Among Friends: An Interview with Screenwriter and Actress Alyssa Lobit
In 2012 the now defunct Viscera Film Festival announced a sneak peak screening of horror icon Danielle Harris’ (Halloween 4, See No Evil 2) directorial debut, Among Friends (2012). It was via this news that I first learned of lead actress and the films screenwriter, Alyssa Lobit.
Together, these two powerhouse women molded a shared vision based on Lobit’s script and brought to life a character driver dinner party mind-fuck; unfolding during an 80’s costume party from hell.
It was an honor to interview Lobit about the ways in which being an actress informs her writing, being a woman in a male dominated industry, advice for screenwriters looking to start-out, and an updates on her current projects.
Hannah Neurotica: You starred in Danielle Harris’ [Halloween, See No Evil 2] directorial debut but you also wrote it. As you were working on the screenplay for Among Friends did you find that being an actress helped inform the way you wrote the film?
Alyssa Lobit: Absolutely! When I write, I hear the characters’ voices in my head and write down what they say. Really. I’m pretty sure I’m able to hear those different voices because of being an actress. Because when I act, I open myself up, open my consciousness up, to being “different people.” It’s a very natural process for me to hear the different characters because I’m not stuck in my own Alyssa Lobit point of view.
Hannah: The story centers around the theme of betrayal. Did any of your personal experiences inspire this story? I feel like so many people can relate to the visceral hurt and anger of a friend stabbing you in the back.
Alyssa: Thankfully, not really! I’ve certainly experienced hurt, anger and betrayal, but I’m pretty attuned to psychological self-care. I’m constantly (obsessively?) analyzing my self, my thoughts/feelings and how I interact with and respond to others. It’s taken me a long time to get to this place — and by no means do I have it all figured out! — but for me, those denser (negative) emotions are indications of a need to express myself, value myself, allow myself, forgive myself, love myself. Everyone is doing their best, even when their best may suck, from my point of view. The same goes for me. Forgiveness and compassion keep me pretty insulated from whatever chaos and drama may be occurring during a hurricane. It was a tough shoot, and there was certainly some drama because of the high intensity of it all, but I was pretty proud of myself for not getting sucked into it… Too much, haha!
Alyssa: Jennifer Blanc was on board to produce/act in Among Friends and she brought in Danielle. Prior to then, I’d met Danielle a couple times socially over the years, but after we met the first time to discuss the project and making her directorial debut with it, I knew it was a great fit! We got along great and had similar ideas on how to develop the script and characters further and went to town!
Hannah: I liked the trippy homage to Halloween. I can make the assumption that part was not written into the script until Danielle was on board as director then, yes?
Alyssa: The specifics of that were written in once Danielle was directing. That scene gave us a lot of leeway to include some great cameos (including Michael Biehn and Xavier Gens) so we tailored it to the people who were available when it came time to shoot it.
Alyssa: I’ve always been intrigued by psychological horrors, in particular. The Shining was a big one for me. I do scare easily, though, so I never watch a horror movie alone! Haha, Vampire movies can be great! I like the mythology of vampires and the idea of living in various eras, and being all sexy and eternal and whatnot. I love Anne Rice’s take on it. But more than vamps, I’m a big sci-fi/fantasy nerd. I love the limitlessness of those stories. Also, there’s usually some interesting social commentary and reflection of evolving human consciousness in most sci-fi flicks, which I really dig.
Alyssa: I’m definitely gonna go with “helped” because I believe everything we are and encounter is in support of our growth, even when it might not seem like it or presents some challenges. As a woman, I have a perspective which could be considered “unique” among the largely male-dominated realm of filmmaking, storytelling, curators of media, etc. In this way, it’s helped me in both arenas of acting and writing: A couples times, I’ve been frustrated, exhausted or lacking inspiration, and felt a fire in my belly to keep going. Because, if for no other reason than being a woman, I gotta tell my stories to give voice to a gender that comprises half of the human race.
But, honestly? I don’t really think about it much. Do you think dudes sit around asking this question of themselves? Nah, they just get to it. They face challenges and setbacks, but are probably not ever thinking, “Oh, they didn’t like my movie/pick my script/give me that job because I’m a man.” Why would any woman fill herself with such self-hating thinking? Why would someone judge themselves for something they not only can’t change, but that they should be proud of? I get it, I do – and there are so many amazing women who are out there with an intent to actively bust that glass ceiling. I’m just someone who looks past it to the goal. Both types of women are ultimately making it through the ceiling, see? It’s just a matter of choice. And for me, there is no spoon 😉
Hannah: What projects do you have in the works right now?
Alyssa: I recently wrote and voiced a video game called 40Hz. It was my first time working in that medium and it was really fun! Very freeing to create a world and characters without any limits. The development team is working on it now, so I hope to have news about its release in 2015! I’m shooting I Can’t With You this month, written and directed by Angel Lopez (producer of Dear White People). It’s been great fun to wear ONE hat and my favorite one: Actress! Lots of great stuff in store for this year. I can’t say more yet, but I’m super excited! 😉
Hannah: So, then acting is your favorite hat to wear. In that case, are you working on any screenplays or strictly focusing on being in front of the camera for right now?
Alyssa: I do have a few screenplays that are in various stages, from development to fully completed and ready to shoot. I’m not putting them on hold, per se, but I’m going with the flow. It can take a lot of focus to get a script into production. It can also be as easy as waiting for the right timing. I’m doing the latter 😉
Hannah: Any advice for young screenwriters who are intimidated at the idea of getting started? What would you suggest?
Alyssa: Write. Just go. Start wherever you are and keep going. Pay attention to the stories you enjoy (movies, TV, jokes, conversations, all interactions, whatever, all of it!) and consider why they work, what you enjoyed. Utilize the internet to study up on story structure and read scripts (for free!). Writing is the one part of this industry that requires only YOU. After the script is written, you’ll need the collaboration of others (producers, actors, director, others to give feedback, etc.). But as the writer? You are the first one on the job of telling the story; You are unlimited. You don’t need to rely on anyone or wait for anyone. This also means it’s up to YOU to just go on and fucking DO IT 😉