Katie Aselton and Adrian Grenier have a couple of things in common. Both star on TV series (Aselton on FX's raunchily funny The League, Grenier on HBO's long-running Entourage) -- and both directed films that are at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival: Aselton's The Freebie and Grenier's Teen-age Paparazzo. I had a chance to talk to both of them in Park City about their films.
Katie Aselton, 31, has been acting for almost 10 years. Married to indy filmmaking upstart Mark Duplass, Aselton was between jobs -- and eager to work -- when she followed her husband's example and decided to do it herself.
She had inherited some money and had her husband's example of shooting quickly and cheaply. So she came up with the idea for The Freebie, which starts as a comedy and quickly turns into something darker. The story of a married couple (Aselton and Dax Shepard) who give each other permission to have sex with someone else for one night only (and then suffer the consequences of that decision), The Freebie had an outline but no script.
"Being around Mark and (his brother and partner) Jay, I had learned enough that I would never presume that I could write a script," Aselton says. "But the story was very clear to me. I knew exactly where it was going. And I like the idea of the actor making the character come to life and filling out the scene with something that's not on the page. The story was tightly organized; everything else was loose."
And it paid off: "I wasn't married to the ideas -- I had no pride as a writer. If we found a scene wasn't working, we could let it go. After the first 16-hour day, I found myself thinking, 'That was so what I had in mind.' Dax deserves the credit. He understood the story and the tone -- that it wasn't super-dramatic but not glib either. He got it at just the right pitch. After the first day, I gave this massive sigh of relief."
The film was shot in 11 days, including one 18-hour day in which Shepard and Aselton stayed in bed together, working through the scene in which the couple discusses the pros and cons of going forward with the idea of a one-day free pass for infidelity.
"I liked the idea of a couple who thought they were so evolved that they could buck the system," Aselton says. "The idea came from these friends of ours, who just talk their relationship to death. A friend and I were talking about them and how easy it was when you didn't have to talk everything to death like that."