Up Against Amanda Behind the Scenes

The Screenplay

Michael Rissi's original screenplay for Up Against Amanda was based on a notion that a gripping story of intrigue and suspense can be told almost anywhere, given the right mix of characters to collide and cause compelling situations to develop. His story is the ultimate tale of bad luck in the draw of possible next door neighbors - and a highly original evocation of an unpredictable and violent world in which good doesn't always vanquish and evil sometimes hides in plain sight.

At its center is the provocative Amanda Lear, a young woman who, desperate to make a change in her life, impulsively lashes out at her manipulative doctor who has secretly rented a house for her after securing her release from a mental ward. With her bags barely unpacked and her doctor "out of the way" for the time being, Amanda sees the promise of a fresh start ahead of her and hurriedly sets her sights on Richard Pierce, her handsome, sweet, yet sometimes lonely, married next door neighbor.

After Amanda discovers damning evidence of a crime she has committed, she attempts to attain Richard's trust and unwitting help in securing her privacy while at the same time destroying the evidence before anyone else sees it. Motivated neither by pure evil, nor pure affection, Amanda falls victim to her own psychosis by pursuing a fantasy which cannot possibly come to pass.

In contrast, Richard, a mild-mannered writer, is a good-natured, generous, agreeable sort who would never suspect the capacity his new neighbor has for hostile behavior. Clean-cut, quiet, respectable, and temptation averse, Richard nevertheless finds himself on the other side of a wreck of a woman with a penchant for doing nasty things with hair styling products.

Unclear and mysterious from the start is the exact nature of Amanda's past and what events have shaped her disturbed personality, events which appear to have had a devastating effect on what might otherwise be a shy, sensitive and attractive young lady.

To Michael Rissi, suburbia in all its recognizable ambience was the perfect setting for letting audiences dip "a toe in the cold waters of fear." It provides a familiar backdrop for delving without flinching into some of the most terrifying areas of human psychology, from sexuality to harshly poetic justice to homicidal impulses. Rissi's screenplay doesn't pull any punches.

"There's a big difference between experiencing suspense and creating it," he says. "Usually you write a movie because you have an idea that you think will resonate with a wide audience. The trick is to make the situations familiar enough for people to relate to and at the same time unique enough to make the overall experience novel."

He adds: "I think you can get away with more in terms of entertaining people with a thriller, because the audience has certain expectations regarding plot twists, but the performances are just as critical. Ultimately, the audience is interested in experiencing an emotional journey and in order to achieve that, they have to connect with the characters on some level."

Soon after getting financing to proceed with the modestly budgeted project, Michael Rissi began filming eighty per cent of the movie in and around his immediate Southern California neighborhood with the logistical help of Producer Chuck Williams and Rissi's enthusiastic wife, Co-Producer Maria Lydia Rissi.

"It was my intention from the outset to make a picture with intense and emotional situations and I think we achieved that within a minimum of settings," says Rissi.

His favorite line of dialogue? "I guess it would have to be Justine's line when she responds to Buzz after he says, 'That's second hand smoke. Second hand smoke kills.' And she responds, 'It's not the smoke that kills. It's the smoker…'"