Web Series Wednesday: Freudian Slip

Written and Directed by Clare Sladden
Starring Benjamin Law, Caitlin Hill, James Mason, Amy Ingram, Nick Simpson-Deeks and Ngoc Phan
Digital Platform YouTube

Freudian Slip is a comedy web series that uses Freud’s theory of the split self to bring to life internals dilemmas around love, sex and pooping.

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“While there were more than a few negative consequences of my dating odyssey, including lots of unsolicited dick pics, there was an upside: I came away with a lot of stories”

Article by
 Clare Sladden

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.

Now, 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.

Amalia and Jacob, played by Caitlin Hill and James Mason in Freudian Slip.

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.

Amalia and her Id & Super Ego weigh up their options in Freudian Slip.

Freudian Slip gives the audience a look at the internal conversations that play out in our character’s 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 character’s 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.

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.

Jacob and his Id & Super Ego wait patiently in Freudian Slip.

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 parent’s 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 accomodate 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 30’s (note to self, NEVER shoot in December again)! There was also the slightly mortifying fact that we shot most of the series in the biggest bedroom in the house… my parent’s bedroom. I can never quite explain the oddity of discussing blow-job techniques with my actors in my parent’s bed. It was so Freudian.

Amalia’s Id & Super Ego discuss what they should after they realise they’re in love with Jacob in Freudian Slip.

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 & costuming, and Caleb De Leon’s final colour grade) helped elevate the series to the next level.

Freudian Slip screened at a private launch party to cast, crew, and industry on the 18th of March, in Brisbane, where it was met with across the board fanfare. I created Freudian Slip as a proof of concept; proof of both of the project, and of my ability to take an idea from concept, all the way through to distribution, and deliver on my vision. 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 month, and we’ve managed to produce the first season of a web series that has a huge amount of potential, both locally and internationally. Of this, I am extremely proud.

You can watch the full season here.


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