Vig’s (12) “Obsession” takes the big screen at Museum of the Moving Image


Hannah Katzke, Staff Writer

“I want people to leave the film with an unsettled feeling and kind of get the cogs in their heads turning as to what the film could be about,” Riva Vig (12) said. Vig’s short and open-ended suspense film, “Obsession,” was selected to air at the Museum of the Moving Image’s (MoMI) Teen Film Festival. The film festival will take place tonight at MoMI’s Redstone Theater. 

Vig found out about the film festival after a friend saw an advertisement on Instagram, she said. “I’m excited because I think the Museum of Moving Images is really cool, and I’m excited to be able to see my film on the big screen again.” 

Last school year, Vig submitted “Obsession” to the All American High School Film Festival (AAHSFF). Her film was selected and later screened in Times Square for the film festival in October.

Vig is excited to attend the MoMI event with her family, she said. She is less nervous than she was at the AAHSFF as it was a much larger event with more selected films. 

“Obsession” was also screened in the student showcase assembly last school year. After the screening, Vig’s friends told her their different perspectives on the film’s meaning, she said. “I definitely like hearing my friends and families’ feedback whenever they watch it.”

She created “Obsession” for her Filmmaking 3 class last school year, Vig said. Film teacher Jordan Rathus assigned the students in the class to independently create a short two to three-minute film, she said. 

“Obsession” is a suspense film about a girl’s relationship with an unknown character, Vig said. She decided the meaning and plot should be open-ended — it is up to the audience to form opinions on the relationship between the characters and who they are, Vig said. “In my mind, it could be about various different topics.”

Vig finds the variety of responses and perspectives from viewers interesting, she said. “Some people think it’s about a stalker who kills her at the end, others think she’s going to see her boyfriend and he doesn’t show up.” 

In Rathus’ perspective, the film is about fixation and danger, she said. “It sets up this situation that’s ripe for suspense and horror genres, which is that the audience knows that our protagonist is entering into a situation that she shouldn’t enter into, and so it makes the audience scream at the screen.”

When she began, Vig had a different idea for the plot, she said. Originally, the film would follow two friends who were unable to meet due to COVID but were getting ready for a socially distanced picnic in two different parks, Vig said.

It was easy to work with her actress, Sana Anand, as she is a close family friend, Vig said. However, Anand was not available to shoot the footage for the entire film, and thus Vig could not follow through with the original plot, she said. Instead, Vig compiled the footage that she had shot and pivoted to a different storyline.

Vig is proud that she crafted a film with only a little bit of footage, she said. “I did not just give up on the film because I did not have enough footage, I turned it into something new.”

Vig also added her love of drawing to the film, she said. “In trying to make something out of the footage I had, I essentially created a portrait.” As she attempted to piece the videos together, she sketched a drawing of Anand that she incorporated in the film, she said. She then filmed herself drawing the portrait throughout the film, so the camera shifts between Anand and an unknown character who draws her portrait.

Shooting and directing was also a challenge because Vig did everything by herself over winter break last school year, she said. While working alone was difficult, she enjoyed the complete freedom and control she had.

Vig shaped how her story unfolded in the film, although Rathus worked with her to edit the project, she said. Rathus helped Vig maintain a careful balance of what she showed and did not show to instill suspense and panic in the audience, she said. “Riva is fastidious, she’s thorough and thoughtful when she’s editing, and she’s careful to create a structure for her films that walks the viewer through a linear path.”

Rathus also helped Vig color grade and design a suitable look and tone, Rathus said. “I wanted to convey a sense of stress and nervousness through the actions, lighting, music, and editing.”

It is special that her students have been able to communicate their ideas to larger audiences, Rathus said. “Riva deserves all of the accolades that she will receive,” she said. “She’s such a talented filmmaker and hard worker and she’s so passionate, and I’m just really excited that she’s going to be able to show the work that she’s been focused on in such an intense way for so many years.”