The Imbalance is about Sally and Celeste who are two best friends in their 50's both actors . After a life of raising a family they both find themselves divorced and starting over. What follows is a series of terrible dates meeting with a series of rejections both with men and trying to find work. A hilarious look at the film and TV industry and being mature aged women. The Imbalance was recently an award winner of the the Toronto Women Film Festival.
The Imbalance is written by Naomi Lisner, an Australian actor/writer/director and producer with close to 50 international awards. Naomi is a strong advocate for gender equality and diversity serving on the board of WIFT Vic ( Women in Films and TV) from 2015-2017.
Lisner is a long time MEAA member (Media Equity Australian Alliance) and served on their wellness committee as well . Lisner is long serving volunteer for the VABT (Victorian Actors Benevolent Trust) and it's a charity that is extremely important to her.
Lisner is a member of the AWG (Australian Writers Guild) and since 2016 has co-written a psychological thriller , 3 features, 2 short films and is currently writing another feature which she anticipates to be completed later this year.
In 2016, Lisner started her own production company DFUA Productions Pty Ltd and directed for the first time in 2018. Naomi is presented by Profile Talent Management.
How did you start making films and what was the first film product you worked on?
I never expected to make films. I started off as an actor appearing on stage as Tinkerbell in Peter Pan as a child. The first film set I was ever on was as a featured extra in a Bruce Beresford film called Puberty Blues. I was a teenager then. I continued as an actor until I married in my late 20's and had kids, then took time out of the industry. When my marriage collapsed, I knew there was a big part of my life missing. I missed acting. It never dawned on me that I could write and make films. I retrained as an actor but truthfully, I had lost a lot of my confidence along the way. Derek Erskine a director/actor/writer offered me a role in a film he was making which is now going to be a TV series called Blue bird. Somehow, we formed this immediate friendship and became business partners. I told him that I had written a screen play called Apparently So, which is a feature drama. At the time Derek had written a psychological thriller called Tracy with actress and singer from the band Darlinghurst, Cassandra Leopold. He felt that it needed another dimension and asked me if I would complete the film. I enjoyed the challenge and also wrote a complex character called Jade Patterson, which I played in the film. The more I was on set watching Derek direct, the more it made me want to try my hand at it. That was when I wrote, directed and starred in my first short called Hannah Rosenthal.
What was the inspiration behind the making of your film?
My background is Jewish (although non-religious), and I started to think that I have never seen a film where there was a Jewish character was seen as intellectually challenged. It kept on tossing around in my mind and I wanted to explore that. In the story Hannah lives with her elderly Mum who is very traditional. Hannah works as a life model which is not what you would expect from that background. I literally wanted to rip down the stereo types and show a different perspective.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent female filmmaker in the film industry?
There are many challenges. I think having a voice that gets listened to and respected. I don't follow the rules, and tend to write parts for more mature aged actors because they seem to have been left behind unless they are already established. I prefer to see new faces and there seems to be this fear that they always need a star. I think the public don't care and just want to see great films. As a female another challenging part is pushing for real faces and more mature faces on screen. While I would never tell someone, what do, I am tired of seeing unnatural faces on screen. I have nothing against plastic surgery but I hate the look of a lineless face or inflated lips. If we only see young faces or women with faces that don't move, what sort of message are we sending? I want young women to see that as they age there is still work for them. I grew up admiring Katherine Hepburn and Bette Davis. I still look at their work thinking what incredible actors, and yes beautiful.
How difficult is it to film an indie film?
It's extremely difficult to fund indie films. I live in Australia and getting a grant is hard. The criteria often is unattainable for a multitude of reasons. Part of the problem is that the same people get funded time and again, whether their project made a profit or a loss. They stick with the names they know.
Please name three of your most favourite directors. How have they been influential in your work?
It's hard to narrow it down to 3 favorite directors, there are many I admire. I hope you will indulge me 4, but I did write earlier, I'm a rule breaker! I admit to smiling broadly when I watched Selma directed by Ava Du Vernay. I think she is incredible and I hope one day I get the privilege to work with her and all the names listed. I admire Greta Gerwig and love her dramedy Lady Bird. There is no way I can go past Steven Spielberg. There are too many films to mention, and to this day I can't understand how The Color Purple wasn't drowning in awards at the Oscars. In recent times I have become great mates with Australian director Ben Lewin. Ben directed The Sessions, and his recent film Falling for Figaro is just fabulous. It's definitely one to watch out for. I am drawn to stories where you are engrossed in the characters and feel like you know them. Ava, Greta , Steven and Ben all have that capacity, to make you feel the heart of each character.
How did your project go into production and how did you finalise the cast and crew?
The first project I filmed was Hannah Rosenthal. It is a short film and although one day I may direct a feature, for a while I still feel I have my trainers' wheels on. What I know is that no one is successful alone. That you need a great team around you and never be afraid to ask for advice. The moment I had finished writing the script, I started to scout locations, actors etc. I knew Derek Erskine would be perfect for the male lead, he is a multi-talent on so many levels. The role of my mother was played by Loraine Fabb. I had met Loraine on set and knew immediately she would be perfect. Loraine is a talented woman and a delight to work with. The role of her carer was played by Harlene Hercules who is a versatile actress with a natural sense of timing. On both Hannah Rosenthal and L'Chaim, Jerry Creaney was the cinematographer. The rest of the production team I hire as needed.
How was the film received by your audience and film festivals and what is your plan for further distribution of the film?
The films have been well received overseas. Both are still on the festival circuit and both premiered in Spain at the Girona Film Festival in Barcelona. I was fortunate to attend both times. I raved so much how fabulous the festival was, that actor Don Bridges and his wife Judy came with me for L'Chaim. Don a well-known Australian actor plays the role of Egor who has the most insidious character. I plan to work with him in the near future as I would like to write/director and co-star opposite in him, in a film about homelessness. Recently L'Chaim was selected for Twister Alley Film Festival in Oklahoma however due to covid they had to go online. I was however fortunate enough to attend there when my feature screenplay The Imbalance was a finalist. I was offered distribution for both Hannah Rosenthal and L'Chaim by Intellect Pictures a Toronto/LA based firm. My screenplays have been very successful which brings me incredible joy. I recently entered The Imbalance in The Toronto International Womens Film Festival and won best female writer . Just two weeks prior it took out best romantic comedy at The Houston Comedy Festival.
What do you recommend to other filmmakers regarding the making and the distribution of independent films?
I have this relentless tenacity that when a door slams in my face I go for the window. When that is shut, I just keep trying and I have learned to be shameless. By that, it means don't be afraid of a no. We all get rejections. When it comes to me as a human or filmmaker, I have learned this. It's like throwing mud against a wall, something will eventually stick. To back yourself and don't beat yourself up if you don't always get the result you want. Learn from it and move on. I cannot stress this enough, don't be ashamed of self promoting. We always worry how we are perceived and at times it's hard not to feel judged. If you can let go of all of that, you will be happier. Trust your instincts.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?
I have written a sequel to The Imbalance and would love to get that made. I know it could either be two features or broken down into a TV series. I hope to sell it along with my first screenplay Apparently So, which I have also written as a longer version in a book. At the moment I am producer on my business partners (Derek Erskine) feature Heart of Fury which he is directing and starring in. Apart from producing it I play the role of Margarita Cogni, who is married to a Venetian baker and has an affair with Byron. It is based on the last few years of Lord Byrons life and the Greek war of Independence.
I nearly finished writing another feature film called Twenty Last Summers. It is another romantic comedy I started in lockdown. The next feature I play to write is a courtroom drama that I am looking forward to, plus making the short on homelessness.
Why do you make films?
I see myself as more of an actor/writer although I often wear many other hats. There is something exciting for me about making characters come to life. I love to tell stories that make you feel.