New Jersey is home to many ambitious and talented women who juggle family, career, and home. A select few of these women are also extremely busy building their own companies to help better manage the balance of work and family. At NJMOM, we want to highlight these extraordinary women building New Jersey businesses, and learn the secret to their success.
Founder of The Film Society of Summit & NJMOMpreneur:
Lisa Reznik is an independent filmmaker, writer, journalist, and the founder of The Film Society of Summit. Based in the MONDO building (Summit, New Jersey’s one-stop shop to “eat, shop, and play”) Lisa’s non-profit organization brings innovative documentaries and dramas into the community that can’t be found at the local multiplex. To further connect cinephiles with these works, discussions with the filmmakers follow the screenings to provide further insight into the topics at hand. Lisa herself is an accomplished storyteller, with credits including Tête-à-tête, the story of essential love between philosophers, shot in Paris, France, and 95 Decibels, the 1st place winner of Women Directors International Film Festival in New Dehli, India, 2014. Lisa’s love for film, culture, and travel coincides with her love for her two daughters and their hometown of Summit, a city filled with residents and businesses that champion the arts in all forms, including independent film.
NJMOM had the pleasure of speaking with Lisa about the most rewarding aspects of running The Film Society of Summit, the inspirations that jump-started the organization, and her family’s favorite places to hike, eat, and play in Summit and more interesting locations throughout New Jersey.
NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field?
Lisa: The Film Society of Summit is a non-profit organization that offers a place for audiences to enjoy indie films and discuss the issues they raise. Our mission is also to offer the filmmakers a place to share and discuss their work. In our four years, we’ve shown many critical, cutting edge documentaries and dramas on subjects from the environment, education reform, reducing gun violence, health, gay rights, and political movements. We’ve introduced films and filmmakers who otherwise may not have reached New Jersey audiences. We show two films each month in downtown Summit and strive to show only great films; our reputation depends on it.
NJMOM: What inspired you to come up with the idea for your business?
Lisa: The multiplex cinemas don’t usually show independent films, even though there are many excellent ones that address important issues. When my very good friend, Annette Dwyer, was opening MONDO in Summit five years ago, she offered me the opportunity to run our business there, and for this I am eternally grateful. Primarily, the Film Society of Summit works hard to plan screenings of films that people otherwise may not get to see. Also, I wanted to bridge the gap between filmmaker and viewer, to permit audiences to learn what inspired the filmmaker to take on the film’s topic and what challenges were faced to bring the story to the screen.
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Lisa: For me, it’s exciting to show important films. My favorite part of running our organization is when the audience reacts strongly to what they’ve seen, and when people learn about a topic from the film or from our post-screening discussion. Meeting dedicated filmmakers is another fantastic part of the job. People are selective in how they spend their time; it’s really rewarding when we see people come out to see a film and then say they loved it and will come again. Finding films that will appeal to our audience is an interesting process. Sometimes people submit their films to us and we consider all of these. Mostly, we discover new important films by attending film festivals which are launch pads for films and a lot of fun. We look for dramas and documentaries we think will interest our audience and try to make connections with the filmmakers.
NJMOM: What is your background in your business expertise?
Lisa: I’m a writer, a journalist, an independent filmmaker, and a teacher. I’ve made three award-winning films and am currently working on two documentaries. I’m accustomed to writing press releases to publicize our events, to speak in front of groups to introduce our films and guests and to moderate the discussions. I created and maintain our website and write our weekly e-mail updates to inform the public and our members what’s coming up.
NJMOM: Who is your role model?
Lisa: Karen Cooper who co-founded Film Forum in New York is my role model. Film Forum is one of the original independent cinemas in the country, and has had a tremendous impact on film culture. Karen has been the director for 40 years and has done outstanding work building her organization and public awareness of independent film.
NJMOM: What’s the best piece of advice a role model ever gave to you?
Lisa: My dad encouraged me to travel and explore the world, and was supportive of my desire to study abroad in college. I studied at the Sorbonne in Paris where I developed a love of film, both a desire to see great stories and to create them.
NJMOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by?
Choose people who lift you up. – Michelle Obama
I agree with Michelle, who’s an outstanding role model, that we feel better and can accomplish more when we spend time with people who encourage us in our pursuits.
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family?
Lisa: Our family really enjoys going to the Jersey Shore together, at any time of year. In the summer, we try to go on weekdays when it’s not as hard to park. Another favorite place to go is Lambertville and Washington’s Crossing. We also love hiking in New Jersey and recommend our favorite places such as: Hacklebarney State Park, the Delaware & Raritan Canal, the Great Swamp, and Jockey Hollow.
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Lisa: I’ve loved watching my two daughters develop into thoughtful and generous leaders. I really like when my kids have the curiosity and courage to try new things. I love our conversations, hearing their reactions to what’s happening around them, and discussing their plans for the future as these ideas evolve. I think New Jersey is a wonderful place to raise children; education here is excellent, kids can participate in lots of meaningful activities, and there are lots of interesting and historic places for families to visit. It’s a thrill for me when my two daughters volunteer at Film Society of Summit screenings, and when they enjoy the films we show. It’s also a thrill to hear my daughters say they enjoy movies featuring positive roles for women and girls, such as Girl Rising which we showed our first year.
NJMOM: What are your favorite businesses in New Jersey?
Lisa: My favorite New Jersey businesses include MONDO in Summit,The NJ Visual Arts Center in Summit, Color Me Mine for painting pottery, Boxwood Café in Summit, Grand Summit Hotel in Summit, Roberts Chatham Cinema, Arturo’s Osteria & Pizzeria in Maplewood, St. James’ Gate Publick House Irish Pub in Maplewood, Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison, and Talula’s for artisanal pizza in Asbury Park.
NJMOM: Where do you reside and vacation in New Jersey?
Lisa: We’ve lived in Summit for 10 wonderful years which is a wonderful and welcoming community with a great downtown and excellent public schools. We also have a great demographic in Summit where people really appreciate and support the arts, including independent film. In the four years since we founded The Film Society of Summit, attendance has steadily grown and people in the community invite people they know from towns as far away as New Brunswick and Budd Lake to enjoy our films.
NJMOM: Anything else you’d like to tell moms in New Jersey?
Lisa: New Jersey offers great opportunities for women to work in their field, to try new things, and to achieve their goals while raising their kids. It’s not always easy, but you can be an outstanding mom and leader in your community while pursuing goals that are important to you. Keep at it and ask the right people for help when you need it.