First-time director tackles the world of psychoanalysis in micro budget feature
For first-time writer-director James Raue, regular trips to therapy growing up constituted a form of torture.
"I used to hate psychologists as a child. I always use to visit them because my mum was obsessed with Dr. Phil, so if there were any issues in the family we'd all go and see a psychologist. It always felt as though they were too distant and too clinical".
"Now my girlfriend is a psychologist and my best friend is a psychologist. I ended up seeing things from their point of view – the weight of all these clients they were carrying around all the time, and the dark sense of humour they had to develop. They had to be able to joke about suicide and mental illness because it was the only way to survive".
Making films since high school, Raue came up with "this idea of a psychologist who lost five of his clients to suicide in a one week period, and began to think that a rival psychologist had murdered them".
"Originally I was going to play the psychologist, and we were gonna do it really low budget for about $5,000. It was all going to be improvised, and We shot a trailer for it. Then I started my masters at AFTRS and as part of it I decided to write the screenplay for the film".
While at AFTRS, Raue worked with Miranda Harcourt, acting coach and dramaturg for the likes of Peter Jackson and Jane Campion.
She introduced Raue to Michael Whalley, Ryan O'Kane and Benedict Wall – Kiwi actors living together in Sydney, brought in by Harcourt to workshop the script.
Raue later uploaded Psychoanalysis to the Black List website, where its popularity meant "there was enough heat that I probably could have made the film on a bigger scale, but I knew I wouldn't have been able to direct the film myself. I wouldn't have been able to cast the people I wanted".
"I couldn't let go of it, because by this time the screenplay had evolved into something more than just a silly sketch-based thing. It had taken on a much more dramatic turn and become a really unique dark comedy".
The director started shooting on a 10K budget at the end of 2014, but shut down production halfway through and replaced the lead actor.
"We lost about five grand [on that]. After that I started considering whether to hand off the screenplay to somebody else to direct".
"We'd probably rushed into production because I had set those dates down, and there were certain commitments this other actor had that stopped him being able to attend certain rehearsals, so we weren't able to get on the same page. We decided to part ways and then Michael Whalley and Ryan O'Kane recommended Benedict Wall, who had been in those original workshops".
The shoot ended up being twelve days, with a total budget of around twenty thousand – minus five due to the casting switcheroo. The budget was raised partly from family friends, plus a bunch of the director's own money as well as post crowdfunding to the tune of $7,500.
"It was shot in a mockumentary style, because I knew if I shot it in strict doco style with just myself, a cinematographer and soundie we'd be able to get away with the budget and shoot in a variety of locations".
"I wanted a strict, one camera, documentary style. The documentary crew (characters in the film) didn't have the budget for a second camera, just like us. Which meant that we couldn't cut between angles during a scene. So almost every scene in the film is one shot".
"This led to some four to five minute takes, with complex blocking. It could be quite frustrating to get it right, but in the end it led to some amazing performances".
Raue wrote, produced, and directed the film, and also features in it as the crew's director – an experience "I wouldn't do again". The film was executive produced by the new CEO of AFTRS, Neil Peplow, among others.
Completed six months ago, the young filmmaker is looking at an online release or cinema-on-demand, but first wants to tour the film to festivals, with screenings at the Manchester Film Festival and Silver Springs Film Festival in Florida already lined up.
"The low budget nature of the film can scare off distributors. They know how much money they have to put in themselves, and when they realise that money is pretty close to – or more than – the film's budget, they get scared".