This February, the director and stars of Lifetime Television’s Unwritten Obsession stopped by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles for a special screening and Q&A with our students. The evening was hosted by NYFA Instructor and Co-Chair of the Producing Department Roberta Colangelo.
In attendance were the film’s director, NYFA Instructor David Martín Porras, and leading actors Haley Webb and Chelsea Lopez, who spoke about the filmmaking process from pre-production through post.
Unwritten Obsession follows the story of Skye (Lopez), a struggling writer who loses her husband to suicide. In desperate need of money, she decides to mentor a young fan, Holly (Webb). When Holly completes her book, it is better than anything Skye had ever written. Devastated, Skye submits the book to her publisher with her own name on the cover. When Holly finds out, she decides to take what she’s learned about Skye and use it against her.
Webb spoke about her process for getting into character. One of her more ambitious strategies was to begin writing a novel of her own. “I didn’t finish it,” Webb admitted. Yet the process of beginning a novel helped her get into the right headspace.
“I focused a lot on the justice Holly was trying to get,” Webb explained. “She may seem evil at times, but there’s more happening underneath the surface.”
Adding to the discussion of an actor’s preparation, Lopez shared that, for her, the rehearsals were the most important aspect of developing her character. She remarked that it isn’t often that actors have time to rehearse before production begins.
“Getting to hear David’s thoughts on each scene and how my character evolves was very helpful,” she said.
For Porras, on the other side of the camera, the hardest part of completing the film was finding a way to make two characters in a house feel dramatically interesting for an hour and a half.
“Slowly I realized none of the characters were as transparent as I thought,” Porras said. He got to work reorganizing portions of the script so the film would feel more like a thriller, and focused on working with his actors to illuminate the motives of their character. Porras described this process as “a pleasure.”
Both Lopez and Webb spoke highly of their time on set, reminiscing that between takes they would have fits of laughter.
“It was a really great set, said Webb. “When a director is grounded in what they’re doing, they create a domino effect. They set the tone for the rest of the crew. It allowed us to perform and be present.”
One student wanted to know if Parra had given his actors a specific theme or note to follow throughout the film. Webb jumped in and said, “Maintaining secrecy and holding secrets in my body posture was something we spoke about a lot.”
“We spoke about journaling too,” Lopez added. The actress shared that journaling isn’t something that is usually a part of her process, but she found it was helpful in Unwritten Obsession. “We shared our journals with David. He was able to use each of our internal motivations and drives to help us bring life and depth to our characters.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank David Martin Porras, Chelsea Lopez, and Haley Webb for taking the time to speak with our students. To learn more about New York Film Academy’s Guest Speaker series, click here.