NO STOPPING HER NOW – NAOMI LISNER12 Jan 2018
When Naomi Lisner’s marriage ended, she made the decision to never let anything hold her back again, especially age and gender. Now, after a lifetime of acting, she’s writing her own screenplays and has just made her directorial debut with Hannah Rosenthal, a short film she might also turn into a feature film or TV series.
Naomi was one of those people who kept saying that one day she’d write a book. In fact, she ended up writing a number of screenplays first. ‘It was my love of writing that saved my sanity whilst I was going through the divorce,’ she tells us frankly. ‘I started to write and realised that I could actually do it, and do it well.’
The divorce was a major turning point in Naomi’s life. After being married for 28 years she had no idea what to do next, or even how she was going to feed herself. ‘I was anxious,’ she tells us, ‘but I thought I can't be the only one who was experiencing that. There are probably millions of women who’ve gone through the same thing.’
‘I started interviewing women who, like me, had stayed in relationships because they were too scared to leave. I got so many interesting stories that I decided to mix them together, add my own flavour and it became a drama.’
That was how her first screenplay, Apparently So, was born. But her divorce wasn’t the only inspiration for writing this piece. Naomi was becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of interesting film roles for women and, in particular, for women over 50. ‘I wanted to show that these women aren’t just mothers and grandmothers,’ she says. ‘I wanted to show that they’re funny, sexual and crazy. Last week, for instance, I was performing on stage as a go-go dancer with two women that were less than half my age!’
Not holding back
Naomi’s attitude is one to admire, and so too is her work rate. Currently making its way around the world’s film festivals is Tracy, a 96 minute psychological thrillerwhich Naomi co-wrote and co-produced. She’s also just written another feature called The Imbalance that, like Naomi, pulls no punches. ‘It’s about two actresses sharing an apartment and facing the imbalances in this industry,’ she tells us. Naomi will play one of the actresses and Mardi Edge the other. Then in 2018 Naomi will act and co-produce another film called Heart of Fury and before that begins she will play the lead role of Evelyn, a night club singer, in Derek Erskine’s film The Incredible Chronicles of Mr Pasqual.
Unsurprisingly, with all these projects on the go, Apparently So, will have to be put on the back burner for now.
Doing things differently
Earlier this year, Naomi was one of the winners in our Kicking Your Goals competition for her stand-out achievement of directing the short, Hannah Rosenthal. We asked what the film was about.
‘Hannah has learning disabilities, and her ailing mother, knowing she’s got little time left, is worried about her daughter’s future. She wants her to be looked after by someone, but Hannah wants to be independent and finds love with someone who’s more intellectually challenged than herself. Naturally the mother is conflicted. She wants her daughter to be happy but doesn’t think this person is good enough for her. It brings up so many issues but also a lot of comedy.’
Asked what drove Naomi to write about this subject matter, she told us, ‘Basically I wanted to do something that hadn’t been done before. I wanted to show that people with disabilities are real, loving, sexual and independent. The religion and traditions add an interesting twist to the story.’
It’s all about collaborating
Naomi enjoyed her first directorial role immensely, telling us that although it was a very personal experience, it was invaluable having a talented and experienced team around her whom she trusted implicitly. ‘Yes, I directed it,’ she shares, ‘but no project is entirely your pat on the back. It’s a collaboration. If not, something’s wrong. You steer the ship but you need great people in the ship with you.’
One trusted member of that team is, the aforementioned, Derek Erskine who in this film plays the part of Hannah’s love interest. Like Naomi, he acts, writes, produces and directs. He’s also Naomi’s business partner. ‘Derek and I set up Ahavah Casting for our own projects. Ahavah being the Hebrew word for love,’ she explains. ‘We’re both very passionate about giving new talent a go. I know how it feels to be submitted for a role but not invited in for an audition, then to find that role has gone to a household name. There is nothing wrong with a known actor getting a part, but if you don’t audition others it’s the same actors always being recycled.’
Life has certainly changed for Naomi since her divorce and she has definitely discovered a new lease of life for herself. She concludes by letting us into a secret though. ‘I don't know if you know this, but only people between 20 and 30 have craziness in their lives.’ Somehow we don’t think Naomi’s telling us the truth.