Sitting on Ayelette Robinson’s gamechanging web series ‘The Couch’
One of our previous Web Series of the Day was Ayelette Robinson’s The Couch. Ayelette showed us all her skills: she’s not only the lead actor in this groundbreaking series, she also produced it.
We have to agree with reports that The Couch is “a groundbreaking new web series” – the action follows the life of psychology graduate student Penelope (Ayelette Robinson), who has to see multiple therapists concurrently in order to complete her required hours in time for graduation.
The Couch follows an ingenious “make it yours” narrative structure where the viewer has the opportunity to alter the narrative in real time. (Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, eat your heart out). If it sounds like your type of show, just check out the trailer here.
We were hyped to sit down with the master of ceremonies behind The Couch, Ayelette Robinson, and chat more about her groundbreaking new series, and her work in general.
FD: The Couch is different from a traditional web series. You’ve implemented a format that allows and encourages the audience to be interactive. How did you develop the idea?
AR: The idea came to me about four years ago. I knew that I wanted to create my own work – to get my acting out into the world – and I thought once I’m creating something, it might as well be something that changes the landscape in some way.
I wanted the audience to feel like they were a part of the story, and as I brainstormed, I remembered how much I enjoyed the Choose Your Own Adventure stories as a kid. It dawned on me that there was no reason you couldn’t create the same kind of experience through film!
In addition to directing the narrative, what else do you hope viewers take away from the Make It Yours format?
There are a few things I hope viewers take away from it. First, I want them to have fun and get excited by the possibilities! Second, I want them to feel that they are a part of the story – the fictional one on screen and their own personal lives. They have power and agency to change how their own stories go, just like they can decide what choices Penelope makes.
You’re an accomplished actress and established voiceover artist. What made you decide to try your hand at producing?
As actors, we’re advised time and time again that we have the power to shape our careers, and part of that power comes from producing our own work. Having come from a corporate background, I immediately understood the business side of the profession and producing seemed like a totally natural step. It also excited me to build something that would showcase my work.
You play the lead role of Penelope, a psychology graduate student who is required to see multiple therapists in order to graduate on time. Can you elaborate more on the overall premise of The Couch?
I have to give a giant shoutout to the beautiful and inspiring writer Sarah Knapp for designing and gorgeously executing the premise. I had come up with the Make It Yours concept, but didn’t have a specific story or characters in mind. I reached out to several writers and had several false starts before finding the perfect match.
I told Sarah that I wanted the narrative-changing format, but really left it up to her to come up with the idea and the story. As I’m an independent filmmaker, of course I wanted to keep production costs low, so I was looking for a story that could be told entirely within a few interior locations.
Sarah came up with the concept and I loved it. I have to laugh when I picture her trying to organize not only what Penelope has told each of the four therapists, but also what she’s told each of them across multiple storylines!
I can’t share what was in Sarah’s mind when she created the story, but I know that when I read it, it spoke to me immediately – there are so many elements in there that are universal to all of our lives and yet completely personal to each of us.
The idea of trying to make sense of how the parts of our lives fit together, the struggle to decide what parts of our lives to keep and which to shed depends on how each is serving us – sometimes we hold onto things for the wrong reasons. There’s a challenge just to take time to reflect on our choices.
What has the response been to The Couch thus far?
I hate to admit this, but I’m surprised at just how huge and positive the response has been! What began as a DIY project to share my acting work as part of my career has garnered so much attention and love that I am overwhelmed.
I truly never expected the project to gain the level of attention that it has, and it’s such an honor to be a part of that. I absolutely have to give thanks to Director Katy Harliss for bringing the story to life in such a moving way.
And of course each of the therapists has such a unique personality and perspective – everyone loves them all!
You created The Couch utilizing a diverse and almost all-female cast & crew. Was that a conscious decision? What was your motivation?
This was absolutely a conscious decision. As a white woman, I feel I’m on both sides of the majority-minority equation in terms of on-screen and behind-the-camera representation. On the one hand, I get to physically see a lot of “me” on screen, but on the other, my heart hurts every time I see another stereotypical female character, whether that’s through looks or character.
Society truly changes based on what they see on screen – I’m a firm believer in “if you see it, you can be it” – and as a content creator I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to put something different out into the world, work I wanted to see and which leveraged the skill sets of people who rarely get to express their creativity on or off camera.
The idea that a little girl may not even think about becoming a director or an astronaut or a head chef because she doesn’t see women in those roles is absolutely heartbreaking to me, and I wanted to help change that landscape.
Speaking of the cast and crew, I absolutely have to express my deep gratitude to every single person who worked on this project, both male and female. In addition to Sarah and Katy, Editor Sara Neufeld did an astronomical amount of work on the project, Composer Omri Lahav created the most beautiful original music for us, and so many others!