A college freshman uses magic to escape her broken heart and obsessive-compulsive disorder in queer comedy short, Misdirection. Director, Carly Usdin, talks to us here about creating quite a personal story and balancing the comedy and positive representation.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO DIRECTING?
CARLY: I always knew I wanted to work in film and television, but I had no idea what that would look like. I started as an editor and eventually worked my way up from there. The first time I stepped on set as director I knew it was what I wanted to do every single day, it just felt right.
WHERE DID THE CONCEPT OF THE STORY COME FROM?
CARLY: It's a deeply personal story with elements pulled from various events and situations over the course of my life, and then I just cranked the drama up a bit! I knew I wanted to make a film that immersed audiences inside the mind of someone with the same kind of OCD I have, and I knew that I wanted to tell a queer love story. A few years ago I started taking magic lessons and then everything else sorta fell into place.
DID YOU COME ACROSS ANY OBSTACLES DURING THE MAKING OF THE FILM? IF YES, HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?
CARLY: Oh my goodness, so many!! So first, I made the film as part of AFI's incredible Directing Workshop for Women. It's a really amazing program and I am so happy I got to do it, but there are a lot of constraints specific to that. Our total budget was only $25k and we only had 4 days to shoot. The days had to be 12-hr days as well. So time was definitely the biggest obstacle for us. But I also believe that limitations can fuel creativity, so we just kept paring down the shot list and really prioritizing shots and scenes based on what would tell the best possible version of the story.
WHAT WAS THE BEST PART OF THE EXPERIENCE OF MAKING THIS FILM?
CARLY: I adored every single member of our cast and crew. It was a real labor of love for everyone involved and the vibe on set was really, really wonderful. Our team was stacked with incredibly talented, genuinely lovely humans, and it was so much fun getting to work with everyone. I also went through the Workshop with 7 talented female filmmakers who each made their own short films, and getting to know them and the other DWW alumnae was a gift.
HOW DID YOU FIND MAKING A COMEDY WHILST ALSO BEING MINDFUL OF REPRESENTING OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER SENSITIVELY?
CARLY: That's a great question, and something I definitely struggled with as I was developing the script. My guiding principle was always to just be true to my own experiences and hope that it was relatable. The representation in the film was really important to me, trying to tell an interesting and entertaining story while honoring my communities.
WHAT DO YOU WANT THE AUDIENCE TO TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR FILM?
CARLY: I want them to find this very specific, unique story to be ultimately very relatable. I want them to be charmed by the characters, especially Cam. I want them to talk openly about mental illness. I want them to ask why there aren't more female or queer magicians!! And I want them to want more.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
CARLY: I'm currently developing the short into a series and developing a queer rom-com feature. I also write two comic books for Boom! Studios: "Heavy Vinyl" and "The Avant-Guards."
ONLY 4% OF THE HIGHEST GROSSING FILMS IN THE PAST DECADE WERE DIRECTED BY WOMEN, BEING A FEMALE DIRECTOR CAN BE DISHEARTENING IN THIS ENVIRONMENT. WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE FOR ASPIRING FEMALE DIRECTORS OUT THERE?
CARLY: Keep working as much as you can!! Find a network of female filmmakers you trust, it's far less lonely that way. And stay true to yourself and your unique voice.
Interview by Sophie Duncan & Caris Rianne
Misdirection is showing in the DANCING WITH A STRANGER shorts collection on Sat 30 March. For tickets and information please visit here. You can view the trailer below along with links to the film makers social media platforms.