Longtime actor takes a stab at directing with Damnationland debut

Photo by Ann Tracy Photography  Jenny Anastasoff (left) behind the scenes of her debut film "Sui Generis."

Photo by Ann Tracy Photography
Jenny Anastasoff (left) behind the scenes of her debut film “Sui Generis.”

Jenny Anastasoff has been working in the film industry for roughly 20 years now. She’s been an actor, production assistant, an extra countless times, and ultimately a strong advocate for the Maine film scene. But, now there’s a new title Anastasoff can add to her resume, venturing into the world of directing with her first short,“Sui Generis.”

“You know what’s cool, is finally I have found something that matches my compulsive and obsessive nature,” Anastasoff said in a recent interview. “As an actor, when you’re in something – and usually I tend to have smaller roles, I’ve never been a lead – you’re consumed with your piece of it, and obsessed about that piece of it. But when you’re the director and the producer, you have authority over all of it, and responsibility. So it’s a very consuming, amazing process. And for my brain that loves that kind of stuff, it’s like, oh wow, I’ve found something that fits how my brain works.”

“Sui Generis,” is a 14-minute psychological thriller premiering Oct. 17 at this year’s Damnationland festival, which for five years now has showcased the terrifying side of some of the most talented filmmakers in the state. Anastasoff’s first outing as a director is a classic “Twilight Zone” setup, begging the question: What if you woke up in a strange place and no one believed you were you?

But Anastasoff is holding her cards pretty close to keep audiences in the dark until the premiere.

“We have a great little twist in it and you don’t want to give too much away, but you want to intrigue people. So we’ve been doing the teaser trailers like ‘Oh, what do we show them?’”

The film, co-written by “Ragged Isle” lead scribe Greg Tulonen, explores the duality of its lead character, a housewife played by Lisa Boucher, an acting adjunct professor at Southern Maine Community College whom Anastasoff raves about. The film also stars Alexa Reddy, who at just 10 years old has already landed more roles than some veterans, and Daniel Noel, a staple in the Maine film community.

While Anastasoff was able to find the right actors in the area, her local film connections also helped fill out her production roster with talents such as director of photography Phil Cormier, production guru Marc Bartholomew, and even her own brother, Brooklyn-based Jason Anastasoff, who produced the film’s score.

“I’m really, really lucky that I know a lot of really talented people,” said Anastasoff. “Writers, directors, shooters, actors, everybody.”

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Though Anastasoff refers to every member of her cast and crew as “a gift” for her to work with, it’s her firm grasp on the filmmaking process and 20 years of experience that successfully kept “Sui Generis” on course.

“Having done a lot of the other stuff – I’ve never shot or edited, besides cat videos for YouTube – I had some basic understanding about a lot of the components that feeds into being able to be present on set and understand what other people need,” said Anastasoff.

And, though she can now add director to her resume, for Anastasoff that feather in her cap is secondary. It’s clear that simply being part of the filmmaking process is a passion for her, and that more than anything, her primary role will always be an advocate for Maine cinema, championing and encouraging those she knows have the same passion.

“Based on my own adventure this year, I have been so blessed to have this community step up and help me,” said Anastasoff. “It happened. They made a dream come true. I know I’m gonna be crying. I know I’m going to have a big emotional moment at the State Theatre … because I’m just overwhelmed with how many gifts I’ve been given.”

For more on Damnationland, or for tickets, visit www.damnationland.com.

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