) and Queercore: How To Punk A Revolution (2017). In 2019, the Maxim Gorki Theatre premiered Leyser’s first theater piece W(A)RM HOLES. In 2020, Leyser co-wrote the book Queercore: How To Punk A Revolution out on PM Press. In 2022, Leyser directed the three-part docuseries Drag Me to the USA for RTL+. In 2023 Leyser released two short films The Fourth Generation, and Chokehole: Drag Wresters do Deutschland, in addition to directing the 90 minute branded documentary miniseries Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Changing The Game for NYX Professional Makeup x Vice.

From a young age, Leyser explored themes identity, displacement and belonging and gave a voice and platform to those marginalised by society. Leyser directs in both  English and German.  

Yony Leyser has a B.A in Film and Journalism from NYC’s Eugene Lang College at the New School University and a MFA (Diplom II) in Media Arts from KHM (Academy of Media Arts Cologne) with honours (1,1).

Leyser released William S. Burroughs: A Man Within at the age of 24. This film documents the life and work of “the first person who was famous for things you were supposed to hide.” The film is an unflinching exploration of one of the world’s first openly queer poets, junkies and challengers of censorship, demonstrating that Leyser is unafraid of looking at the dark corners, as well as the bright lights, of the queer experience. Variety Magazine wrote “Like his subject, Leyser strives to disengage from the conventional, while still being lucid. He succeeds admirably.” It screened on over 15 TV stations around the world as well as on Netflix.

Desire Will Set You free continued Leyser’s fearless examination of queer identity, belonging and hedonism. The docufiction feature film sees an American writer follow a Russian artist and escort down the rabbit hole of Berlin’s decadent underground queer scene. Through a kaleidoscope of drug-fuelled parties, freedom, desire and deviance, the film unveils what it means to explore the parts of the self that society deems off limits. “The director achieves a raw vitality with fiction-doc hybrid,” wrote Dazed and Confused Magazine. It was funded by Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and ZDF.

Queercore: How To Punk A Revolution, dives into the world of the cultural punk movement known as Queercore. In response to society’s disdain and rejection of queerness, the LGBTQIA+ punks of the 1980s formed an explosive, furious, vibrant army of kings, queens, rockstars and artists to perform in the underground institutions of Toronto, Portland, San Francisco and London. Leyser’s documentary paints a powerful and profound picture of how the global queer community mobilised to forcefully create space for their marginalised comrades. The film won several prizes at international film festivals including the Felix Prize at the Rio International Film Festival and Best Film at Merlinka film festival (Serbia) in 2017. It has made several quintessential queer documentary lists.  It was funded by Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and ARTE/ZDF.

W(A)RM HOLES, Leyser’s, premiered in Berlin’s Maxim Gorki Theater in 2019. The play follows five Berliner’s of differing generations on a journey through Berlin’s queer history. The performers were encouraged to channel their icons, ex-lovers and past selves to explore the intersection of queer identity in a collective consciousness.

Leyser collaborated with Chokehole drag wrestling collective on their show Eurofist which opened the 2021 season at Kampnagel in Hamburg.

Drag Me to the USA (2022)  follows three diverse German drag queens on a road trip from New Orleans to LA as they meet locals and perform in towns along the way. Its a journey of empowerment and self-discovery for the queens in this commissioned three part series for RTL+.

Leyser also directs commercial and branded projects including Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Changing The Game (2023) for NYX Professional Makeup x Vice. The three part 90 minute branded portrait miniseries features three prominent LGBTQ+ Influencers. 

Leyser was the inspiration for the character of Yony in Israel Cárdenas & Laura Amelia Guzmán’s film Holy Beasts starring Geraldine Chaplin and Udo Kier, and the character Yoni in Ingrid Veninger’s I am a Good Person / I am a Bad Person. Leyser is a member of the European Film Academy and the Deutsche Filmakademie and has worked with some of the world’s most prestigious art and music icons, from punk princess Nina Hagen to the king-of-filth John Waters as well as Sonic Youth, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Amiri Baraka, and Peaches.

Leyser’s productions have received critical acclaim from international publications including The Guardian, The New York Times, Der Spiegel, NME, Wall Street Journal, Vice, The LA Times, tagesspiegel  and dozens more. Leyser has exhibited and performed at Manifesta in Zurich, Sprechsaale Gallery in Berlin, No No Gallery in Melbourne and Heaven Gallery in Chicago and has done guest film programming at Chicago International Movie and Music festival, 3hD art festival (Berlin), and the B3 Biennale (Frankfurt) and lecturing at various universities. 

Today, Yony Leyser continues to blaze a trail for the global LGBTQIA+ community in Germany and worldwide.