“Yeah, I mean, even thinking visually about the film, I've watched so many more films. I have a lot more to draw on. I'm just shortlisting, storyboarding. I mean, I know I've worked on enough since Gold Star to know so much more about the process. And yeah, it's really mind-blowing to think back. I was going through old notebooks and I found all these old storyboards of Gold Star and it was just like, oh, my God, I can't believe I actually did this based off these storyboards. But for me, the key always is like surrounding yourself with amazing people. And I could not have pulled that film off if it wasn't for my team, and just really hiring people with having an instinct for the kind of person they are too. Like, why are they doing this film and will they be invested? And also, how can they communicate their knowledge to me, so together we can all make something that, that is the best version of the script I wrote.” This episode of the Smart Athlete Podcast is brought to you by Solpri, Skincare for Athletes. Whether you're in the gym, on the mats, on the road, or in the pool, we protect your skin so you're more comfortable in your own body. To learn more, go to Solpri.com. JESSE: Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I'm your host Jesse Funk. My guest today is an award-winning filmmaker, if I can talk. She's also an ultra marathon runner. Welcome to the show, Victoria Negri. VICTORIA: Thanks, thanks so much, Jesse. JESSE: Thanks for spending some time with me. I will start off our, we'll jump right into imposter syndrome. Because we kind of touched on this before we got going with the recording. Just being grateful that you and all the people that come on the show will spend time with me because I'm not real, a huge platform. So, I always feel like why do people spend time with me, but I'm happy you're here. But I was reading an interview I think you did talking about imposter syndrome working with Robert Vaughn on Gold Star and feeling like do I really belong here? Should I really be doing what I'm doing? VICTORIA: Yeah. JESSE: So, I kinda want to ask you I guess it's a little bit about that like as you're moving forward from that having finished it, having gone through festival cycle with it. Do you feel more in place now? VICTORIA: No. Worse almost because now I think there are expectations. When I was first doing it, I felt imposter syndrome just coming from me and I was like such an underdog and no unexpected anything. So, for people listening, Gold Star’s my first feature film. I wrote it, directed it, produced it and acted in pretty much every scene. It was a really crazy thing to do because I had never directed before, anything. I never directed. And I was just like, oh, I started interviewing directors, and quickly realized that I should be the one to do it. It was a really personal film. But yeah, it's weird because now that I'm moving on to my second feature, the imposter syndrome definitely remains. And I think I feel a massive amount of pressure. Because my first phone could have been awful, and people would have been like, “Oh, of course. She had no idea what she was doing, of course.” But now, it's all like I've moved up a rung in the ladder so to speak of like, I don't have to-- I'm not producing this second feature. I have an amazing team working with me that I have access to actors that we’re talking to for the lead role that I would have never dreamed that would even read the script. So, yeah, it's-- imposter syndrome is strange and scary. It's very-- I try to ignore it, but it's there. JESSE: Yeah, it's like this is, it doesn't even matter. Like I saw-- I also make a show about running because I have a background in running. And I've been competitively running for almost 20 years now. And so when I started, like doing this show, and it's just me sitting ?? 04:46> on camera giving advice about topics that people search for. So, it's not anything involved or crazy. But I'm like, am I really qualified to do this? I don't know. But I think, as in the interview that you gave about imposter syndrome I think you mentioned you've been acting for 10 years prior to doing the film. So, it's like, okay, in my case, yeah, I’m probably fine. You know, like to give some tidbits here and there about like, don't do this or do that because you're talking to people that have no experience. Like if we sat down, and our roles were reversed. And I was like, Victoria, I want to direct a short film. Can you give me some advice? There's probably lots of things that would come out of your brain. But maybe you wouldn't realize. VICTORIA: Yeah, that's true. Yeah, you don't realize it because if you make the decision to do anything, you've been working towards that no matter what, in some form or another like you're saying. So, I think it's just that like, decision to actually do it. Because a lot of people talk about something that they want to do and don't actually do it. So, it's that fear of like committing to something is terrifying, and then causes the imposter syndrome. JESSE: I have another theory about imposter syndrome I want to run by you. Sometimes I think that it stems from our mental state not realizing the adjustment between when we're children and we don't know anything. And everybody's telling us do this, do that, this is how it's done to becoming an adult. And now you're the one that's supposed to be doing the telling. Does that have any gravity with you? VICTORIA: Yeah, there's almost too much freedom in being an adult. I've had a lot of conversations with a friend about what makes people really happy and would people in the context of like operating within systems. So, do people thrive best if there are a ton of rules and how to live in a society? Or would we thrive best with this complete freedom? And I think yeah, with that in mind, once you become an adult there seem to be-- you choose your own path, sort of. So, I think people want restrictions and want to be told what to do. It's scary if you're telling yourself. JESSE: Right. I was like as you're describing that I want to say I fall hardly on the side of people who want rules and restrictions and regulations and to not have to think so hard. And I definitely see that in terms of like, if I build a product or something or like, for another business, I create original card games and board games. So, the whole thing is building systems and rules. And like one game I experimented with, the rules are just one side of the card and then all the rules are basically on the cards of the game. They tell you what to do. Some people love it and other people absolutely hate it because they want everything super laid out before they even start. And it's really meant to be like, just get in there and get messy and like figure it out. And from that experience, I was like, I think people really want, like the nitty-gritty, all the rules, please tell me what to do, like don't want to think so hard kind of thing. And I think that carries over a lot to life as well. Not that I'm immune by any stretch of the imagination. VICTORIA: Yeah, yeah. It's a fine line, how much to be told what to do versus what we do ourselves. Yeah. Which has been interesting transitioning into this next film. Because the first one, I could really do whatever I wanted because I raised most of the money, and it was-- I wore so many hats. And in the next one, there is a certain freedom in not producing. But then it's also like, “Oh, wait, I can't do whatever I want.” Because there are people that are really guiding this ship in a way that like I'm so grateful for, but yeah, it's decisions being made that I'm like, “Oh, okay.” I probably-- I don't-- It's being made in a-- It's just a completely different way. But also once money gets, like actual money gets involved that ?? 09:15> JESSE: ?? 09:17> to people. VICTORIA: Yeah, rather than my grandma being like, here's $20. JESSE: Yeah, yeah. So, I didn't-- I mean, I have not watched all of Gold Star. I started, I got through the first half-hour and then I was like, okay, I've got to work on something else. But I started I was like, I need a better time because I was in the middle of a workday and I'm like trying to prepare for talking with you. I'm like, I need-- It is my kind of film. I love independent films and my girlfriend's always like, I showed her the trailer and she's like, yeah, that's your kind of thing. That's not my kind of thing at all. VICTORIA: Oh, that's-- Yeah, I mean, I really tried to-- what kind of film it is, it's not a plot-driven piece. It's really character-driven and these people pushing down these existential fears. JESSE: Right. Well, it seems a little like-- This is what I wanted to ask you about, kind of between the two films since I don't think there's a trailer out for Ultra yet, correct? VICTORIA: No, I haven't filmed it yet. JESSE: Okay. Okay. It was like, I was trying to find it in case but I didn't see anything. So, it seems like Gold Star is almost like I would call it like a slice of life kind of film. Is Ultra the same kind of attitude in that effect? Or is it more like there's really a whole story arc to it classic story arc? VICTORIA: Ultra is very, very, very different. Well, thematically, not as much. It's about a woman who's processing the death of her sister, which we are not really clear about. She blames herself for it. And she runs Badwater 135, which is a race across the Valley for maybe people that don't know, it's a 135 mile ultra marathon. And as she's running, her body and her mind really break down, she's not taking care of herself properly, her team kind of falls apart. And as that happens, she has to come face to face with this traumatic event from her past in a surreal way to be able to overcome it and finish. But yeah, it deals with similar themes, but it's much different in execution and environment and scope. So, it's gonna be-- yeah, really blown out. I mean, we're gonna shoot in the Valley. So, yeah, it won't be at my mom's house. JESSE: A little bit different. Well, that's good, though. Right? I mean for you because then you get-- you step up, and even though as you mentioned, there's more expectations. I feel like that also hopefully gives you the opportunity to, like expand as a person where you're like I have these resources. I can take risks and do things I wouldn't be able to do on my other film, even if you wanted to, or it made sense, cuz you have some kind of background or something to step off of. VICTORIA: Yeah, I mean, even thinking visually about the film, I've watched so many more films. I have a lot more to draw on. I'm just shortlisting, storyboarding. I mean, I know I've worked on enough since Gold Star to know so much more about the process. And yeah, it's really mind-blowing to think back. I was going through old notebooks and I found all these old storyboards of Gold Star and it was just like, oh, my God, I can't believe I actually did this based off these storyboards. But for me, the key always is like surrounding yourself with amazing people. And I could not have pulled that film off if it wasn't for my team, and just really hiring people with having an instinct for the kind of person they are too. Like, why are they doing this film and will they be invested? And also, how can they communicate their knowledge to me, so together we can all make something that is the best version of the script I wrote. JESSE: So, as somebody has basically zero film experience, my whole film experience is basically me shooting myself and I shot a small commercial with a actor friend of mine. VICTORIA: What’s the commercial for? JESSE: It's for, I don't think I have, bars-- it’s for one of our products. It's our best selling bar soap. So, it's just like, have you seen-- Do you know who the Harmon brothers are? I know because I'm in the entrepreneur world, but they shoot that's all those like funny commercials for like Squatty Potty, Purple Mattress. VICTORIA: Yeah, yeah, yeah. JESSE: So, it's like that style of commercial but for this bar soap that we have. VICTORIA: Oh, cool. JESSE: It's just a friend of mine. We ran together on scholarship in college. He majored in theatre. So, I was like, he's the right person to help me do this. But it's just like-- Anyway, my point being I don't know what I’m talking about. VICTORIA: You made a commercial, so definitely. JESSE: It’s something I guess. But aside from sitting behind the camera and just talking like I'm talking to you, I have no directing experience. So, I was curious because you're both directing and acting in Gold Star, how do you do that? Do you shoot a scene and then get behind the camera and look at the film and go okay, I wasn't doing this here? Like how do you direct yourself? VICTORIA: Yeah, I rarely looked at playback. I think it really goes to the collaboration I had with the cinematographer, Saro leading up to the shoot. We pushed the shooting date like three times because I wanted to try and keep raising money. And he was on board in pre-production really early on. So, I sat with him and went through like everything with a fine tooth comb, so that once we were on set I wasn't worried about directing the camera and we knew all the shots. We were on the same page as much as yeah, my performance, which as far as like acting, it's so difficult. It's like you just shift your brain, you try to stop thinking about it once the-- our first ?? 15:49> would call action because I didn't want to call action. And yeah, I just try and be with that other actor or if I'm in a scene alone just really, I think shooting in the locations that everything felt really real to me like we shot in my mom's house. So, in my bedroom or in the front yard I can, I really easily could just snap into what this film was about for me. And then I would just try a bunch of different versions of the same thing. But I wouldn't look at playback, I think it would make me too self-conscious. I would look at playback of other actors and watch what they did. But if it was a shot just on me, I didn't want to see it. But sometimes my GP would pull me aside and be like, “Hey, I think maybe we should try it again. This thing happened.” So, our collaboration was really key in making me feel confident that if something was really off, he would say something to me. But it's really just like switching my brain like kind of assessing right after the take like okay, director, how do I feel like I did? And then just like really letting go of thinking about it while I'm doing it and just doing it. Yeah, it felt-- I feel like it's the best decision that I made. I feel like I would have been more distracted if I had someone else acting or someone else directing because it was such a personal story. I think I maybe said that already. But yeah, it was definitely exhausting. Like mental, I don't know hopscotch or acrobatics jumping between the things. JESSE: Right. That's one of the things I, you know, just on like superficial research I hadn't caught. But as I kind of dug more into the filming kind of what you've done, I did see that Gold Star was a personal story. So, I was wondering what's the decision to tell that story, especially as your first film? Because I imagine, and I'm just trying to empathize I guess that it's a story of great importance to you. So, I definitely understand like thinking, I want to tell the story. But then you'd mentioned the apprehension about, do I know how to make this film? Was there any point where I was like, can I do this story justice, or were you so determined on like, this is a story that needs to be told that it wasn't even concerned? VICTORIA: I don't think it was a concern because I had this, it's hard to describe. For anyone that's lost a parent or somebody very close to them, I channeled that grief into just wanting to do something to like immortalize this difficulty of losing my dad almost. Or-- I channeled all of that grief into just working really hard. And losing him made me realize, like nothing-- I went through something awful. And I didn't-- And I always-- So, my dad was much older. My dad had me, when he was 63 I was born. So, I grew up with this massive fear and knowledge that my dad would die when I was a pretty young age. And he passed away when I was 26-- just before I turned 26. And I was already writing a script that was nothing like Gold Star. It was a father-daughter road trip film about a young woman taking her father to high school reunion and stuff that happens along the way. And then my dad had this massive stroke and for a year couldn't speak or eat or talk, he was pretty much paralyzed. And I started slowly writing my experiences, feeling really trapped and feeling like a frustrated young caregiver. And I didn't even really realize that that's the reason that I was writing it at the time. It just kind of felt like this purging of loneliness in this experience, and this anger that I had completely buried that I channeled into the film. But yeah, as far as like doubts of it being good, I didn't even think about that of my ability to execute it. The imposter syndrome was definitely there. But I fully-- Once I said, I'm doing this, there was no backing down because I kind of became fearless. I was like, my dad just died in a really sad, you know, I watched my dad die over a year and then he died. What can go wrong? Who cares? I should make this movie. So, I felt it was this weird freedom of fear in a certain way... Go to Part 2 Go to Part 3
Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 44 - Victoria Negri - FILM REFLECTS LIFE - Part 1 of 3
Yeah, I mean, even thinking visually about the film, I've watched so many more films. I have a lot more to draw on. I'm just shortlisting, storyboarding. I mean, I know I've worked on enough since Gold Star to know so much more about the process.