One of the pleasures of my new job teaching Video Production at a Boston high school is that the amazing Steven Ascher agreed to be on the advisory board for our TV & Film Department. Recently, after meeting to discuss the needs of my high school students, Steve and I got to chatting about his latest project with his wife Jeanne Jordan: Seduction Theory, a dark comedy about a kid, his family, and a girl who keeps slipping away. Check it out at Coolidge Corner on Wednesday night at 7 pm, and in the meantime, please enjoy the Q&A:
Q: It sounds as if your own childhood gave you the idea for this? Is the script autobiographical?
A: My father was a Freudian analyst and having a psychiatrist for a father is always complicated, particularly in my family! My wife Jeanne Jordan and I had made Troublesome Creek, a documentary largely about her father, and Jeannie always encouraged me to do a film about my dad. The project actually started as a documentary, but I found I couldn’t get at the things I was interested in about our family dynamics and about Freud in that form. I’d done short drama before and written feature screenplays, so I set out on that path.
Q: What are some of the key differences tackling a drama versus a documentary?
A: In terms of storytelling, doing this as a drama was incredibly liberating. Though aspects are based on real life, much is invented and having the freedom to riff, re-position and comment was essential. I wanted to get at the truth but not exactly tell tales out of school, so creating a fictional universe allowed me to touch on things I might not have in a documentary. Also, we consider humor essential in all of our films, especially if they’re about serious things. Seen from the perspective of years, our lives growing up were in lots of ways a dark comedy, and it was a lot easier to get at that humor through fiction.
Q: Can you share a childhood moment that is related to have a psychoanalyst for a dad?
A: One of the themes in the film is how psychological thinking could get weaponized. There’s a bit about how as kids we were responsible not just for what we said or did, but also our unconscious motivations. Most kids barely know what they’re doing, much less why they’re doing it. So it created some pretty bizarre situations where you might be accused of having some psychological or sexual intent that felt like the opposite of reality, or, to a kid, totally absurd. Of course, if it came from Freud, so it had to be true. A lot of those things look truly ridiculous today.
Q: I love behind-the-scenes stories about “the making of.” Any interesting moments?
A: In the script, there are plenty of sexual references about things like masturbation, condoms, parents having sex, and more. We were really concerned about Christian Goodwin, the actor who plays the kid who was only 11 at the time and very innocent, having to deal with that. We loved his audition and were incredibly nervous that his mom would object to him being in the film. She didn’t, and afterwards thanked us because she’d wanted to talk with him about some of that stuff, and the movie gave her an opportunity. He did an amazing job with lots of things he didn’t understand at the time.
Q: Anything else?
A: Seduction Theory is by moments funny, poignant, and (we hope) moving. The screening at Coolidge Corner on Wednesday will include a discussion with psychoanalysts Steven Cooper and Michelle Baker. The film and discussion are a chance to revisit Freud and talk about how incredibly influential he’s been in American thought--and what’s happened to that today.
Photo credits: West City Films
Trailer and tickets at www.seductiontheorymovie.com