Q&A with Creator Ivy Jelisavac
Q: Talk about the story and concept behind RELATIONSHIT. How did this idea come to you?
A: It’s a power move. Now I can threaten everybody I meet that I’ll put them in my show, so they have to behave!
On a more serious note, I spend a lot of thought on artistic responsibility: The stories we send out into the world shape expectations – life imitates art.
It was important to me to make something that wasn’t “boy meets girl, they fall in love, happily ever after.” So I did the opposite of that: Person meets person, they fall in love, oh no, oh dear, no no no, oooh crap.” But there’s also a lot of positive love and fun, because nothing is ever all bad or all good.
Q: Can you talk about the experience shooting and working with the team on this film?
A: It was humbling and magical. For so many exceptionally talented people to come together and give it their best, and to remain loyal to you and the project throughout a long and difficult completion process meant everything to me.
Any creator goes out on a limb when trying to get something off the ground, and there’s justified shame about asking people to work on no or low pay. Seeing highly skilled people believe so much in what was then my, but is now our, work, was one of the most motivating factors for me.
Q: Were there any challenges?
A: For sure. I financed this show from my earnings in corporate video production – like some sort of lunatic! – and because of the scope of this project, I had a team of over 50 cast & crew members working with me, shooting for 30 days at over 20 locations. For free! Since I was either going to pay everybody or nobody, it had to be the latter.
In situations like these it’s important that both production and the cast or crew member get something out of it, so I spent extra time ensuring things were the right fit. Actors got scenes for their portfolio, locations that allowed us to shoot there got a promo video of their business in return. It was time intensive, but the result I was able to produce is exponentially higher than what I could have made any other way on no budget.
We also had an actor disappear shortly before completing the show. After weighing all our options – re-casting, and re-shooting everything we already had, wasn’t possible – we decided to re-write a few scenes to make it all work.
Q: What advice would you give a filmmaker who wants to do something similar?
A: Going against the usual advice for web series writers, I did not write for production assets I had access to, I wrote a show I’d want to watch – then worked out the logistics. I joke that I didn’t know it was going to be impossible, so I just figured it out.
We got almost all of our brilliant locations without money changing hands: In exchange for the owner allowing us to shoot at their restaurant or store, we made a promo video for them. For residential locations, we used our personal networks.
Also, get 2-3 people to help in production.
This one’s going to feel counter intuitive but if you’re going low budget: Plan your shoot dates around your sound recordist. They are near impossible to find for free, and shoddy sound will ruin your project.
Q: How did you get cast with such impressive credits to work on Relationshit on no budget?
A: A truth in any business is that you will probably only be hired to do work you’ve already done. This means that actors who have thus far only shown one side of their talent will sometimes take unpaid work to get scenes for their showreel, or they might just have a personal interest in the role.
The other side is showing professionalism: Working hours and conditions can be brutal on low budget films, so unless you can prove that you know what you’re doing, you’ll have a hard time convincing people to sign on, let alone stay on.
Q: There are several positions – producer, costume designer, set designer – that I can’t see credited.
A: Yeah… I did all that. I know! Don’t try this at home!
So, I started out in the film industry at 15, interning on student films. Later, I worked as an AD as my day job before becoming a full time director. During that time, on 18 hour days, people would tell me that if I couldn’t handle the hours, I could get out of the industry.
I took as little BS then as I do now, so my response was “How about you organise your shoot a little better?!” I made up my mind to start a production company right then, and made a point of interning in almost every department in order to know what was realistic to expect, and where things can be made easier for those working in them.
That experience has helped me tremendously in taking on all the different roles.
Throughout, the quality of my directing was always paramount, so I ensured enough time to sort out everything else and then having headspace to prepare the scenes thoroughly.
Q: How come this took two and a half years to complete?
A: There’s a limited amount of pressure and expectation you can put on people who work unpaid. Everyone has to make the work they do for Relationshit fit their life both in terms of time and finance.
Even though we managed to film all but 3 days in the first two months of shooting, our cast & crew started getting really exciting roles like, oh, no big deal, STAR WARS.
Ingvild had to dye her naturally blonde hair dark brown for the role on short notice, and then painstakingly bleach it back in several increments over a span of months. Those things were the happy reasons for delays – we were so proud of her.
The unhappy ones were when two members of post-pro never delivered the work they said they had created, and we had to re-hire several positions several times.
And while some post production departments delivered absolutely stellar work, others needed a bit more quality control – that’s understandable though as often, people who will work unpaid are starting out and building portfolio, and both parties should end up enriched. It just means it took a little longer, and I really appreciated their time and effort.
IVY JELISAVAC (WRITER, DIRECTOR): Relationshit, Thick Air, A Short Little Eternity
Ivy Jelisavac is the creator of Relationshit. After interning in every film department to learn the ropes, she founded London production company The Friction. She invests in creating an ethical work environment and humane working conditions for crew, while providing high end services to clients like Greenpeace, TimeOut, trainline, GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, and many others.
She is currently developing her first feature.
You can follow Relationshit here: