In Trust podcast EP 27: Interview with Alex Liu and Leo Neri on Confronting Stigma and Shame Through Trust and Storytelling

What does it take to complete a project that stretches on for years? What is it like to make a documentary about a stigmatized subject – especially when it’s personal to you? 

We dive into these questions and many more with filmmakers Alex Liu and Leo Neri.

Alex and Leo are co-founders of Herra Productions, a video production studio in the San Francisco Bay Area. In their first feature documentary, A Sexplanation, which raised over $15,000 on Kickstarter and took 6 years to make, the duo tackles a call for comprehensive sex education for everyone and confronts sexual shame through the lens of Alex’s personal story. 

In this conversation we discuss tackling stigmatized topics in public, shame, collaboration, empathy, storytelling, and much more. 

For all the creators and pretty much anyone who has felt shame, this episode is for you.

Overview of Episode 27: Confronting Stigma and Shame Through Trust and Storytelling with Alex Liu and Leo Neri

Talking Points

  • Alex and Leo’s background and their documentary, A Sexplanation
  • How Alex and Leo decided to feature Alex’s story in the documentary and the genesis of the film
  • The trust Alex and Leo had to build with the people who were interviewed
  • How talking to people they disagreed with built their capacity for empathy
  • The power of listening, and the challenges of interview people
  • How humor was an obvious choice to talk about a heavy, impactful subject
  • How to make a creative project when you don’t trust in yourself
  • The nature of shame and why telling a personal story is so important to defeating shame
  • What it takes to create a project over the long-term (in this case, six years)
  • The importance of building a team for long-term projects
  • The world premier of their film and where to watch it


“If it’s just a bunch of facts coming at you, it’s hard to internalize.” – Alex Liu

“I do not agree with anything you say but I have to believe on a deeper more human level there is something between us.” – Alex Liu

“The more vulnerable you are, the more vulnerable they’ll be, and you can hopefully build some trust there.” – Alex Liu

“Even though you have these sources that should evoke this idea of trust – media, politics, religion, even family structures – we imbue a lot of power and trust in these structures, but ultimately what is the agenda? And is that agenda something you can trust to make your own decision?” – Leo Neri

“Creating this level ground of communication, being open, builds trust and further advances the relationships that are possible that otherwise we’d be closed off to.” – Leo Neri

“To actually listen to them – that means so much to people” – Alex Liu

“Be crystal clear on the reason why you’re doing something, and that it fits with how you actually want to be in the world.”  – Alex Liu

“It can go on forever and you feel so overcome with joy and beauty if it’s a collaborative process where you open things up and create an atmosphere where people feel that they can say whatever crazy idea might pop into their head.” – Alex Liu

“You’re not always going to trust yourself day to day. There’s going to be those moments when you’re not going to be convinced that you’re making the right decision so that’s why it’s so important to surround yourself with a team so that they can pick up the slack when you start to doubt.” – Leo Neri

“People do their best work when they feel like there’s trust.” – Alex Liu

This episode sponsored by:

The Future Is Trust

Embracing the Era of Trust-Centered Leadership

There’s a lot of uncertainty about the future, but one thing we are sure about is that The Future Is Trust. Which also happens to be the title of our forthcoming book. 

The Future is Trust: Embracing the Era of Trust-Centered Leadership will be available in Spring 2021.

We are so excited to bring this reimagination of what a leadership book can be. 

Check out for book launch details, special previews, exclusive pre-order specials, and more.

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