14m 43s

About the film

Michael was a ballet prodigy with his career ahead of him, but when life doesn’t go as planned, he finds refuge from trauma and liberation as his alter ego, Russian ballet instructor, Madame Olga. By slipping into this ostentatious character, Michael discovers a way to both embrace himself as an artist and reconcile his past.

About the Filmmakers

Emily Schuman is a documentary director and producer. Her directorial debut, When I'm Her, follows the double life of a dancer, as he inhabits his alter ego, Madame Olga. Most recently, Emily worked with Sarah Colt Productions where she produced The Disrupted (DOK.Fest Munich, International premiere) and True Believer (streaming on The Atlantic). Prior to working with Sarah Colt, Emily was an Associate Producer on The Witmans and Lift, two documentary features directed by David Petersen. Emily's career began as a camera assistant and a member of IATSE Local 600. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and dog Mona.

Presented by Independent Lens

Full Credits


Emily Schuman

Executive Producer

Sally Jo Fifer
Lois Vossen


Emily Schuman


Emily Packer


Michael Cusumano
Madame Olga
Michael Apuzzo

Director of Photography

Donavon deCesare


Noah Fishman

Post Production Supervisor

David Schuman

Additional Photography

David Petersen
Emily Schuman


David Schuman
Pasquin Mariani

Vice President of Production

Royd Chung

Senior Manager, Short-Form Content

Pamela Torno

Supervising Producer

Clare Chambers

Associate Producer

Susan Cohen

Consulting Producer

David Petersen


Steve Beganyi

Post Sound Mixer

Benny Mouthon, CAS

Production Accountant

Nancy Adams


Heather Butterfield
Justine Jacob

Title Design

Lorenzo Fanton

Special Thanks

The Cusumano Family
Broadway Dance Center
Niko Chapelle
Sarah Colt
Lydia Cornett
Amelia Erikson
Josh Gleason
Emily Harrold
Kanyok Arts Initiative
Alex Kurze
Alex Leff
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Stephanie Leke
Evan Neff
Hypatia Porter
Mary Recine
Ryan Rodgers
Seiskaya Ballet School
Ben Sozanski
Maya Tepler
Trey Tetreault
Isaree Thatchaichawalit
Will Thwaites
Lana Wilson
Cynthia Wuthmann
UnionDocs Center for Documentary Art