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  • NYFA Acting for Film Alumna’s “Frisky” Gets Distribution from Gravitas

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    friskyShot on a mere five thousand dollars, 8-Week Acting for Film alumna Claudia Pickering’s film, “Frisky,” was recently digitally released by Gravitas — which happens to be the same distribution company who distributed her former NYFA instructor, Adam Nimoy’s Spock documentary — in the US and Canada.

    The Sydney-born filmmaker began her foray into filmmaking through acting, which led to creating comedy sketches, short films and webseries’, the first of which was a music video titled “Sebring,” which included Danny Trejo, who choreographed and performed a synchronized dance for the clip.

    “Acting and directing involves a lot of switching between head spaces, and a lot of trust in your cast and crew,” says Pickering. “Having a very intimate understanding of each scene really helped the process of going between ‘acting’ and ‘directing’ modes. As an actor, I could feel when we had hit the right emotional moments in each scene, but the issue was, I couldn’t see whether we’d nailed the shot. Fortunately, I had a wonderful relationship with our cinematographer, Christiana Charalambous, and trusted her that when she said she got the shot, we were clear to move on.”

    Pickering has now written and produced two feature length films, ‘Frisky’ and ‘Winning Formula‘, of which she directed the former, and both have received international festival success including Official Selection at the Chicago Comedy Film Festival, Best Feature Film at the 10th Broad Humor Film Festival in Los Angeles, Best Comedy Feature at the Atlanta Underground Film Festival and the Director’s Choice for Best Feature Film at the Austin Revolution Film Festival. Pickering won the 2015 Tropfest Tropvine competition with a stop motion animation of a giraffe telling a dad joke, and regularly creates sketches with her comedy troupe, Frothpocalypse. She is currently developing several projects through her company, Cliff House Productions.

    Frisky

    “My experience at NYFA LA was nothing short of life-changing,” said Pickering. “With incredible teachers such as Adam Nimoy, the course not only taught great acting techniques and theory, but also gave me a solid practical and theoretical foundational understanding of filmmaking. Additionally, I met some wonderful lifelong friends, one of whom, Anna Bennett, I went on to form a comedy production company with.”

    Her most recent film, “Frisky,” involves two young women who move back to San Francisco, where they had met on exchange years earlier. However, their high career aspirations quickly become sidelined by their sexual interests. While wildly crass and charismatic in their public personas, they are in fact fundamentally at odds on many levels. Their opposing beliefs surrounding responsibility and romance, combined with their close quarters while crashing in an acquaintance’s living room, find them thrust onto a fast track to discovering what their friendship is really made of. Based on true events, “Frisky” is an honest, tongue-in-cheek look at what it is to be a woman in the limbo years between college and “the real world.”

    “The film is based on my real life experiences moving from Sydney to Los Angeles — the first and most emotionally potent time was for NYFA — then from LA to San Francisco,” says Pickering. “The emotions, the the friendships, the flings, the near-misses, and the life-long lasting love for people and places. I was living in San Francisco, waiting for another feature film, ‘Winning Formula,’ to go through post production in LA. I was working as an architect to earn some money, but was really becoming disillusioned by the whole profession as I’d sit at my desk and fantasize about stories I’d like to make into movies. One night, I was invited to attend the test screening of a film that a friend of a friend had made on virtually no budget with a six month turn-around. The film was such a joy to watch — so honest and funny — and had been shot on a DSLR camera just like one I already owned and I thought to myself, ‘I can do that.’ I checked my savings account balance that night, quit my job the next day and started writing ‘Frisky'”

    For more information about how to download or stream, “Frisky,” please visit the website at friskymovie.com.

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    March 24, 2017 • #WomenOfNYFA, Acting, Diversity, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3058

  • Producing Couple Finds Love and Distribution From NYFA Thesis Film

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    With students coming from all areas of the world, it’s inevitable that a student will partner up with somebody from an entirely different culture than their own. It’s even possible that the working relationship could extend in personal areas of life beyond the set. At least this was the case with two former students, Rudi and Radhika Womack, who met at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles, collaborated on Rudi’s thesis project, and are now married!

    Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 5.11.37 PM

    Rudi came to NYFA from the hills of Cheyenne, Wyoming while Radhika came all the way from New Delhi, India.

    Rudi’s thesis, “Call of the Wolf,” was produced by Radhika, and now, as a much deserving added bonus, the couple’s film was picked up for worldwide rights by Gravitas Ventures.

    Gravitas has set a Feb. 7 VOD/DVD release date for their film, which is about two kidnapped and trapped strangers who must survive the brutal onslaught of winter and are forced to play a deadly game of survival to outsmart their kidnapper — a sniper calling himself “Wolf.”

    “‘Call of The Wolf’ really stood out to us among a sea of submissions,” said Dan Fisher, director of acquisitions for Gravitas. “We really appreciated the quality of the filmmaking and the gradual reveal of the story, and we are excited to release across our multiple platform partners.”

    We spoke to the newly married couple and filmmaking partners before their upcoming release tomorrow.

    Congratulations on having your thesis film picked up by Gravitas! Can you tell us how this film first came about?

    Rudi: I have always wanted to tell a story of survival; of a character who is ripped from their element and forced into a hostile environment. As I developed the story I knew there wouldn’t be a chance of it getting picked up unless the film had some more “traditional” elements. Over seven drafts Call of the Wolf took shape; evolving from a story of pure survival in the wilderness, into a cat-and-mouse game with a man hunting the protagonist.

    How would each of you pitch this film in your own words?

    Rudi: There’s plot and story. The plot is simple: Madman kidnaps two strangers and forces them into the wilderness for a deadly game of survival. But the story, the meat and bones of the film, is all about Lester. He’s a rich kid who has never had responsibility, risk, or any real challenge. Over the course of the film he slowly evolves into a much stronger, self-reliant person.

    Radhika: The film is about survival. It is about overcoming difficulties, rising to the occasion to learning to fight for what is important to you.

    How did you get your thesis film into the hands of Gravitas, your distributor? Were you surprised when they picked up your film for distribution?

    Rudi: We avoided the festival circuit and went straight to distributors with the film. I guess it turned some heads because we had 3 positive responses in the span of a week. Gravitas Ventures was our best choice because of the care and consideration they had towards the integrity of the story. Gravitas Ventures has taken great care of us and I’m very lucky to be working with them.

    Radhika: We were surprised and thrilled when Gravitas Ventures picked up Call of the Wolf for distribution. They have a great line up of films and Call of the Wolf fits right in. We are looking forward to the great things we can do together with them.

    What were some of the challenges of shooting a film on location in the mountains of Wyoming? How did you overcome them?

    Rudi: Wyoming is my home, so I know how unpredictable it can be, especially on the mountain. The weather was really tough for sure. It dropped far below 0 many, many times. But the hardest part for me was the limitations of budget. There were so many things I wanted to do that simply were not possible with the constraints we had. Even simple things like dolly shots were mostly unachievable for us. It also makes it really hard to set up a shot in the snow, because you can’t leave any tracks. You end up walking a long way so the shot is clear. I knew the limitations of budget and equipment were going to hurt us, so very early on I started designing the look of the film around static wide shots. I think the mountain, trees, and snow offered a multitude of opportunities for beautifully framed wide shots. So that’s what we did; we trekked into the trees, set up the camera, and let it roll for a bit. This also helped with the slower pace of the film I was trying to achieve.

    Radhika: The biggest challenge we experienced was the weather. It was very cold and at that temperature and elevation, everyone’s efficiency level goes down. We had planned for it to the best of our ability by scheduling easier scenes at the beginning of the shoot, slower and shorter days than we would normally have if we shot in sunny Los Angeles. Kudos to the cast and crew to have powered through the month and for bringing their A-game on even in such difficult conditions!

    call of wolf

    Would you say your experience at NYFA was useful in terms of being able to create this film?

    Radhika: Yes. This was Rudi’s thesis film for his MFA in Filmmaking program. We had support and guidance from the teachers at every step of production. There were times we felt they were being too harsh or difficult but in the end it was always for our benefit.

    Where will we be able to see your film?

    Radhika: Just about anywhere that you would see most movies! It will be released on DVD and Blue Ray, and will be available on most major VOD platforms. We’re also hoping to secure a limited release in theaters across Colorado and Wyoming.

    Are you currently working on another project that you’d like to tell us about?

    Radhika: Rudi and I are currently in principal photography on our next untitled feature film. Additionally I am working on a documentary with an Academy Award nominated director as well as Line Producing a soon-to-be announced Virtual Reality series

    Rudi: We’re currently in production on our next feature film, which is still untitled. It follows the story of a young man who robs a pawnshop to help support his girlfriend. The robbery goes wrong and he barricades himself in a truck stop bathroom, which triggers an intense standoff with the police. Radhika and I also recently made a short film called “Chippy” about a dog who bites a little girl, and the repercussions it has on a single mother and her family. It’s just finishing up its festival run.

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