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Meet Claudia Restrepo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Claudia Restrepo.

So, before we jump into specific questions about what you do, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
The Cliffsnotes version: St. Louis, MO born n’ bred to Colombian parents  > Occidental College in LA for Literature and Theater > waited tables and produced for YT celebs > wrote a play for Hollywood Fringe 2012 > wrote a few features/ pilots, NHMC TV Writing Program 2014 > BuzzFeed producer 2015-2019 > Amassed a collection of short films I’ve written and directed and turned my focus towards world domination. Somewhere in there, I also got a cat.

I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of a renaissance man. At any given point in my journey, I’ve considered being a novelist, a journalist, a costume designer, a musician, an actor, a comedian, a museum curator/graphic designer/any career pursued by Reese Witherspoon or J. Lo in their 2000’s rom-com. And the best realization I ever had, is that film lets me do it all. Writing and directing my own work, lets me embrace the maniacal glitter-covered control freak I’ve always been. Finishing a film you’re proud of is the best high there is. The making of it is months of scream-inducing labor, but that’s just part of the deal.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
“Easy” is very subjective. I’ve never felt like anything has been that easy, but compared to someone else’s story I might be leading a pretty charmed existence. I will say one of the hardest parts of pursuing my passion in a very cis-male dominated field, is imposter syndrome.  I so admire people that stumble into a room, see the most successful person in it, and without hesitation decide, “yeah, I can do that.” I moved to LA as a midwest Latina with a proclivity for five-dollar words and Jane Austen novels- a far cry from the white men dominating writers’ rooms and directing my favorite films at the time. I didn’t initially see myself running a set, or creating a show because women like Tanya Saracho or Gloria Calderón-Kellett hadn’t done it yet.

Self-promotion is also a struggle. Women especially are conditioned to take up less space and taught the virtues of humility, but you have to kill that part of yourself to make it in this industry. I once had an over-priced voice teacher tell me, “Claudia, you don’t help anyone by playing small.” That advice alone was probably worth the price of the class.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
During the last few years, I’ve made dozens of short films that I’m immensely proud of. And these are not films costing tens of thousands of dollars with huge crews. They’re high-quality shorts made for almost no money, with a skeleton crew. Would I love to work on a big-budget production? Of course! DM me the details! But as far as producing my own work, my superpower is knowing about low budget production, and being strong enough in my craft, that damn I’ll make your $20 look like 20k. Which is not an invitation to underpay me by the way, haha. I just don’t subscribe to the notion that you have to spend a lot of money to make a good film.

As far as the work I like to do if I could only make historical and genre comedies for the rest of my life, I’d be a happy camper. Throw in a little magical realism and some queer/brown storylines and I’m living the dream.

I’m also deeply romantic and struggle with depression, so I’m very drawn to relationship and family dramas. My life is a dramedy so a lot of my work tends to be as well.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was a book worm, and I was heavily influenced by the protagonists in the books I read. After reading Tom Sawyer, I tried to pull my tooth out with a string and a slamming door. After reading Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, I tried (unsuccessfully) to make a candy bar last a whole year. I was obsessed with wanting to live in the attic since that’s where Pollyanna and The Little Princess and so many others down on their luck characters lived.

I did enjoy performing, I certainly have my fair share of embarrassing home videos featuring a very precocious young Claudia, but I didn’t crave the spotlight as much as a good book. I was a band geek and theater nerd in high school. I played the flute, and talk about representation if I’d known being Lizzo was an option I would have stayed playing that thing for YEARS. I can still do a mean Swan Lake theme. I really excelled in my AP English class, so I went to college with the intention of majoring in English Lit, and ultimately pursuing academia or creative writing. It wasn’t long before I was auditioning for college plays and declaring a theater major as well. Ten years later I’ve evolved into a film maker, and the richness of the medium is worth all the blood sweat and tears combined.

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Image Credit:
Sela Shiloni

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