Aussie’s ‘comedy-drama’ wins Best Screenplay at London Greek Film Festival
Naomi Lisner has never been to Greece, but her empathy for Greek people and things was such that the script for her fourth feature film Twenty last summers won first place by receiving the Cosmocinema Award Screenplay at the 15th London Greek Film Festival and Screenplay Competition.
The award for best fiction feature film script for Twenty last summers, a “comedy-drama” about a group of friends in their 50s and 60s who take stock of their lives and how they should live it to the fullest, while they still can. As the story begins in Australia, it moves to Athens and ends in Santorini – one of the places on Ms Lisner’s bucket list.
“The screenplay is a reflection of my love for Greek culture and I’m so grateful that it won the best screenplay award,” she said. Neos Kosmos. Although she may not have traveled to Greece yet, she has many friends within the Greek community, some of whom she has worked with in the performance world, such as Antonios Baxevanidis and George Donikian who are involved in the feature film interrupted by COVID. film project on the last years of Lord Byron entitled heart of fury. Ms Lisner is co-producing and starring in the film which was written by her business partner Derek Erskine and is another Greece-related project.
And she sees common themes between Greeks and her own Jewish background.
“It’s a similar culture, we overfeed people to begin with. A person can’t come into our homes without being supplied with food and drink. Whenever I needed something, the Greek community was there for me,” she added.
The idea for Twenty last summers came to see her following a conversation with a friend who had just lost a relative.
“She said we should travel and enjoy life while we still had 20 years of good life in us. The friend is now walking the Camino de Santiago (the walking pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, in northwestern Spain),” Ms Lisner said.
“I wrote Twenty last summers as soon as I hung up the phone with her. I can be outside and hear someone say a phrase and it triggers a line of thought,” says Ms. Lisner.
COVID halted many of his plans to attend film festivals around the world, but it allowed him to conduct extensive research on Greece to add to the storyline’s authenticity.
“I read about Greece, its history, I studied the streets (where the story takes place) and the different things I would do as a tourist. There was no other country that I could envision for this movie. I made up characters that live there and I’m glad the story resonates.”
“For me as a kid growing up in Australia most of the milk bars in those days were Greek owned. The local fish and chips were also owned by a lot of Greek and Italian families and when they talk about diversity I think sometimes you forget it, Australia is a multicultural society.
“I went to a public school in Sydney and my class was very diverse. The class was mixed with Greeks, Italians, native Lebanese, Asians and of course Australians. I had lots of friends, but in many ways, coming from a Jewish background, I was the odd one out, especially at Christmas and Easter.
“When I think of Twenty last summers (he asks the question) ‘if you don’t do what you want now, when will you do it?’. I don’t want to be an old woman thinking about what could have been. Don’t wait for the right moment because it might never happen. she warned.
Ms Lisner developed a love of acting at an early age – she was eight when she began studying spoken word at Trinity College London. She was to appear in a production of Peter Pan as Tinkerbell.
She grew up in Sydney and continued her acting education at the Ensemble Theater under the late Broadway legend Hayes Gordon, among others. She has acted on television, in theater and in cinema.
She moved to Melbourne 20 years ago and continued to study her craft at the Melbourne Actors Lab with Peter Kalos.
After her marriage, she put her career on hold to focus on her family, she has two sons. She resumed her career after her children grew up and her 28-year marriage ended in 2013. There are, she says, “few opportunities” for an actress in her 50s and that’s the one of the reasons she turned to writing. screenplays and creation of a film production company.
“For me, leaving a marriage without that security and sense of purpose has not been an easy road. It’s always incredibly hard and often filled with anxiety. To find a steady income without references, or a tertiary education, well let’s just say, its slim choices there. I think that’s why I started writing and why people identify with my characters, because they’re real.
At the end of 2015, Ms. Lisner created DFUA Productions with the aim of producing and co-producing projects close to her heart.
In 2017, she made her debut as a director in the short film Hannah Rosenthal which she also wrote, produced, directed and starred in. Another well-received short was L’Chaim in which she was again involved at all levels of its production. Both films have won awards at festivals around the world.
Outraged Twenty last summers, she has also written screenplays for feature films Apparently so, The imbalance, The imbalance 2 – all of which have won awards. She has won over 70 awards and nominations at film festivals around the world, but only one in Australia.
The goal is to have the scenarios adopted and winning the festivals helps in this direction.
“If you can win with a variety of works, it shows your versatility and it opens doors if people see that you can tackle different genres. The first question producers ask is ‘have you won any awards.’
But she’s not waiting for that to happen. As well as visiting film festivals throughout the year, Ms. Lisner will work with director Derek Erskine to complete heart of furythe feature film about Lord Byron’s final years and his role in the pandemic-interrupted Greek War of Independence.
Derek Erskine who directs the film and plays the lead role of Lord Byron. In addition to co-producing, Ms. Lisner plays Margarita Cogni. the wife of a Venetian baker with whom Byron had a brief affair in 1817.
“Derek and I have worked on several projects together. He played opposite me in both Hannah Rosenthal and L’Chaim and edited both,” she said.
“There are only half a dozen scenes left to do. While we know some actors are wondering what’s going on, we’re looking forward to finishing filming over the next two months.