Schenectady native Gorman Ruggiero stars in award-winning short film ‘Calf Rope’

Scenes from "Calf Rope," with Gorman Ruggiero as an auctioneer in the lower frame. (Screen captures from the film)

Scenes from "Calf Rope," with Gorman Ruggiero as an auctioneer in the lower frame. (Screen captures from the film)

Schenectady native Gorman Ruggiero has had to learn a lot of strange skills as an actor and producer. 

Auctioneering is among the latest. 

“An actor has to prepare every character as well as they possibly can; there’s no room for trying to fool the audience,” said Ruggiero, who also owns Painted Pony Ranch in Lake Luzerne. 

To fully prepare for his lead role in the short film “Calf Rope,” Ruggiero took a course on auctioneering and practiced for two or three hours a day for several months. The work clearly paid off, as he’s won several awards for his role in the film. 

Directed by Bradley Hawkins (“Filling In,” “Roller Coaster,” etc.) “Calf Rope” explores the bond between a grandfather, played by Ruggiero, and his grandson. It takes place in the 1960s and is based on the director’s own experiences. The grandfather is a former rodeo champion and a cattle auctioneer and his relationship with his grandson is strengthened as he teaches the young boy some of the tricks of the trade. 

The first part of his character was easy to master: Ruggiero is a former bull rider and has been wrangling local horses. 

The auctioneering aspect was more of a challenge to portray and Ruggiero felt it was important to try to sound as close to a professional fast-talking auctioneer as possible. 

“I was trained as a classical actor, a stage actor, and when you’re on stage, you don’t get a chance to do it two times or three times or five times. You get one shot to convince the audience. So I’ve always been a very well-prepared actor,” Ruggiero said. 

“Calf Rope” was shot last year in Pennsylvania and has been on the film festival circuit since early 2020, winning awards at many festivals including the New York International Film Awards, Gold Movie Awards, Hollywood Divine Film Festival, Los Angeles Motion Picture Festival and others. Ruggiero’s performance also earned him several Best Actor awards. 

“The response has been absolutely amazing. It’s been really wonderful to be recognized as an actor. I’ve won numerous best actor awards and that’s pretty special,” Ruggiero said. 

At the Wild Bunch Film Festival, which specializes in western films, Ruggerio met many filmmakers who are interested in coming to Painted Pony Ranch to work on future projects. 

“They’re interested in coming here and producing their films. I have a couple people who booked a visit this spring and we’re hoping they stay here. They’ll be able to bring their crew, they’ll get lodging. . . they can produce their film here,” Ruggiero said. 

While the ranch has been closed recently because of the pandemic, Ruggiero said they’ve been working on major renovations in the meantime, turning it into a film production company. 

“We’ve been doing renovations a little bit over time but now that covid is here I’m starting up again because I’ve spent a lot of time in the last five years working in China for five months a year, doing work in the theater and films. Now that I can’t go to China, I decided to continue my work here,” Ruggiero said.

In previous years, he taught child actors and wrote/produced musicals in China, however, due to the pandemic, he was not able to go this year. Instead, he’s focusing on the ranch and acting opportunities stateside. He recently took a role in the film “The Cure Game” directed by Yaw Agyapong, which is slated to be released in 2021.

“I’m constantly looking for work, even with Covid,” Ruggiero said, “[With] Covid, they do a lot of virtual auditions. I’m really not a fan of virtual auditioning because I love being there in person.”

“Calf Rope,” which is still on the (mostly virtual) film festival circuit, probably won’t be released on most streaming platforms until next year, though it is streaming via the Silver State Film Festival on Roku’s Shorts Daily channel. 

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Categories: -The Daily Gazette, Entertainment

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