“I created Freudian Slip as a proof of concept; proof of both the project, and of my ability to take an idea from concept, all the way through to distribution, and deliver on my vision,” says writer/director Clare Sladden. “Freudian Slip was totally self-funded and was a huge collaborative effort by a group of super-talented people. We went from story development to distribution in six months, and we’ve managed to produce the first season of a webseries that has a huge amount of potential, both locally and internationally. Of this, I am extremely proud.”
Here’s Episode 1 of Freudian Slip
Clare, you have come up with a completely new take on ‘sexy times’, where did the idea come from?
A couple of years ago, I embarked on an intense period of dating. I dated hard. And while I certainly have fond memories from the experience (I had some excellent sex), that period in my life was an emotional rollercoaster. I was constantly second-guessing myself; I was afraid of how other people (including the men I was dating) would view my choices; and I was overthinking the most inconsequential situations. But while there were more than a few negative consequences of my dating odyssey, including lots of unsolicited dick pics, and a deep mistrust of men named David, there was an upside: I came away with a lot of stories. Like, a lot. These stories provide the thematic backbone of Freudian Slip; the series uses humour to explore the ways in which women and men express themselves, censor themselves, and communicate with one another.
I sat on these stories for a few years – I used them to delight my non-single friends, like a wizened sage or gnarley gatekeeper warning others of the perils of the single life. But I didn’t have plans for these tales other than getting tipsy and telling my friends about the time a guy sleepwalked and then urinated in the corner of my bedroom (is there a term for that? Sleep-peed)!? Anyway, the truth was, I didn’t yet know how to explore these experiences in a meaningful way, and I didn’t see a fresh angle on the material – the ‘dating scene’ has been done to death, and if I was going to go there, I wanted to be able to bring something new to the genre.
Fast forward to 2016: I wrote, directed and produced my debut short film, Consent, which went on to screen at prestigious, Academy Award-qualifying festivals, and even win some awards. But Consent was a drama/thriller that skirted the edges of genre, and as a writer, my natural voice is closer to a comedy/drama hybrid. Also, because of Consent’s festival run, then subsequent distribution via Seed&Spark, I never had the opportunity to post it online. With this in mind, by mid-2017, I was ready to make something new. Something that really captured my voice and sensibilities as a writer/director – something I could post directly online, without the waiting period that comes with a festival run. A web series.
Previously you worked within the short film and feature film space, why did working with web series appeal to you?
I love shows like Inside Amy Schumer, Skitbox and Broad City – shows that are laugh-out-loud, and explore female driven issues in a really original, subversive, way. I knew that I wanted to write a female-driven comedy web series, and I wanted to make it not just funny, but real: all the best comedy starts from a place of truth. It was time to revisit some of my experiences with the benefit of hindsight, and more importantly, with more skill as a screenwriter.
My screenwriting had received a huge boost when I was in the US in 2016 for the Cinestory Fellowship, and I was lucky enough to be mentored by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Meg LeFauve (Inside Out), who is pretty much the Yoda of screenwriters. Meg and I discussed Broken Head, one of my feature projects, and that deep-dive into story, theme and personal connection to the material really opened my eyes. Theme was always a consideration in my writing, but my time spent with Meg took my understanding to another level.
So when it came time to look at adapting my dating experiences into a high concept, bite-sized web series format, I was keen to make sure I didn’t get caught up in clever jokes and one-liners, and forget about actually saying something. I wanted to start with a truth, from which comedy could naturally flow, instead of trying to reverse engineer a collection of funny moments to construct a deeper meaning.
I also didn’t want to make Freudian Slip purely autobiographical. I wanted to capture the inner turmoil I felt while I was dating, not give a blow-by-blow (excuse the pun) account of actual events. I wanted to take situations that are common to us all, and really explore what it feels like in those moments of decision-making.
What can audiences expect with Freudian Slip?
Freudian Slip gives the audience a look at the internal conversations that play out in our characters’ heads when they’re in the most intimate, awkward, romantic situations, and also explores how both women and men censor themselves and their desires. We all second guess and censor ourselves (especially women, when it comes to expressing sexual desires), and we are all, at times, our own worst enemy. The way I chose to express these dilemmas was to externalise the competing voices inside our characters’ heads (what Freud calls the Id and the Super Ego) so that those internal conversations could play out in real time. The ridiculous dialogue that runs through our minds from moment to moment is rarely spoken about, and there’s so much fun to be had with the kinds of thoughts that you’d never admit to, or tell anyone about, but that we all have.
The production values are high end and your cast is strong, how did you get the funding together to pull this off?
Recently, Freudian Slip was officially selected and nominated for ‘Best Australian Comedy’ at the 2018 Melbourne Webfest. I am over the moon. But what struck me, as I looked at the list of nominees in our category, was that most of them had received government support/funding – and all but one of the rest were either attached to/supported by a major brand, or supported by a major production company.
We were the only independent, self-funded production in the category. Which makes what we managed to achieve with Freudian Slip all the more impressive. With no outside support or funding, we managed to produce a six-part web series whose production value is way higher than the budget would indicate. And we managed to get nominated in a category that is dominated by series with much bigger budgets, and more support. The key to this for me was to find the right people.
If I’m really honest, the last 18 months has been tough. I quit my job, I moved interstate, and I decided to focus 100% on my writing and directing. All of those things were scary (especially that last one). Now, I truly believe that if you choose a creative pursuit, you need an internal resilience to get you through the inevitable tough times. Those times where nothing’s going your way, and everything seems hopeless, and rejections just keep piling up. When it comes down it it, you need the fortitude and the sturborness to persevere… but… you also need a group of people around you who are heading in the same direction, and who you genuinely respect and admire (think of it as creative carpooling). Those are people who, after you’ve dusted yourself off from a major rejection or creative funk, will help get you back on track. Those are the people who will share contacts; introduce you to others graciously; talk about you to people (in a good way) when you’re not around; and who genuinely want you to succeed. But the trick is, you need to be that for other people as well. You can’t just sponge it up, you have to give back, otherwise the whole thing doesn’t work.
When I first started writing and directing, I kept hearing over and over, find your tribe. Find your people. And while I had a core group of screenwriting confidants, I had yet to really find my filmmaking ‘team’.
But over the past year and a half, I’ve found a group of young, emerging, female filmmakers that both inspire, and push me to better my own creative practice. It was only with the support of these women that Freudian Slip got made. The women in my life are both wildly talented and generous with their skill and their time. Some of these women signed on in crew roles they hadn’t performed for years (2nd AD, runner) just to help me out. Some opened up their ‘little black books’ and put me in contact with key creatives who ended up working on Freudian Slip. Some read draft after draft, and sat with me for hours discussing all things Freudian. And some supported me with distribution and strategy. Many are still supporting me; helping me get Freudian Slip out to a wider audience.
The fact that Freudian Slip is now standing next to web series that were made on a much larger scale, for much larger budgets, is testament to the team I’ve surrounded myself with. And just to be clear, there were some amazing men who played huge roles in Freudian Slip’s successful execution. My co-producer, Lewis Templar, was supportive beyond words, and his process-driven ‘post-production calendar’ was a thing to behold. Similarly, the contribution of our cinematographer, Ben Cotgrove, who came onto the project with only a couple of weeks until production, was massive.
Given you were independently funded how does that play out when you head into production and how did you snag Benjamin Law for his acting debut?
I come from the school of just get it done, so when I met my co-producer Lewis Templar at an event in July 2017, and he expressed interest in the project, I decided that we would go into production before the end of the year, and we would release the series early 2018.
I finished a first draft of the scripts, and was lucky enough to have Adele Vuko (from Skitbox) give me notes. While I was redrafting, I started to think about casting. Benjamin Law signed on at a fairly early stage, and that was a big deal for us. Ben and I studied together at QUT, and after I pitched him the idea in a late-night email, I was pretty sure he was going to think I was crazy. He hadn’t acted since high school, and he’s super busy, but luckily for me, he said yes! I then roped in a bunch of amazing actors: James Mason (Neighbours), Amy Ingram (I Just Came To Say Goodbye), Nick Simpson-Deeks (Winners & Losers), Ngoc Phan (Australia Day), and newcomer Caitlin Hill, to round out the cast.
We decided to shoot at my parents’ house in Broken Head (just south of Byron Bay), for a couple of reasons. First, it was free, which helped with the budget, but second, it was big enough to accommodate most of the cast and crew (there were lots of shared beds and blow-up mattresses in the lounge room, but that just made the experience all the more collaborative)! The shoot was not glamorous: temperatures were in the high 30s (note to self, NEVER shoot in December again)! And it was only down to our amazing 1st AD, Genevieve Kertesz that we finished on time both days. There was also the slightly mortifying fact that we shot most of the series in the biggest bedroom in the house… my parents’ bedroom. I can never quite explain the oddity of discussing blow-job techniques with my actors in my parents’ bed. It was so Freudian.
When we got to post, I was struck by just how lucky we’d been: despite our tight schedule, I knew we’d captured the essence of the series. Our cinematographer, Ben Cotgrove, was instrumental in developing, and delivering on, the final look of Freudian Slip. He led his crew with such precision, and such humility, under huge time constraints, and managed to come away with gorgeous visuals. This high production value (which also came down to Natasha Silver’s production design and costuming, and Caleb De Leon’s final colour grade) helped elevate the series to the next level.
Freudian Slip is a six part webseries and at three minutes per episode you can binge the entire series your lunch break. You can watch FREUDIAN SLIP here.
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