Lisa France Walks Us Through Her Journey To Becoming A Director

Lisa France’s passion for film spiked after an interesting turn of events. Back in college, France was a cross country athlete and a Division 1 basketball player, which she took up professionally after graduation. However, it was only when she stumbled across the famous 1998 romance film “Meet Joe Black” shooting in her neighbourhood that she became convinced to pursue her career as a director. France directed, wrote, and produced her first film “Love In Tow” in 1999 and received the “Best Comedy” award a year later. Ever since, she has produced various successful films.

However, one of France’s greatest works and the highlight of her career was filming the series “Queen Sugar.” While filming, France simultaneously faced hardships due to the Black Lives Matter movement and the onset of COVID. She and her crew lost many friends and family members and also dealt with crime on set. Trying to infuse her feelings and the real-life events into the show was a very emotional experience for her. “We poured our thoughts and emotions into those 10 episodes,” she says. Her passion for film and the quality of her work have helped her earn a reputable name in the film industry.  

LASM: How did you get interested in the film industry?

Lisa France: My boss and I were walking by a little county players’ theatre in New York where they were holding auditions. A woman chased me down and told me to audition for a transvestite in a play called “Come back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.” I auditioned and I got the understudy, but I turned it down and moved to New York and studied acting. I was living in an Afro Dominican neighborhood. They were shooting Meet Joe Black right just five blocks away, and I was blown away. So over that weekend, I read four books on filmmaking. I took a lot of acting classes and did a Broadway play as well. I still act occasionally because I think it’s a great exercise to remind ourselves as directors what actors give us.

We ask a lot from performers and it’s just a reminder of the respect we need to have for them. So, I’m glad I started as an actress.

LASM: You made your television directorial debut just last year. What were your favorite moments within each season?

Lisa France: Ava had a history of supporting women directors, and I really wanted to be a part of that. She gave me the opportunity to direct Episode 502 of “Queen Sugar” and I got only two days into shooting and COVID hit. I later got a call from my publisher saying that I could come back and finish my episodes. It was an extraordinary experience for our entire crew because we went through a lot of emotional events at that time. 

I can’t thank Ava enough because I couldn’t have done it without her. It was such an honor to shepherd the season with these incredible women. I feel like we’ve made this huge community and for all of us to succeed is so wonderful. It’s spectacular to have been part of a diverse community of women, including women of color and the LGBTQ+ community.

Interview By Tricia Love Vargas
Read Next: The Rapid Rise From Production Assistant To Director’s Chair

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