We had the absolute pleasure to speak to Jordan Anstatt, the talented director of the short film Max is Bleeding which shares a tragic story of domestic violence. A topic which is very crucial, we spoke to Jordan about his film; asking why it is was very important for him to tell this story, the location of the film, the cast and what messages he wants the audience to take away from his short.
Hello Jordan, how are you doing and how have you been during this pandemic?
Hey there! I’m doing better than this time last year, that’s for sure. The pandemic has been a rollercoaster and I’m grateful that so much of normal life has returned. It was an interesting time of reflection for me despite a lot of anxiety and eventually getting sick. Recently I was able to attend a film festival in person for the first time since 2019, so that was incredible.
Congratulations on Max Is Bleeding, it is such a powerful short. Where did the idea come from? What inspired you to tell this story?
Thank you very much, shoutout to Palm Springs ShortFest for premiering it. We had a great first screening. It was written by my friend and colleague Louis Lagayette—he got the idea after seeing a viral video from 2018 about a woman trying to escape her boyfriend during a trip to the vet. When I read the script, I recognized the story and was intrigued as to how the film would add to the story. He made it into such a wild ride and the script elicited a strong reaction in me. Telling this story through film allowed me to dive into this incredibly tense, complex situation.
Why is it so important for domestic violence stories to be told through the medium of film?
Film is perfect for unearthing an individual character’s perspective. The audience can begin to understand a story through an individual point of view, and with a really hidden issue like domestic violence, it’s important to see and experience these situations as a cinematic story. Exposing them through film can create awareness and a shared space for discussion and critique.
Tell us about the cast.
Chloe Sirene was dedicated to this role from the very beginning and elevated the film to a whole new level. She created her own inner world that was the center of the film. As a director, that’s a special thing to get to capture. Matias Bonino was the perfect match, casting-wise, and was equally dedicated to portraying Sam. Matias is a really kind guy, so it was almost shocking to see him portray Sam with such honesty. The dark spaces are in all of us, but the actors are the ones who ultimately had to go there and live in it. Ameerah Briggs and Julie Reifers were so generous with their time portraying the vet staff—they let me try improv with them and rehearse which, for a short film, is a huge privilege. I’m grateful to all of them—they kept the film truthful and believable.
Tell us about the location as to when you shot the film.
We shot for three full days back in the summer of 2019. The office location was mostly in Fort Lee, NJ, and we used a surrounding neighborhood for the car scene. We had to shoot the “intake room” scene at Columbia University, which was a challenge. I was so nervous that the change of buildings wouldn’t look right, but now, when I see it, I couldn’t be happier! That tiny, dark room was perfect. Something about shooting in real locations is so fun—I love reacting to a space and using its existing mood to fit into a story.
Why pick the title ‘Max Is Bleeding’ for your title of this short film and how does that relate to the lead actress of the film?
The title was Louis’ brilliant idea from the start—it puts the audience in the right mood for the movie. It’s disturbing and mysterious at the same time. When I tell people the title, I often get a reaction of surprise and concern, which is exactly what I want. As far as relating to the central drama of the movie, it sidesteps Courtney and her journey in a way that causes viewers to ask questions.
What is the main message you want people to take away from your film?
There’s a lot in there—the more literal message is about the terrifying realities of domestic violence and the need to maintain awareness of it. I think ultimately, it’s a breakup film that attempts to admit the complexity of relationships. Godard said that stories have a beginning, middle, and end, but not necissarily in that order—that’s true of Max is Bleeding and it’s true of relationships. It’s hard to know what’s a new beginning, or an ending, or both, in life. It takes so much courage and bravery to change anything, espeically in unhealthy relationships, and I hope the film provides some perspective about that.
Describe Max Is Bleeding in one word.
What are your upcoming projects?
I just finished a short documentary called Josephine. That was a really special project I shot during COVID—I follwed my nephew around during the arrival of his new baby sister. I’ll be shooting a comedic revenge film set at a skatepark called Nobody Skates Except for Me this fall. And, more long-term, I’m adapting my TV pilot into a feature film—it’s a religious dramedy called The Gospel According to Eddie. Between all that, I think I’ll have plenty to do!