Running Time: 78 minutes
Camera: Sony EX3
Exhibited: HD Cam
This film was made possible in part with support from the Sundance Institute/ Annenberg Feature Film Fellowship.
Written, directed and starring Katie Aselton, THE FREEBIE is a romantic drama about a contented, yet sexually frustrated couples' experiment to allow each other 'one night off'. Darren (Dax Shepard) and Annie (Aselton) have an enviable relationship built on love trust and communication -- 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 when a sexy 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 freedom, no strings attached, no questions asked. Could a "freebie" be the cure for their ailing sex life? And will they go through with it? With a keen eye and fresh take, Aselton’s directorial debut shines with crisp storytelling and fine-tuned performances. THE FREEBIE is an insightful and humorous look at love, sustaining relationships, and the awkwardness of monogamy when the haze of lust has faded. Produced by Adele Romanski and executive produced by Aselton and Mark Duplass (CYRUS).
FILMMAKER Q&A: KATIE ASELTON
Q: What was the genesis of the film, and how did you come up with the concept?
This is my first time making a movie. I am an actor and this project was born out of my wanting to work. My husband (Mark Duplass) was sick of hearing me complain about it, so he suggested I make something on my own. I said he was crazy and continued waiting for my phone to ring. And it didn't. So I started thinking...
The Freebie was inspired by a conversation I had with a close friend regarding relationships. The more we discussed it, the more we realized 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 at all unsatisfied, but this idea of revisiting part of the past without sacrificing the present 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? Could a couple be stupid enough -- or progressive enough -- to think that they could take a night off from their 7-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 in the first place...? 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.
Q: Discuss the production process. How long did it take to shoot the film?
The production process was pretty awesome. From the beginning I knew that, because I was doing this for the first time, I wanted to surround myself with really talented people who did their jobs really well. I had met my DP, Ben Kasulke on the set of Lynn Shelton's Humpday and had seen his work in her previous film, We Go Way Back, and I loved his eye. He has an extremely gentle vision that I really liked. And then I went for Nat Sanders, whom I met at The Woodstock Film Festival after seeing Medicine For Melancholy which he had cut and just done a beautiful job with. Those were the two guys I knew I really wanted to help tell my story. Once they were on board, the rest of my amazing crew just fell into place because everyone just wanted to work with everyone else.
We worked from a six-page outline of a tightly woven story and it became a very collaborative experience. We started the project all on the same page and because of that; everyone had a voice in telling the story. The actors could take the characters where they wanted to go, Ben and Nat would assist with directing some of the scenes that I was in, story notes and ideas would come from every direction, and I'm pretty sure that nearly everyone in the crew that wasn't holding a camera or a boom ended up in a scene! And the final product is one that we all are responsible for and that's something I'm really proud of.
We shot THE FREEBIE in 11 days. We shot it primarily in my home and all the locations were within a one mile radius. I relocated my then 15-month old daughter to our guesthouse where my mother and mother-in-law tagged teamed nanny duty and her nursery became our temporary edit suite.
Q: What were your biggest challenges during filming? Was it difficult to work both in front of and behind the camera?
Our biggest challenge during filming, I would say, was recasting the male lead three days in. That was tough, but it just wasn't working. He wasn't having fun, we weren't having fun... and I'm sorry, I'm not Van Gogh, I don't need to cut off my ear for art, I love doing what I do way too much to not enjoy the process! But once Dax came on, everything flowed so easily. From there, our biggest challenge was to make this idea of "the freebie" a viable option for this couple and to get the audience on board.
There were certainly times it was difficult to be both in front of and behind the camera, but that is really where the trust in the people around me came in. Knowing that we were all there telling the same story was incredibly helpful. We would talk about a scene in depth beforehand and then we'd run it and then we'd talk a whole lot afterward about what we got and what we still needed. We would also run really long takes... conversations would run 45 minutes sometimes, but we'd just let them run their course. If we were on a roll, I would never stop in the middle and say cut. Nat (my editor) might hate me for it, but I think it worked for us.
Q: Talk about the casting of Dax Shepard. He's more known for over-the-top comedies but he does some really wonderful dramatic acting in this film. How did you know he would be so perfect for the role?
I didn't. I had no idea he would be as incredible as he is. He was friendly with Mark (my husband) and when we found ourselves without a lead, we thought we'd give it a shot. Mark called him and told him briefly about the project and he said "yes" without even reading the treatment. 12 hours later, he was at my kitchen table talking about wardrobe, 4 hours after that, we were shooting a 10 person dinner party scene, and somewhere in or around there, I fell madly in love with him.
Q: The production values are remarkable. What did you shoot on and how did you go about getting the desired look and feel you wanted?
We shot on the Sony EX3 and used some pretty filters. Ben Kasulke (my DP) is really the one responsible for the look of The Freebie. We had a lot of discussions about how we were going to shoot on video, but that we wanted it to stand apart from and look different than previous low-budget, shot-on-video films... and then we'd get swept up in talking about A Woman Under The Influence or a pretty still shot... Our conversations always ended with him saying, "I got a pretty good idea..." And I think he did. I'm incredibly pleased.
Q: This film seems to have its roots in naturalistic new independent cinema, yet it also has a high concept reminiscent of bigger studio movies. Can you discuss this seeming contradiction?
I don't necessarily think that it is a contradiction. As an actor and an audience member, I'm drawn most to naturalistic performances. Whether they are improved, loosely-scripted, or highly-scripted pieces, a performance really strikes a chord with me if I can feel it and relate to it. In my mind, high-concept films are far more interesting if you're getting those kinds of grounded performances. So while you're watching a situation that seems beyond belief, you're relating to the people in that situation as if they were just ordinary people like yourself. Suddenly that situation is a little more believable.
Q: What do you hope that audiences will take away from the film? Can you discuss the ending (without giving it away)?
I would like people to take away an appreciation for their own grass (even if the other grass is greener). And I can't say much about the ending, except to tell you that there is an ending. But I do really feel this film is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of story -- I love those kinds of stories because that's real life and as an audience member, that's what keeps me engaged.
Katie Aselton, born and raised in the small coastal town of Milbridge, Maine, graduated from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, New York in 2003. Frequently working with the Duplass Brothers, she starred in The Puffy Chair (Sundance 2005, nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards), and Intervention (Berlin 2006, Silver Bear and Teddy Award), and also has a role alongside John C. Reilly in their upcoming Fox Searchlight Movie, Cyrus.
She has appeared in NBC's The Office and she is currently starring the new FX television show The League, which just got picked up for a second season. Aselton’s upcoming credits include the lead role in the feature film Feed the Fish with Tony Shaloub.
The Freebie is her first time directing and she’s incredibly excited to be premiering at The 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
DAX SHEPARD – ACTOR
Hailing from a small town outside of Detroit, Mich., Dax Shepard honed his skills as an actor and comedian with the much-celebrated improv troupe The Groundlings while earning an anthropology degree from UCLA. Shortly thereafter, he found himself in the spotlight when he landed a role as himself in the inaugural season of MTV’s wildly popular celebrity-prank series “Punk’d.” As the show’s original master of disguise, he created a barrage of characters in an effort to disguise himself to the audience and the show’s increasingly savvy celebrity targets.
In 2006, Shepard was seen in Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy,” opposite Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph, as well as starring alongside Dane Cook and Jessica Simpson in the Lionsgate comedy “Employee of the Month.” Most recently, Shepard appeared in the Universal Pictures comedy “Baby Mama” as Amy Poehler’s loser boyfriend, Carl. Previous films for Shepard include director Bob Odenkirk’s comedy “Let’s Go to Prison,” Jon Favreau’s fantasy family feature “Zathura: A Space Adventure” and Paramount Pictures’ “Without a Paddle,” opposite Seth Green and Matthew Lillard.
Shepard was seen in the dark comedy “Smother,” opposite Liv Tyler and Diane Keaton . Next up for the actor is "When In Rome," with Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel and Will Arnett, and NBC’s “Parenthood.”
Shepard currently resides in Los Angeles.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
MARK DUPLASS – EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Mark Duplass first made a name for himself when he starred in, co-wrote, and co-directed a string of award-winning short films, including This is John and Scrapple, which premiered at Sundance in 2003 and 2004, respectively. He and his brother Jay also wrote and directed the 2005 Sundance breakout hit The Puffy Chair, which went on to win the Audience Award at SXSW 2005 and was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards. It was released theatrically by Roadside Attractions and Netflix in 2006. Baghead, their next feature film, was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics at Sundance 2008 and played in theaters around the world that summer. His latest film, Cyrus, stars John C Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, and Catherine Keener, and will be released by Fox Searchlight in the spring of 2010. As an actor, Mark co-starred in The Puffy Chair, Joe Swanberg's Hannah Takes the Stairs (IFC Films), and last year's breakout Sundance hit Humpday (Magnolia). He most recently completed a role in Noah Baumbach's new film Greenberg and is starring in the new FX Television show The League, which was recently picked up for a second season. He also served as an executive producer on Sundance 2010 selections Bass Ackwards and Lovers Of Hate, in addition to The Freebie.
ADELE ROMANSKI – PRODUCER
Originally from Florida, Adele became a resident of Los Angeles on October 23rd 2008 by signing her first lease in nearly three years. Prior to that she was enjoying bi-coastal status by way of sublets and suitcases. In addition to The Freebie, Adele also produced The Myth of the American Sleepover and in the before time edited feature films including Amy Seimetz's City On A Hill.
NAT SANDERS – EDITOR
After graduating from film school at Florida State University and spending several years editing in television, Nat went on to edit and sound design the critically-acclaimed film Medicine For Melancholy, nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards, and to cut the Sundance Jury Prize-winning Humpday, named one of the top 10 independent films of 2009 by the National Board of Review. More recently, Nat was named one of 2009's "25 New Faces of Independent Film" by Filmmaker Magazine, worked as an editor at the Sundance Directors Lab, and edited the feature film The Freebie and the web series $5 Cover: Seattle, both of which will be premiering at Sundance 2010.
BENJAMIN KASULKE – DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
Ben Kasulke is an award winning Director and Director of Photography based in Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York. Ben graduated from the Northﬁeld-Mount Hermon School and received his BS in Cinema Production from Ithaca College following additional study at the Filmová a Televizní Fakulta Akadmie Muzickych Umní in Prague. While employed as the staff cinematographer for the Seattle based Film Company, he was fortunate enough to work with award winning ﬁlmmakers Guy Maddin and Lynn Shelton. Kasulke has also worked in music video and performance documentation with various acts including Einsteurzende Neubaten to Built To Spill. In 2006, he received two awards for his Cinematography on Shelton's "We Go Way Back" from the Slamdance and Torun Film Festivals. Ben was also honored to work with "Bass Ackwards" director Linas Phillips on his award winning documentary "Walking To Werner" in 2006. The Seattle Stranger shortlisted Kasulke for it's Genius Award in Film in 2007. Kasulke's work has been screened at multiple film festivals including the Toronto, Berlin, Sundance, and Cannes Film Festival Director's Fortnight. His feature film work has been released by IFC Films, Magnolia Pictures, and The Criterion Collection.
End Credits The Freebie
Cast (in order of appearance):
Annie - Katie Aselton