SEDUCTION THEORY is a darkly comic coming of age story of a boy, his psychiatrist father and the girl he can’t get out of his mind.
Produced by Oscar nominees and Sundance Grand Jury Prize winners Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan. Written and directed by Ascher, whose childhood bed was his father’s former psychiatric couch.
Starring Tony nominee Michael Cumpsty, Georgia Lyman and Christian Goodwin.
20 minutes. A West City Films production.
Count the great short films on your fingers. The usual mistake is that they are too ambitious for the brief length, but what if the ambition actually succeeds? I am jubilant about Steven Ascher’s extraordinary Seduction Theory, 20 minutes of jam-packed fictionalized autobiography based on his childhood as the bed-wetting son of an abrasive, egotistic, very famous Freudian psychoanalyst. The story is immediately compelling, and the unusual way it is told is even better, gorgeously shot by Stephen McCarthy, beautifully edited by Jeanne Jordan, and with acting almost shockingly good. A wise work, and such a pleasurable work. And funny! – Gerald Peary, Film Critic
The film is wonderful. Such an adroit mixture of wit, seriousness and invention! Really terrific. – Alfred Guzzetti, Filmmaker
This short film is a little gem. Funny, mysterious, painful, intelligent — and ultimately very rewarding. It’s amazing how great a story can be told in such a short period of time. I highly recommend this to anyone who was ever a kid. – Whit, Amazon Customer
“Oh, my God! — Seduction Theory is so great! So funny, so smart, so ingeniously constructed, so packed! I love the range of gags and the sheer amount of honesty in the writing. It’s rather incredible how much emotional diversity you get in this film, how lived-in and detailed the characters are. Beautifully acted and shot, too — this really has it all. The film achieves something perfect when gets you laughing while you have a lump in your throat.” – Guy Maddin, Director
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Seduction Theory started with documentary interviews about my father, a Freudian analyst who practiced from the 1950s to 2003. But the footage couldn’t capture what I was after and at Jeannie’s urging I reconceived the film as a drama. Films tend to treat psychiatry either with great seriousness or as something zany. I wanted to approach it as part of life. Seduction Theory is first a film about a family, one in which psychology, conflicted motives and hidden meanings are always in play.
The Father in Seduction Theory isn’t merely a shrink, he’s a Freudian. In the 21st century, Freud can seem like a dusty artifact or a punchline in a Woody Allen film. But Freud’s insights are infused into literature, film and our everyday lives. Most of us employ his ideas about symbolism, verbal slips, hidden motives, projection, etc., without even knowing his role in defining them. His view that the mind is divided into id, ego and superego can’t be proven scientifically, but it still serves as a useful metaphor. Growing up in the 1960s with a father who trained at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, the problem was that Freudian theory wasn’t seen as useful metaphor but as holy writ. My father’s patients and many friends saw him a purveyor of timeless insights into the soul. His pronouncements and prescriptions–backed by that training and the prominence of Freud in the zeitgeist–carried a kind of weight that my mother, for one, found impossible to push back against, despite how outrageous or misguided some of that advice seems now.
There’s a scene in the film in which the Kid tells us about the moment when Freud abandoned his Seduction Theory — in which women’s accounts of childhood sexual abuse were taken seriously — and he suddenly decided their accounts were just fantasy. The doctor held the power to declare what’s fact and what’s fiction. In SEDUCTION THEORY, I wanted to vest some of that power in the Kid and explore how fiction at times can be more truthful than fact.
SEDUCTION THEORY is a short, and has the structure of a short story. But we think of it as a proof-of-concept for a dark comedy series that explores this family along a longer timeline, through a time of huge changes within the family, the community and American culture.
Produced by Steven Ascher & Jeanne Jordan
The Father – Michael Cumpsty
The Mother – Georgia Lyman
The Girl – Ariel Bavly
The Kid – Christian Goodwin
The Sister – Lily Gavin
Male Patient – Richard Snee
Female Patient – Emily Lazzaro
Female Patient #2 – Therese Lloyd
Kid’s Therapist – Dale Place
Kid’s Therapist #2 – Michael Yogman
Kid’s Wife – Samantha Richert
Marriage Counselor – Patty Collinge
Mover #1 – Christopher Tarjan
Mover #2 – Kevin Sweet
At the basketball court
Director of Photography
Carolyn Pickman, C.S.A
Robert Penzer, MD
ART Payroll American Residuals and Talent
Prop and Set Fabrication
Background Art thanks
Norah Benjamin Kubie
Patty Collinge & Jan Egelson
Jon, Ben and Eli Haber
Robert and Deborah Penzer
Noah Seixas & Dana Standish
Town of Brookline, MA
Theresa & Ken Harris
Jim & Gini Jordan
Massachusetts Film Office – Tim Grafft
Richard and Betty Musto
City of Newton, MA
Steve & Peggy Cohen
SAG-AFTRA New England
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