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For the past few weeks my “5 Questions” interview series has been focused primarily on running and social media. This week I wanted to switch it up just a bit and feature someone who, while also a runner, is a writer, actress and film director. Please give a warm welcome to Victoria Negri!
I first introduced you to Victoria last year when she shared her journey to the New York City Marathon in her post “For Her Father.” Victoria is a New York based filmmaker and actress. She attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and is currently in post-production on her feature film, Gold Star, loosely based on her relationship with her late father. When she’s not filming, you can find her around NYC running in a park or at the starting line of a race. She is a proud marathoner, running in her father’s memory, and looks forward to eventually completing an ultra. You can connect with her on Twitter and Facebook as well as her personal site.
I had the chance recently to catch up with her to talk about her NYC marathon experience, her film, running and more.
5 Questions With Victoria Negri
Last year you shared your father’s story with us in your blog post “For Her Father” shortly before running the NYC marathon. How was the race experience, and was it a fitting end to your journey?
I constantly cite the November 2013 NYC marathon as one of the best days of my life. It was one of those first experiences that you’ll never be able to replicate. As I was running, I kept imagining my father running the same course in 1987. Growing up and hearing his story of the start in Staten Island, crossing that first bridge into Brooklyn and overcoming some pain to finish, I couldn’t help but feel like he was running with me. The race went by extremely quickly and I remember thinking as I entered Central Park that I didn’t want it to end. The support and turnout of the city that year was incredible. The adrenaline rush of a million supporters cheering you on gives you so much extra energy. My family and friends came out with signs to support at multiple locations, planned ahead, of course, and every photo they took of me, I have the biggest smile on my face. I look like I’m flying, arms stretched out, running toward them. I would say it was a fitting end, but to me, it’s just a beginning. I know that sounds cheesy, but when I initially decided to run a marathon way back in 2012, I thought it was impossible, but wanted to prove myself wrong and wanted to do one for my father. Now, I can’t get enough. I’ll still run them to honor my father’s legacy as a runner, of course, but it’s become who I am now.
You are currently in post-production for your film Gold Star, which is based on the relationship with your father. How will others be able to relate to this story / the characters in this story?
Gold Star is extremely relatable. It’s a film about a young woman, Vicki, a music school dropout who is forced to move home to Connecticut to help take care of her dying, elderly father. I wrote/directed/star in the film alongside Oscar nominee Robert Vaughn, who plays my father, Carmine, and Catherine Curtin of Orange is the New Black, who plays my mother, Deanne. What makes the film so relatable is the realism of style of the film and the honesty of each of the characters. Everyone can relate to losing a parent. If you haven’t lost a parent, you can relate to the fear of losing one. Gold Star realistically depicts moments in which my character is forced to become a caretaker at a young age, and keeps running away, trying to ignore her father’s health, trying to protect herself in a cocoon of sorts. We are never ready to lose our parents, we are never ready to take on responsibilities of caretaking, but in the end of the film, Vicki accepts her father’s situation, and in turn, begins to live a life confronting her fears rather than running from them.
If you could provide advice for an up and coming actor/actress/filmmaker, what could you provide based on the lessons you have learned?
I heard this advice time and time again, but it’s true: do not wait for anyone to give you an opportunity. Just because you are talented, doesn’t mean anything will happen for you immediately. Sitting around and waiting for a role or sitting around and waiting for an investor to say yes to your project and fund the entire thing isn’t going to happen. Sometimes you have to push every step of the way. For instance, to fund production on my film we held a Kickstarter, two fundraisers, and along with my producers, we wrote a business plan, hired a lawyer, and sought investments to complete funding. It was a long journey, but it enabled me to fund a film as a first time director. One of the reasons initially for writing Gold Star was to give myself a starring role in a film. I knew I could write something good with hard work, and I could write a role that would suit me. A lot of people will say you can’t, but if you see something in your head, know you want something more than anything, do something every single day, no matter how small to get that done. Give yourself permission. There are no gatekeepers in this industry. Technology is so readily available and cheap that you can literally write something and shoot it on your phone. Create your own work.
Running seems to be a huge part of your life, as you are one day hoping to run an ultra marathon. How has running enriched your life and the work that you do?
While shooting Gold Star (and talking about running a bit with my crew, as I tend to do nonstop) my cinematographer pointed out that many directors actually train and get in shape before directing a film. I don’t think I would’ve been able to wear so many hats for Gold Star, and acting in almost every scene, if I wasn’t in great physical shape. Running has given me energy and discipline. Writing out training plans for myself has helped me do the same in other areas. I’ve learned that you can get to a big goal, a marathon, if you work on it every single day. I’d say the biggest thing, though, is that running, especially distance running, forces me to live in the moment, and that’s why I love it so much. During a 20 mile training run, the worst thing you can do is think, “Oh, I’m only at mile 5. I have 15 more to go.” The best way to get through a run mentally is to take it one step at a time. To be in your body and check in with yourself, how your legs feel, how is your breathing, how is every single part of me moving and feeling. I try to translate this to everyday life, to live in the moment and live in my body. It helps me relax when my brain wants to jump ahead to what I have to do in a few hours and actually makes me extremely more productive. Overall, running shows me that anything is possible if you put in hard work. The greatest achievements don’t come easy, but that’s what makes them worth it.
What does it mean to you to be able to live, run, and film in New York City, arguably the most incredible city in the world?
I absolutely love New York. Yesterday I did a 9 mile run through Brooklyn, over the Brooklyn Bridge and back to my apartment in Park Slope. I discover new things every run, see so many interesting people and things. I remember being in high school and coming into the city with my mom to take acting classes on the weekends. It was my dream to go to NYU and live here. I’d look at people walking around, looking so busy and so “New York” and wonder what their lives were like. I’d fantasize about going to auditions in big casting offices. For some reason, I always imagined them to be in huge, fancy buildings in Midtown, rather than the more low key, environments they’re usually in — I didn’t understand how impossibly high rent was back then. The energy in New York for me alternates between feeding my drive and draining me. Sometimes, I fall into the trap of never feeling like I’m doing enough, because you’re surrounded by activity constantly. This feeling has dissipated since moving to a calmer neighborhood in Brooklyn. I feel incredibly lucky, though, that my family lives in Connecticut and it’s just a quick train ride home. I’m extremely close with them and feel like I have the best of both world. I have the city where I live and work, and I have home in Connecticut, where it’s beautiful and calm to run, and also, where I shot most of Gold Star.
Bonus: If you could bring together any 5 actors/actresses for a film, who would they be and what would be their story
This question is a great challenge. I’m going to limit myself to actors that are alive. I think Joaquin Phoenix, Michael Fassbender, Jessica Chastain, Michelle Williams, and Cate Blanchett. Trying to immediately think up a story for these actors is really challenging. Maybe the characters are all related or half brothers and sisters and haven’t seen each other in years for various dramatic reasons. They come home for a family reunion or wedding or some kind of event, a funeral maybe, and there’s drama. Although, I admit it would be amazing to see them all in a comedy together. They’re known mostly for their dramatic work, so some kind of Bridesmaids type of film would be hilarious to see.