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Nikki Braendlin talks about being a female film maker and OCD

Nikki Braendlin works with Laurel Porter (left) during the filming of 'As high as the sky'
Nikki Braendlin works with Laurel Porter (left) during the filming of 'As high as the sky'
Nikki Braendlin

The Los Angeles Indie film: As high as the sky provides a look into the challenges of living with obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD). During an interview with director Nikki Braendlin on Sunday from her home in Los Angeles, the film maker talked about the challenges she faced being a female film in a male dominated industry, getting a film mainstreamed and also living with OCD.

As high as the Sky accurately depicts a woman dealing with an anxiety disorder that is characterized by nervousness, uneasiness, and repetitive actions. It is estimated that up to one half of the adults who suffer from OCD link the cause to a childhood trauma like the death of a parent or some other life altering event. “Because I have experienced my compulsions worsen when I am under stress, I wanted to delve into a character with OCD who is going through a particularly difficult time,” said Braendlin.

In the film the character Margaret, played by Caroline Fogarty begins to feel the full effects of the disorder after losing her long time fiancé and she is visited by her rarely seen sister and niece Josephine and Hannah, brilliantly played by Bonnie McNeil and Laurel Porter. The family comes together to learn about even more bad news while at the same time educating Margaret of her childhood loss.

The film which was written and directed by Nikki Braendlin on a shoe-string budget was shot in the home of Caroline Fogarty in a suburb of Los Angeles. The project was also filmed and produced by an all-female cast and crew which included the telephone voices of Dee Wallace who was best known for her role as the mother in E.T. and Jenny O'Hara (Mystic River).

Braendlin said that she connected with Wallace and O’Hara by using Facebook and by approaching them after a show: “We didn't approach their representation because offering parts that aren't on screen and for very little money is not a selling point! My producer contacted Dee Wallace via Facebook; she read, loved the script and agreed to be in it. I saw Jenny O'Hara in a play on its last weekend; I went to the theater after the show and approached her as she was talking to audience members outside. She readily agreed as well. People definitely recognize their names but I'm not sure if it's boosted the film, maybe because you never see them on camera!”

When asked about the challenges of being a female in a mostly male populated industry Braendlin said: “I recently read an article that said there are more female coal miners than female Hollywood directors. The ‘money people’ still seem to be afraid to put a woman in charge of a large budgeted film. And they also seem to think that when a female driven film is a success, that's it a fluke. However, the fact that people are talking and writing about this issue so much is a good thing and hopefully we'll see some change.

Braendlin also spoke about her experiences in getting the film launched: “Because marketing budgets are usually lean for smaller, independently produced films, word of mouth is key. With the availability of digital media, there are so many films being made now, which is great, but it also means it's harder to get seen. I've heard people talking about finding niche audiences, trying to appeal to certain demographics and putting "name" actors in your cast as ways to make your film successful but at the end of the day, a good film is a good film and those will get attention.”

As high as the sky will premier at the Tryon Theater on July 21.

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