Daughter of the late independent filmmaker Paul Leder, Mimi Leder was the first woman accepted to study cinematography at the American Film Institute. She began her career as a script supervisor, serving a six-year stint in that capacity for NBC's "Hill Street Blues", and performed the same duty for several TV-movies. The short film "Short Order Dreams", which she produced and directed, impressed the producers of NBC's "L.A. Law", and she made her TV directing debut with a 1986 episode of that hit series. Subsequently, Leder helmed episodes of "Crime Story" (NBC), "The Bronx Zoo" (NBC), "A Year in the Life" (NBC) and "Just in Time" (ABC), not to mention additional segments of "L.A. Law" and a half dozen TV-movies. She then served as supervising producer for "China Beach" (ABC, 1988-91), for which she also directed episodes.
Leder's big break came when she worked on Amblin Television's highly successful drama "ER" (NBC), inaugurating her relationship with Steven Spielberg. She won two Emmys (one for directing, the other as co-executive producer) before Spielberg tapped her to make her feature debut, helming DreamWorks' first live-action feature "The Peacemaker" (1997), starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman. Entrusted with the $50 million project, Leder brought the thriller in under budget thanks to her TV training.
Leder directed another big-budget film for DreamWorks, "Deep Impact" (1998), about an asteroid on a collision course with the earth, handed to her by a Spielberg who had originally intended to direct it himself. She followed with the very personal "Sentimental Journey" (lensing 1999), scripted by her brother Reuben based on a story written by her father before his death. The film tells the story of how Paul Leder, a soldier in Patton's army, met his wife Etyl, a survivor of Auschwitz.