Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Naomi Lisner

An interview with screenwriter Naomi Lisner regarding the Near Nazareth Writing Competition.

Q: What's the title of the script you entered in this contest, and what's it about?

A: The film is called L'Chaim. I wrote/directed and play the role of Aviva. I am sending you a link to an interview and the end of this one is the trailer of L'Chaim. There are two segments that go before this but this is the last one. It is about a Jewish woman who is hiding in the forest in WW2. Aviva sees a farmer brutally beating her son. Aviva knows if she goes to help him that she is jeopardizing her safety, however she helps him anyway. I wanted to write a holocaust story with a difference. I know that the word L'Chaim is used to toast a celebration and this is the opposite. It is a dark story but one that poses many questions? I am considering turning it into a feature. It is a short film just over eight minutes and has just started on the festival circuit. It premiered at the 31st Girona film festival in Spain in September 2019. L'Chaim is a finalist in this festival.

Q: What made you enter this particular contest? Have you entered any other contests with this script? If so, how did you do?

A: I chose this contest because I had entered my first short film Hannah Rosenthal which was chosen as a semi finalist. The following year I subtitled a comedy feature screenplay The Imbalance and it made official selection. I think for me what appealed was a number of things. I like that the communication is good. That they promote the films and seem passionate and enthusiastic and that it doesn't matter where in the world you are from. L'Chaim is on the festival circuits and has just started its journey awaiting results. It premiered at the 31st Girona film festival in Barcelona Spain. It was chosen best short drama people's choice award at the Amsterdam World International film festival,Best European film choice award at the world film fair in LA.

Q: Were you satisfied with the administration of the contest? Did they meet their deadlines? Did you receive all the awards that were promised?

A: They are very professional and that is why I have entered several projects. I am very selective when entering any film festival and I read all the reviews. I have only heard positive things about this festival and it is why I will continue to submit future projects.

Q: How long did it take you to write the script? Did you write an outline beforehand? How many drafts did you write?

A: I wrote the script very quickly and the idea was forming in my head. I was flying home from Spain (25 hours plus from Australia) and I started to form ideas. When I write I tend to visualize costumes, locations and even think about music. I am like that with everything no matter what the genre. I am not a person who writes loads of drafts. I re-read and perhaps do some minor changes. I trust my instincts. i know there are people who write loads of drafts. I don't work like that. For me there is a reason why I had a thought. If I keep questioning the thought and making changes then I am going against my natural instinct. I do always sit down before we start filming and talk to the actors. I discuss everything from the script to wardrobe with them. I am always open to suggestions and that also goes with the the crew. To me making a film is a collaborative process.

Q: What kind of software did you use to write the script, if any? What other kinds of writing software do you use?

A: I write on a program called Celtx but I use their professional version not the free one. This gives me many more options with storyboards, locations etc I also have far too many projects to use the free version.

Q: Do you write every day? How many hours per day?

A: I use to write for about 8 hours a day until I herniated the lower disc. I write most days but make sure I get up and go for a walk in between and do stretches. This year I have written less than the previous years but I have written a huge amount in the past few years. As I juggle a variety of things in the film industry , the amount can vary. I don't stress if there are times I write less than other times. I can write some days for just thirty minutes and other days for a few hours.

Q: Do you ever get writer's block? If so, how do you deal with that?

A: There are times that I get blocked but I won't sit by the computer waiting for inspiration. I find the thoughts and ideas come to me when I am not over tired or stressed. When the words are not coming I usually go for a walk or hike and always have music in my ears. My best work comes when I am relaxed and there are times I have woken up in the middle of the night and an idea has come to me in my sleep. When that happens my computer goes straight on and the words seem to flow freely. I use to be angry with myself if I didn't feel I was productive enough. I have realized that is counterproductive and to remember I am not a robot.

Q: What's your background? Have you written any other screenplays or television scripts?

A: The first thing I ever wrote was a drama feature screenplay called Apparently So that I have also written as a book. It was just after divorcing from a long marriage and starting over again. I found it cathartic and it started from there. Since then I co-wrote a psychological thriller feature Tracy with Derek Erskine and Cassandra Leopold. I became business partners with Derek and Cassandra is now part of the musical band Darlinghurst that has had a song here at number 1 on the country music charts for 6 weeks. I have written two feature comedies, 2 short films drama's, I am co-writing an erotic psychological thriller with Derek Erskine, and I am a third of the way writing a romantic comedy (TV or feature- unknown). The two comedy features are sequels The Imbalance and The Imbalance 2. I know they would be great as a TV series and that is definitely an option.

Q: Do you live in Los Angeles? If not, do you have any plans to move there?

A: I am based in Melbourne Australia and I travel quite a bit. In three weeks I am going to The Palm Springs film festival at the invitation of a friend who lives there called Adrian Bernotti. He is excited about some of my projects and would like to introduce me to a few people in the industry there. One who is an Oscar nominee and has shown interest in wanting to work with me and my business partner Derek Erskine. Although its wonderful to hear the enthusiasm I have been in the industry long enough to know that until you have the finance, contacts signed and are on set then not to get carried away by the hype.

Would I move to LA? It would have to be a spectacular offer but I prefer the idea of having the freedom to travel there or elsewhere as required. I never say never because I don't know what is around the corner. While writing is a large part of my life, acting is a larger part.

Q: What's next? Are you working on a new script?

A: At the moment I am writing a romantic comedy called Twenty Last Summers. The idea came to me after a conversation with a friend.I always know when a comedy or romantic comedy is working, when I read it back and still laugh in the same moments each time.

I am co-producer and actor on a feature called Heart of Fury written by my business partner Derek Erskine. We are both actor/writers although he has more experience than I do at directing. It is a period drama based around the final years of Lord Byron's life and the Greek war of Independence. It is in production and we plan to have it completed in the first quarter of 2020. We are co-writing a thriller and have together a list of projects that we would like to get up and running.

Posted Monday, December 2, 2019