Garnet Girl’s international film movement

How producer Lisa G. Black helped connect filmmakers on both sides of the Atlantic

Photo courtesy of Lisa G. Black

Photo courtesy of Lisa G. Black

Michael Kleiner
Philadelphia, Penn.

For Lisa G. Black, it’s about sharing connections and knowledge.

When the Newark, Del., resident launched Garnet Girl in 2008, she described the mission as “specializing in bridging business to creative… providing strategic marketing solutions and financial analysis, through various stages of production.”

Eight years later, she has credits on current and future Norwegian, Swedish, and Icelandic movies, has traveled to Norway 12 times in six years, and helped launch a U.S.-Norway Film Development Initiative.

“I saw a trend toward international coproduction of films,” said the energetic Black. “There was an opportunity to co-venture and I had a love for European filmmaking.

“I find up-and-coming talent, be it writers or directors, and I help them with the business sense. I share my expertise to help facilitate their successful careers. It’s more fun helping people who others don’t know. Whatever network I have, I want to share my network. I take joy in helping people.”

Black worked in marketing for various industries for 25 years. Her January birth stone, garnet, symbolizes energy, trust, and loyalty. At the time, Black had two young daughters, hence Garnet Girl.

Three of her movies have made a splash recently. Miles, Hevn, and Almost Paris premiered in Europe in February. All three sold at Marchedu, the marketing arm of the Cannes Film Festival. “This is a big deal,” she said. “Marchedu is the market where buyers decide which films to exhibit. The films will continue on the festival circuit.”

She is full producer and unit publicist for the U.S. independent Miles, a story of a teenage boy who joins a high school women’s volleyball team to get a scholarship to a school in Chicago. Among the producers is Ash Christian, who wrote and directed the Swedish comedy Mangus!, Black’s first “Scandinavian experience.” Directed by Nathan Adloff, Miles stars Missi Pyle, TV and stage actor Stephen Root, Paul Reiser, and Molly Shannon. Black’s daughters, Beatrice and Sofia, were costume and production interns. Sofia is an extra in the film.

Black is the executive producer and unit publicist for Hevn, the Norwegian word for revenge. It made its North American premiere at the prestigious Tiff Bell Tower in Toronto on May 27. Originally entitled Doll on a Ceiling, it is a thriller based on the book by Ingvar Ambjørnsen. Set in western Norway, a woman uses an alias to infiltrate the family of the man who murdered her sister to exact her revenge.

This film was emblematic of international collaboration. The Norwegian full producer is Kristine Knudsen. Canadian Paul Barkin is another producer. “Hevn has a Canadian element,” said Black. “I introduced Paul to Kristine. Paul brought Canadian input. It is the first time a Norwegian film has a Norwegian director and filmmaker (Kjersti Steinbø) and Norwegian, American, and Canadian producers. The collaboration brought a Norwegian film out of Norway and will give it exposure in other countries. The story is compelling.”

Photo courtesy of Lisa G. Black Lisa G. Black (center, with Øyvind Hollo-Klausen and Sigmund Elias Holm in Norway in 2010) has worked on several international film projects.

Photo courtesy of Lisa G. Black
Lisa G. Black (center, with Øyvind Hollo-Klausen and Sigmund Elias Holm in Norway in 2010) has worked on several international film projects.

The third film is comedy drama Almost Paris, which Black co-produced. It had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City in April. The film has some star power as it is directed by Martin Scorcese’s daughter, Domenica Cameron-Scorcese, includes her 16-year-old step-sister, Francesca Scorcese, in the cast, as well as Abigail Hawk, Adrian Martinez, Obie Award-winner Joanna P. Adler, and Michael Sorvino (also a producer of the film), son of Paul Sorvino. The story centers around a former banker who returns to his hometown during the mortgage lending crisis. Seeing the effect of his actions on family and friends, he sets about to make amends.

These aren’t the only credits Black is accumulating on and off screen. The business got its first international break in 2009 and then things started rolling from there. First stop was Colombia. At the Tribeca Film Festival in 2009, Black met two Swedish filmmakers, Richard Bunke and Sean Wheelan, managing director of Filmgate in Gøteborg. They were working on Mangus! Black partnered with them as executive producer. The story is about Mangus Spedgewick, who wants to carry on the family tradition of playing Jesus in the high school’s annual production of Jesus Christ Spectacular, and tries to win it back after an injury.

“Films are always about great stories, great writing, with an element of discovery, be it a family dynamic or individual,” she said. “Those are very universal. In every country, basic humanity is basic humanity. You can relate to that regardless of race, creed, religion. You should leave the theater feeling a connection to what you saw.”

In April 2010, Black was invited to a reception in New York, which included a Nordic company looking for connections with U.S. producers and financiers. The toe in the fjord came in August 2010, when Black was among five independent American producers invited on a 10-day envoy trip to Norway, sponsored by the Norwegian Film Institute and Innovation Norway. They travelled throughout the country meeting people in the Norwegian film industry. Out of that came the U.S.-Norway Film Development Initiative and subsequently, the Norwegian government providing financial incentives for the Norwegian film industry and for filming in Norway (2016).

In 2013, Black secured two Norwegian films, The Birdcatcher (U.S. Producer, Development Executive), to begin filming in 2017, and The Swimmer (Producer), start of filming to be determined.

On the 2010 trip, she met Barkin on a helicopter ride, showing you never know where you’ll meet the next connection. Black is among the executive producers on an Icelandic film, Afterlands (due out in 2017). Barkin is a producer.

“I fell in love with Norway, the people, country, entrepreneurial spirit,” said Black, a board member of Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce Philadelphia. “I met and collaborated with super talented industry professionals. We learned a lot from each other. We realized that using innovation, passion, and mutual understanding, our goals are the same: to bring compelling stories to an international audience, bridging cultural and business divisions to achieve success.”

This article originally appeared in the July 1, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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