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Sundance ’10 | Katie Aselton’s Hubby Convinced Her to Make a Movie About Open Relationships

Sundance '10 | Katie Aselton's Hubby Convinced Her to Make a Movie About Open Relationships

Actress Katie Aselton is taking the Sundance stage with her first film as a director. She’s decided to write and direct herself into a role after she not “getting the jobs that she wanted.” Her husband, Mumblecore royalty Mark Duplass, encouraged Aselton to do what he and his brother did several years ago with “The Puffy Chair.” And like “Puffy,” Aselton’s film is debuting at this year’s Sundance in its new NEXT section (Duplass’s new film “Cyrus” will be in the fest’s Premieres section).

Darren and Annie have an enviable relationship built on love, trust, and communication. After seven years of marriage, they wouldn’t change their relationship one bit. They still enjoy each other’s company and laugh at each other’s jokes, but, unfortunately, they can’t remember the last time they had sex. When a dinner party conversation leads to an honest discussion about the state of their love life, and a bikini photo shoot leads to crossword puzzles instead of sex, they begin to flirt with a way to spice things up. The deal: one night of no-strings-attached sex with a stranger for each of them. Can one night of freedom be just what they need?” [Synopsis courtesy of Sundance Film Festival]

The Freebie
NEXT section
Director: Katie Aselton
Screenwriter: Katie Aselton
Cast: Katie Aselton, Dax Shepard, Bellamy Young, Frankie Shaw, Ross Partridge, Sean Nelson
Executive Producers: Mark Duplass, Katie Aselton
Producer: Adele Romanski
Composer: Julian Wass
Cinematographer: Benjamin Kasulke
Editor: Nat Sanders
Music Supervisor: Marguerite Phillips
78 min

Aselton’s introduction and deciding to quit waiting and make a movie. And can a relationship prosper from playing the field…?

Hello, my name is Katie Aselton and “The Freebie” was my first foray into writing/directing.  I am an actor and this project came about by my wanting to work.  I was so frustrated my phone wasn’t ringing with amazing job offers and after months (maybe years) of complaining, my husband, Mark Duplass, told me to shut up and just make my own movie.  I couldn’t really argue with him in that that is exactly what he and his brother did with “The Puffy Chair,” so I just did it.

“The Freebie” was inspired by a conversation I had with a close friend regarding relationships.  The more we discussed it, we realized that even though we were both in perfectly happy and stable long term relationships, we missed how easy it used to be when you didn’t have the emotional responsibility that comes with a lifelong commitment.  It wasn’t that our current relationships weren’t working or even that we were unsatisfied, but this idea of revisiting that part of our pasts without sacrificing our present was what was really interesting to me:  To examine a couple that was actually in a good place trying to fix something that isn’t actually broken… or is it? 

In this age of couples therapy and over analyzing and uber self awareness, could a couple be stupid enough (or progressive enough) to think that they could take a night off from their seven-year relationship, sleep with someone else, and then come back to each other better partners than they were before?  Would they do it if everything was really okay…?  Maybe… And BING! there it was.  It was the first idea that had come to me for a movie that I was excited to explore in an in-depth way.  I feel like in so many ways, it really is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of story and that was what was most exciting.

This was a totally new experience for me.  I really wanted it to be a fully collaborative endeavor.  We worked from a six-page outline of a tightly woven story and from there, the actors were given the freedom to explore how it might play out.  I knew from the start that I wanted to surround myself with really talented people who did their jobs really well and who also worked well within this seemingly loose, but ultimately precarious process and that included everyone from my cast to my crew.  In the end, everyone was responsible for what we made.  My DP and editor would assist with directing, the sound guy would give story notes, and most of the crew ended up in different scenes.

Aselton on finding suitable husband replacement [Ed. note: Mark wasn’t available?!]…

I think the biggest challenge was finding the right fit for Darren (my husband in the film).  Dax Shepard came on board about 12 hours before we started shooting and he blew my mind!  He really got the story and he nailed the tone and I can’t even imagine this movie without him now.

The other challenge was figuring out where to put my daughter who, when we shot, was 15 months old.  We shot the movie in our house.  Her room turned into the temporary editing suite.  We haven’t found her yet.

And what about those Sundance prospects…?

I don’t know. This movie seems to hit people differently depending on where they’re at…

Aselton talks about the wind beneath her wings, Kevin Costner…

Kevin Costner’s “The Postman.” It was really expensive and really sucky. I attempted to do the exact opposite. I plan on doing a lot more awesome projects. Do you think Kevin Costner has anything coming up?

[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the Sundance U.S. Dramatic & Documentary Competitions as well as the NEXT section to submit responses in their own words about their films. These profiles are being published through the beginning of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. To prompt the discussion, iW asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]

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