Sadsack Mini-Series Premieres After Years of Development


Gwen Gemmell

College fourth-year Katie Friedemann’s mini-series Sadsack will premiere today at 7 p.m. in Hallock Auditorium.

Sadsack, a television mini-series written and directed by College fourth-year Katie Friedemann, will premiere today. The first two episodes, the only ones filmed so far, will be screened at 7 p.m. in the Hallock Auditorium for Environmental Studies and  they will be made available on YouTube and Vimeo. The semi-autobiographical show, a personal opus for Friedemann, follows J.B., a young woman who returns to her hometown after moving away to college, as she is forced to come to terms with a traumatic event from her past. 

Friedemann began the writing process in March 2020, right after Oberlin students had been sent home due to COVID-19. With nothing else to do, Friedemann took the extended time away from school to write.

“It was just the perfect time,” Friedemann said. “I had nothing else to do but to sit and be reflective. This mini-series is what came out of it.”

Filming for the show began in November 2020 and just wrapped up a few days ago when the cast and crew shot the final background footage.

“This has been a very, very long process,” Friedemann said. “I had just the best team in the entire world who were just as dedicated to getting it done as I was, but that strain of time and very, very little resources was incredibly stressful.”

Friedemann describes the series as an examination of the main character’s trauma and how memories influence our present circumstances.  She has always been fascinated by stories about small towns. When she watched Clerks, a movie set in small-town New Jersey, at age 14, she felt it was the first time she had seen movie characters who talked like her friends. That kind of writing inspired her as she tried to come up with realistic dialogue, especially as she began writing her own small-town characters like Rigby, a newcomer in town who works at a computer store and doesn’t know anything about J.B.’s past. 

“I spent a lot of time asking myself, ‘What do these people actually sound like?’” Friedemann said. “The experience of Sadsack is just kind of being at home with your high-school friends after you haven’t seen them for a bit and just shooting the s**t and analyzing how messed up high school must have been for all of you. Once you can see it in hindsight, that’s kind of the experience of it.”

Friedemann has directed plays in the past, but this is her first experience filming a series.

“Working with all of these people, and dealing with these incredibly happy accidents, and finding things in my own writing that I had just never found before was amazing,” she said. “I got to work with these wonderful people who are so smart and so compassionate. This experience was so unlike a play, which is what I’ve directed to this point. This is something that I will have forever and it will live in its peak form forever. It’s just so nice to be able to look at it and say that we did this.”

J.B. is played by College fourth-year Meg Steen. Following a Zoom run-through during quarantine, Friedemann asked Steen if she’d like to be a part of the project. While filming and editing was often tough, Steen stressed the importance of the cast and crew’s dedication. 

“I am honored to play this part,” Steen said. “It’s semi-autobiographical, so it’s nice that [Friedmann] trusted me to take it on. I don’t think there was ever a moment during filming where anyone wanted to give up.”

Steen remarked that some of the show’s best moments were the result of production mistakes.

“[One time,] the tripod wasn’t working right, but then we got this really cool shot,” Steen said. “It was a little sideways but it actually turned out to be one of my favorite shots in the whole thing.”

During Winter Term, the crew attempted to shoot a beach scene at Lake Erie, not realizing that it was frozen over. They shot it anyway. 

“It gave it a new perspective because it was so desolate and cold and snowy and bright, so that scene took on a new meaning,” said College third-year Gwen Gemmel, who was a crew member and occasional cast member on the show. 

While there are currently no plans to continue shooting, Friedemann aspires to return to the miniseries and continue working on it when she has more resources. 

“Some of the best moments, the moments I’m most proud of, I won’t be able to show on Friday,” she said. “One day, people will be able to see the show in its entirety, which is what I want more than anything.”