Misdirection: a short film

Los Angeles, California | Film Short

LGBTQ, Comedy

Carly Usdin

1 Campaigns | California, United States

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MUSCLE MEMORY is a queer comedy about a college freshman who falls in love with close-up magic as an escape from her unrequited crush on her roommate and her undiagnosed OCD, made as part of the American Film Institute's Directing Workshop for Women.

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About The Project

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Mission Statement

Everything I create must reflect the world around me, so representation & inclusion are extremely important. Additionally, this project is being made as part of AFI's Directing Workshop for Women, which is committed to increasing the number of female directors working in film & TV.

The Story


An experimental romantic comedy about a college freshman who falls in love with close-up magic as an escape from her unrequited crush on her roommate and her undiagnosed OCD, made as part of AFI's prestigious Directing Workshop for Women.


Muscle Memory is a deeply personal coming-of-age story inspired by my own coming out, my diagnosis with obsessive-compulsive disorder and my love of magic. It features a young queer woman of color performing magic tricks, which is something rarely seen on screen. And while the concept is extremely specific, I strive to create something universal and relatable through themes of love, sacrifice and identity.

This project is inspired by some of my favorite films, including But I’m a Cheerleader and Scott Pilgrim vs The World. I like to describe Muscle Memory as an “experimental romantic comedy.” The experimental nature of the film will be seen in the use of a dynamic audiovisual language to immerse the viewer inside the mind of someone who has OCD -- specifically obsessive counting and organizing. The title refers to the dual nature of repetition: it can help you achieve perfection or it can drive you insane.



Carly Usdin is an award-winning director, writer, producer and editor. She began her career in New York at Viacom Media Networks, where she won a One Show Award and several Promax BDA Awards for her RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE promo campaigns.

Primarily crafting short-form content, her freelance clients include Funny or Die, CollegeHumor, Amy Poehler's Smart Girls, World of Wonder, CBS, Fullscreen, Astronauts Wanted, New Form, TruTV, Viacom and YouTube. In 2016, Usdin's first feature, the no-budget indie SUICIDE KALE, won the Audience Award for Best First Feature at Outfest and is now available on iTunes, Vimeo, Seed&Spark and Amazon Prime.

2017 saw the release of Usdin's first comic book series, "Heavy Vinyl," from Boom! Studios. She also served as showrunner and director of the digital anthology series THREADS, now streaming on Verizon's go90 platform. Currently she is developing several projects through her production company, Scheme Machine Studios, which she owns with her wife, photographer Robin Roemer. Usdin is based in Los Angeles and is a proud member of the Academy of Magical Arts.



CAMILA (her friends call her Cam) - masculine-of-center queer 19-year-old college student (played by Vico Ortiz)
JESSIE - Cam's 19-year-old straight roommate
MATT - 20, lives across the hall, pretty cute for a guy
DR. BECKER - Cam's therapist (played by Jasika Nicole)
HUNTER - Cam's magician mentor (played by Justin Willman)
ROBIN - 20, the new girl (played by Jasmin Savoy Brown)



AFI is a 510(c)(3) organization, so your donation can be tax deductible to the extent of the law (donors should consult with a tax preparer regarding donation eligibility).


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About This Team

Carly Usdin (writer/director)

I'm an award-winning filmmaker best known for directing the no-budget indie feature Suicide Kale and creating and writing the comic book series Heavy Vinyl. Learn more about me at carlyusdin.com.


Mari Rivera (executive producer)

Mari Rivera is an LA born and raised Producer of commercials and films. Mari is driven by her passion to tell compelling stories about subjects that matter and will make a social impact.


Joe Toronto (producer)

Joe Toronto is an award-winning film producer whose work has played in over 150 film festivals worldwide. In 2017, Joe co-produced the indie horror film Happy Hunting, Go90's digital series Threads, and served as an Associate Producer for YouTube Red's hit series Escape the Night. Joe has produced several award-winning short films, most notably Super Sex and Horseshoe Theory. Super Sex premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival and won the Grand Jury Prize at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival. Horseshoe Theory premiered at the 2017 Slamdance Film Festival where it won its Grand Jury prize. Joe's current projects include YouTube Red's Escape the Night, which is in its third season. 


Robin Roemer (producer)

Robin is a photographer, producer and proud wife of Carly Usdin. She is the co-founder of Scheme Machine Studios, their production company started 5 years ago which encompasses the pair's joint projects and a studio space in central LA.


Moira Morel (cinematographer)

Moira Morel is an award-winning Latinx filmmaker living in Los Angeles. Morel received her MFA in cinematography from the American Film Institute in 2014. Many of the films that Morel lensed have screened and won awards at film festivals all over the world, including Unlovable (premiering at SXSW in 2018), The Skinny (premiering at Sundance in 2015), and The Punk Singer (premiering at SXSW in 2013). Vámonos, the short film that Morel both shot and co-wrote, won an Imagen award for "Best Theatrical Short Film” in 2016.


Kayla Drescher (magic consultant)

Originally from Connecticut, Kayla Drescher has performed on shows like Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us” and NBC’s “Today Show”. She has performed for clients such as Microsoft, IBM, KB homes, Make a Wish, and is currently featured in the world-touring show “Champions of Magic”. Kayla also teaches magic as part of the Magic Castle’s University Program. Besides magic, Kayla loves coffee and playing with her rescue dog, Bowie.


Jenny Owen Youngs (composer)

Jenny Owen Youngs is a songwriter and recording artist who has toured internationally and whose songs have been heard in Weeds, Bojack Horseman, and Switched at Birth among other shows. Youngs has also co-written songs for Brett Dennen, Pitbull, Ingrid Michaelson, A.W., and others, including the Shungudzo song “Come On Back” which appeared in the film Fifty Shades Freed as well as on the film’s soundtrack.


Kristine Thune (illustrator/graphic designer)

Kristine Thune is an illustrator, animator, and graphic designer, living in Southern California. She primarily designs for musicians and bands, creating work for talented artists such as Tegan & Sara, Meiko, Julia Nunes, Jenny Owen Youngs, just to name a few. In her spare time, Kristine likes to create poignant personal comics about her feelings and/or episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


Theo DeMarco (associate producer)

Theo DeMarco is a writer, actor, and producer. Their work has screened at Sundance and Cannes film festivals.

Current Team