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Lights, Camera and Stars Come to Orange
By Laura Fantarella - Orange Town News Correspondent
There was a little bit of Hollywood in Orange earlier this month as Victoria Negri brought lights, cameras, and a couple of big stars to town to make her film debut. The 27-year-old Orange native realized a life-long dream as the personal story of her relationship with her now deceased, much older father materialized from the pages of her screenplay into a movie, “Gold Star”. Negri, who graduated with an acting degree from New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of Arts, also starred in, directed and produced the film.
Despite what Negri describes as a “super, micro-budget” of just $60,000, Negri was able to bring big-name talent to the project. Working with New York City casting director Judy Bowman, she hired TV legend and Oscar nominee Robert Vaughn, now 82, and Catherine Curtain, a cast member of the new hit series, “Orange is The New Black” to play the parts of her parents. “People see Robert Vaughn and Cathy attached to the film and they are starting to take notice,” Negri said. The small cast also features Negri’s own grandmother, Roberta Raffone Niwore, who makes her acting debut as Leslie, a woman that befriends her at the gym. With a “manageable” cast and crew of 20, the film was shot in a record 17 days. Many of the scenes take place in Negri’s Ridge Road home and other Orange venues including Anytime Fitness and the Orange Ale House. “We’ve definitely turned heads with our lighting setups in parking lots, filming running scenes with my cinematographer in the back of a pickup and me running alongside, and cameras car mounted to hoods of cars for driving scenes,” Negri said. “Everyone has been incredibly supportive and I’m lucky to have several Orange businesses behind me.”
The film is loosely based on Negri’s unique childhood as the daughter of Carmine, who was 37 years older than her mom and was 63 and already retired when Victoria was born. Carmine, a former art teacher at New Haven’s Richard E. Lee High School and a World War II veteran, passed away in 2012 at the age of 88. “I was always so conscious of his age, when he came to my school people thought he was my grandfather,” she said.
The movie’s plot focuses on the last year of her dad’s life, after he suffered a massive stroke and was confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak. Always the storyteller, Negri was heartbroken her once active and health-conscious dad could no longer tell her the stories that had shaped her childhood. She and her family developed a way to communicate without words, an experience that was challenging in real life and ever more so to recreate on-screen. Even though she and her father were always very close, in the movie Negri and her father are often at odds. “People don’t want to watch a movie where everyone gets along!” she said. “I play the most messed up version of myself I can imagine!” She began writing her story while her dad was in the hospital but it was not until he died that she was able to write the ending. “I feel incredibly lucky and grateful to have spent that last year taking care of him,” Negri said.
Despite the many bittersweet moments in the screenplay, Negri is confident her film will be uplifting. “It sounds depressing but there’s actually a lot of hope,” she said. “He had such a huge impact on my life, I feel I had to make this movie and do it well.”
In her own words, Negri tells of the exciting and exhausting experience of making the movie.
How did you come to hire Robert Vaughn and Catherine Curtin? Robert’s name came up in conversation with Judy and it was a natural fit. His body of work speaks for itself. Also, for sentimental reasons, I remember watching The Magnificent Seven with my father as a kid, so casting Robert to play my father was serendipitous. I don’t want to put words in his mouth but he loved the script and said ‘yes’ quickly. He wanted to play a role without many lines, which he saw as a challenge. Cathy auditioned for the part of my mother and was fantastic. I feel so lucky to have such a talented cast.
How was it to work with them? It has been a joy. When Robert said yes I walked around in a haze thinking, “I’m going to be directing and acting alongside an Oscar nominated actor. Wow.” Cathy is hilarious and a very generous actor. Staying open to their suggestions and trusting their talent has given me so much freedom to focus on directing and acting.
What was it like to write, act, direct, and produce your own film? Amazing. Initially, I was terrified to wear so many hats, but I surrounded myself with an incredible cast and crew and was able to trust that the rest of the pieces would fall into place. Directing the film was a huge decision, but ultimately I realized no one would work as hard on my passion project as I would, and it’s such a personal story with an incredibly specific vision, that I had to do it. I know what I want, and not being afraid to say that throughout the process was a huge step.
Was the experience different than you expected it to be? Not really. I knew it would be a ton of work. I guess I’m surprised at how confident I was behind the camera on my feature directorial debut. It felt very comfortable. Staying within the budget was challenging, but not impossible. It’s all about being realistic.
What were the best parts of this project? Not waiting for someone else to make my career happen for me and making it happen for myself made it all the sweeter. A few years ago, I couldn’t fathom acting alongside an Oscar nominee. Also seeing this film through, it’s taken me three years to get to this point. So many people start making a movie and never finish. I realized that taking baby steps every day do add up.
What is the next step for this film? The next step is post production and editing and then we will definitely be submitting it to film festivals. We hope to get picked up by a distribution company at that point. There will definitely be a Connecticut screening and the film will be available for everyone to see in the future.
What’s next for Victoria? I have no idea what’s next for me, but I’m very excited to get back to writing. I feel like this is a new phase in my career and my sophomore effort will definitely happen soon.
For more information about the film, visit www.goldstar-film.com.
Al-Anon Meeting, Monday mornings, 10:00 - 11:30am, Holy Infant Church Hall, 450 Racebrook Road, Orange; a support group for relatives and friends of alcoholics. For more information, contact www.ct-al-anon.org.
Nicotine Anonymous Meetings, Mondays, 6:30 – 7:30pm, Trinity Lutheran Church, 21 Robert Treat Parkway, Milford, open to all, no dues or fees, only requirement is the desire to be free of nicotine. For more information, call Bridges, 203-878-6365.
Zumba Gold Classes at Congregation Or Shalom, Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 7 p.m., Congregation Or Shalom, 205 Old Grassy Hill Road, simple and easy routines to follow, designed for people of all ages and no experience is needed. If interested, call Robin at 203.314.8176 or temple office at 203.799.2341.
Clean Energy Task Force of Orange, meets on the third Tuesday of every month at HPCC, 525 Orange Center Road, conference room, 8 o'clock. The public is invited.
Orange Arts & Culture Council meets on the fourth Tuesday of every month, 7:30pm, HPCC, 525 Orange Center Road, check chalk board for meeting room. The public is invited.
Orange Recycling Committee meets every 3rd Wednesday 7:30pm, HPCC conference room, 525 Orange Center Road, public is invited to attend. For more information, email Orangerecycles@gmail.com. Beginning August, meetings will be held every 3rd Tuesday at 7:00pm except for October which will be held on October 14, 2014.
Elm City Kennel Club General Meetings, third Wednesday of each month, except during July and August, 7:30pm, Paws’N Effect, 36 Corporate Ridge Drive (off Sherman Avenue), Hamden. For more information, contact New Member Coordinators Gary Wilson, at 203-996-2245 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Maureen Anderson, at 203-430-5229 (email@example.com). Next meeting Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Refreshments will be served. Our April meeting will include a program on AKC Dog Shows 101.
Blood Pressure Clinic presented by Gentiva & Maplewood of Orange, 1st Thursday of every month, Maplewood of Orange, 245 Indian River Road, 1:30-2:30pm in the Community Room. No appointment necessary.
The Rotary Club of Orange meets every Friday, 12:15pm at the Racebrook Country Club, 246 Derby Avenue; prospective new members may contact Diane Eger at 203-530-4526 or visit www.orangectrotary.org for information about the club.
Orange Historical Society Academy Antique & Gift Shop Museum, open Saturdays, 10:00am-3:00pm. For information call 203-795-3106.
New NAMI Support Group Meeting, every first Monday of the month, meetings begin promptly at 6:00 p.m. and end promptly at 7:30pm, BRIDGES, a community support system, 949 Bridgeport Avenue, Milford, conference room on the second floor, meeting dates are November 3, and December 1, 2014. They are free of charge and facilitator led.
Knights of Columbus Casino Night Mohegan Sun Bus Trip, Saturday November 1, 2014, Leaving K of C at 5pm /Leave Casino 11:15pm, $35.00 Per person [includes $ 30 Voucher], 50/50 raffle with prizes on bus. Money must be in by FRIDAY Oct 17, 2014. CHECKS ONLY (Made out to Knights of Columbus). NO REFUNDS. Mail Payments to Joseph Lucisano, 93 Berkeley Terrace, Milford, CT 06460. Any questions call 203 878-8343 or 203 506-5557.