Today sees the release of Among Friends, the directorial debut of Danielle Harris, the talented scream queen who genre fans know from the Halloween and Hatchet films, along with her recent co-staring role in the excellent film The Victim from Michael Biehn in his own directorial debut. Among Friends also stars Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, who herself co-starred with Harris in The Victim, which was directed by her husband. It’d a nice little circle going on here, one which is completed by the wonderful Alyssa Lobit, who wrote and stars in Among Friends alongside her friend, Jennifer.
Among Friends is the story of a group of longtime pals whose live suddenly unravel when one amongst them decides to reveal all of their lies and mis-deeds. The script is clever and raises questions about just how much we all really know about the group of people we hang around. Danielle Harris does an excellent job as director, keeping the pace moving. She also delivers a fantastic, tripped out scene in the middle of the film that should definitely make her highlight reel.
We have an interview with Harris coming soon, but today we’re happy to bring you an email interview I conducted with writer/star Alyssa Lobit. Alyssa and I were scheduled to meet this past Friday of Fan Expo Canada, but family commitments meant I had to go the email route. The Queen and I did get a chance to chat with Alyssa and her boyfriend at a party Saturday night, and I can tell you, she was immediately engaging, both with me and my wife. Getting the chance to talk with her about pop culture, the business and more was a highlight of the evening.
So, check out the trailer for Among Friends, and then jump into our interview with Alyssa Lobit after the jump!
Alyssa Lobit: Thank you! I was inspired by life, really. It started as my questioning the gray area of dishonesty and “white lies”, and in turn, what is acceptable behavior among friends 🙂 Then I had the twisted thought of “What if the things people did in secret were exposed to the people who trusted them? What would happen if they had to face consequences for the lies and betrayals they commit against their friends?” I find psychology and human behavior very interesting. What makes people tick and the actions they take, or don’t take, as choices in their lives?
Andy Burns: How did your script wind up in the hands of Danielle Harris?
Alyssa Lobit: Jennifer Blanc-Biehn was a good friend and we’d collaborated a bit in the past. She was coming off of having made The Victim, in which I had a small acting role, and I’d just completed a yearlong festival run with my first writing/starring venture, The Things We Carry (which she appears in as well). Jen came to me, asking if I had any feature scripts ready to go, and I mentioned the idea. She loved it and told me to write the script while she got the rest of the team together. She knew Danielle Harris, who was a good friend of hers, was looking for a feature to make her directorial debut with, and the rest is history!
Andy Burns: What’s your process like when you’re writing? Do you have designated work times during the course of a day? Do you bunker down and disappear when you’re writing? What method has worked for you?
Alyssa Lobit: My process is something of a binge-purge cycle, I think. I’ll have an idea for a script and then let that marinate, while not writing a single thing down. In fact, it’ll look a lot like I’m goofing off and not working at all! I’ll watch movies, surf the internet for hours, take walks, people-watch. Just kind of intentionally NOT write anything down, soaking in whatever, however. This is where that seed of the idea is taking root and growing. And there will always come a point where it’s like a switch has been flipped in my head and I’ll know “It’s time to write.” At that point, I disappear as much as possible and write straight through, from page one to the end. That’s the purge… And in many ways it does feel like I’m “throwing up” a screenplay, haha. After that first draft is “out”, I go back through to tighten and polish. I also work best with an aggressive deadline. I set one for myself with Among Friends – one week. I got it done in two weeks, so I was late, but still happy to have turned it out pretty quickly.
Andy Burns: You play the role of Bernadette in the film – when you were writing, did you always envision yourself as the character?
Alyssa Lobit: No, not consciously. I knew I’d end up acting in the film, but when I write, I really don’t see myself as an actress at all, in order to keep from censoring myself. I wear multiple hats, but not all at once! When I’m writing, I’m the writer; when I’m acting, I’m the actress, etc. I’ve been blessed to be on creative teams with my past two features, which have helped to keep my various roles pretty distinct in the different phases of filmmaking.
Andy Burns: Was it hard as the writer to put yourself in the hands of a director? What was the relationship between yourself and Danielle on-set – was it actor/director? writer/director? A combination?
Alyssa Lobit: I was all too happy to go from being the writer to being an actress! And it was great because Danielle and I worked so well together re-writing and fine-tuning Among Friends that I felt very safe and in good hands when the time came for me to put the actress hat on. There were a couple times during production where I had to put the writer hat back on to re-write on the fly, but for the most part, I was able to focus on acting. My sister and producing partner, Athena Lobit (Girl in the Lake, Cowboys & Indians, The Things We Carry) came onto the producing team in large part because we needed a producer who wasn’t going to be acting in the movie. That, and she’s the best producer I know, whose creativity is matched by her business acumen. So I felt even more secure in letting go and focusing on acting.
Andy Burns: Tell me how you felt seeing your script come to life the first time you watched the completed film?
Alyssa Lobit: It’s always a trip to see something I wrote turned into a movie! I liken it to having a baby (though I’ve never had one). But it’s this notion of creating this new entity… And you hope that it comes out cute and smart and awesome. But you can’t know what it’ll look like, because it’s a collaboration of so many things and people and elements coming together. That said, I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished with Among Friends 🙂
Andy Burns: Now that Among Friends is out in the world, what are you currently working on?
Alyssa Lobit: My next feature script is called 7 Remain and is a psychological thriller exploring how assumptions and fear can corrupt bonds. It’s in development and packaging, so I hope to have more to share on it soon! I’ve got a couple other writing projects, but I’m really looking forward to acting more, on other peoples’ projects, this coming year.
Andy Burns: Final question – what are you reading/watching/listening to that Biff Bam Pop readers should check out?
Alyssa Lobit: I just finished reading Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. Not very current, but I love his writing! My fave is Stranger in a Strange Land 🙂 I love music and I’m currently really into Passion Pit, The XX and Mike Snow.
Thanks to Alyssa for taking the time to chat with Biff Bam Pop (via email and in person). Among Friends is out now on DVD/Blu-ray from Anchor Bay.