Directed by Cassie Llanas
After a bad break-up with a married woman, a young man realizes that something of his has gone missing.
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I am a queer mixed-race Chicanx eager to bring stories to life on whatever screen will have me. I enjoy crafting cartoonish worlds and telling stories that make you laugh one minute before ripping your heart out, slamming it to the ground, and stomping on it the next…before making you laugh again through your tears.
Midwestern born and raised, I moved out to Los Angeles in my early twenties and began working in television production. Currently I am living in Chicago, pursuing an MFA in film and television directing from DePaul University and am trying to reacclimatize to the cold.
I was giddy with excitement when Gabe, the writer & my older brother, agreed to let me direct Phantom Heart. I had fallen in love with the script when he first had me read it in 2016- a year that seems like a lifetime ago. I was still optimistic about my chances in the Los Angeles online dating pool and was still the young person in the production office. Fast forward to 2022. I’m thirty with major back issues living in Chicago directing more than I ever did in LA.
When I pitched my vision for Phantom Heart to Gabe, I had cut a sizzle reel together with footage from various suspenseful horror movies including: The Invitation, Raw, Videodrome, and The One I Love. I adored how these movies let silence scream and I really felt those moments in re-reading Phantom Heart. Galo has his heart broken and literally ripped from his body and the grief he carries weighs him down. I ended up cutting a lot of the dialogue (sorry Gabe) because what is there to say that couldn’t be conveyed in an isolating shot? My DP, Jeff, and I agreed that using anamorphic lenses would be a great tool in visually communicating how utterly alone each character is in this short, even when people inhabit the same shot, they feel so distant. I also knew I wanted to keep the characters distant from us, the audience. They’re keeping their emotions so close to the chest that it’s like, even though we want to know what they’re thinking, we only catch a glimpse of their face – we aren’t living in the moment with them, we’re trying to figure them out from down the hall or across the room. I’m also thankful that we shot this in Chicago. While it gets chilly in Los Angeles, Chicago has a biting cold which I know audiences weren’t there to experience with us when we shot exteriors, but it helped to get the cast and crew in the right brooding mindset.
So, grab a blanket and give a side-eye to your loved ones and be careful with your heart.