Seduction Theory


Seduction Theory Poster

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 (recently appearing in Severance on Apple TV), Georgia Lyman and Christian Goodwin.

BEST DARK COMEDY – Worldfest Houston

20 min.
A West City Films production

Seduction Theory film - Christian Goodwin

Worldfest Houston
Seduction Theory film - office scene

“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 Rummel

“The film is wonderful. Such an adroit mixture of wit, seriousness and invention! Really terrific.” Alfred Guzzetti, Filmmaker

“Says more than films 10 times its length. A profound meditation on childhood, psychiatry, love, subtle forms of abuse, the nature of time. A truly original short film with a really engaging young actor who manages to carry the whole philosophical weight of it.” Loukas S., Amazon Customer

Seduction Theory film - hilltop

“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

“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

Seduction Theory film ridgeline

Written and directed by Steven Ascher
Produced by Steven Ascher & Jeanne Jordan.
Cinematography by Stephen McCarthy
Production Design by Amy Whitten
Edited by Jeanne Jordan
Music by Sheldon Mirowitz
Seduction Theory film - Christian Goodwin on couch


My wife Jeanne Jordan and I are best known for films like Troublesome Creek and So Much So Fast, documentary sagas in which character and relationships shape a family’s destiny.

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 of his 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.


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
Dylan Ansel-Kelly
Max Fritsch
Derick Gavin
Benjamin Haber
Lydia McCarthy
Calvin Robertson

Written & directed by Steven Ascher

Produced by Steven Ascher & Jeanne Jordan

Director of Photography
Stephen McCarthy

Production Designer
Amy Whitten

Jeanne Jordan

Consulting Producer
Mike Bowes

Costume Designer
Deborah Newhall

Music Composer
Sheldon Mirowitz

Carolyn Pickman, C.S.A

Fred Burnham
Mario Cardenas
John Osborne
Bill Shamlian

Assistant Camera
Kevin Sweet

Michael Federico

Craft Services
Sheelah Ward

Production Assistants
Cameron Ferguson
Carson Brennan
Sam Hayes

Ashleigh Taylor
Victoria Porter

Rerecording Mixer
Richard Bock
Technical Advisor
Robert Penzer, MD

ART Payroll American Residuals and Talent
Joan debow

CP casting
Matt Bouldry
Kyle Crand

Prop and Set Fabrication
Daniel Brisson
Steve Crosby

Getty images

Background Art thanks
Norah Benjamin Kubie
Ned Johnston

Jordan Ascher
Bill Brennan
Patty Collinge & Jan Egelson
Carolyn Goldstein
Robert Goodman
Theresa Goodwin
Jon, Ben and Eli Haber
Carol Hulsizer
Robert and Deborah Penzer
Noah Seixas & Dana Standish

Elizabeth Ascher
Jeannette Austin
Miriam Bavly
Bryan Bernfeld
Town of Brookline, MA
Robert Bonazoli
Breanna Carroll
Lori Carroll
Lincoln Childs
Hillary Derby
Chris Dias
John Dias
Carol Donovan
Joy Dryfoos
Sophie Freud
Stephanie Gavin
Richard Gordon
Theresa & Ken Harris
Ruth Hammel
Jim & Gini Jordan
Diane Juliar
Richard Lazarus
Massachusetts Film Office – Tim Grafft
Ross McElwee
Robb Moss
Richard and Betty Musto
City of Newton, MA
Newtonville Pet
Steve & Peggy Cohen
Jim Ohm
Marty Ostrow
Anthony Pellegrino
Joseph Quinn
David Quinn
Ann Richmond
Valery Rockwell
Mitch Ryerson
SAG-AFTRA New England
Jessica Maher
Andrew Thurnauer
Tommy White
Michael Yogman

Seduction Theory film - the kids

Seduction Theory film


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