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Student’s film chosen at Tribeca

Jenn Metz | Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Senior Daniel Negret was in attendance at the world premiere of “Towards Darkness (Hacia la oscuridad)” at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City Saturday, where he watched his family’s creative vision materialize on the big screen.

“Towards Darkness,” a 94-minute film, is an official 2007 selection in the World Narrative Feature competition at the festival. It stars America Ferrera of “Ugly Betty” fame.

Negret – who was born in Colombia – and his older brother, Antonio, founded their production company, Negret Films, last year. Headquartered in Panama, their parents serve as officers, making their company truly a family-run business.

A Film, Television and Theatre and finance double major, Daniel Negret has background in both the business and creative side of filmmaking. In this undertaking, he steered more toward the business angle, working substantially during the pre-production stages with investors and actors, while Antonio – who wrote and directed the film – took the creative reins.

But there was some overlap of the two areas, Daniel Negret said.

The brothers started the company with the “goal of making films [they’ve] always wanted to see,” he said.

“With our own company, we have the freedom to make these films,” he said, adding the company is “willing to take risks” with the films they produce.

“Towards Darkness” is Negret Films’ first production. It was one of 4,500 submissions to Tribeca and was among the 18 chosen to compete in its category, which also features a film produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, called “Gardener of Eden.”

“It was exciting to be a part of something that also included something made by one of the greatest actors of our generation,” Daniel Negret said.

The festival, founded by Robert De Niro, will continue throughout the week. Antonio Negret and his parents are still in New York, but the younger Negret brother had to return to campus to prepare for final exams. The judging of the competition will take place Friday.

The film’s production was a two-and-a-half-year-long process, Daniel said, but the concept began long before – when his older brother was still in college.

“Towards Darkness,” a bilingual film, follows the kidnapping of a young man (played by Roberto Urbina) in Colombia and is “the story of what a family goes through,” Daniel Negret said.

The brothers were able to land Ferrera as the female lead before she gained national recognition on the ABC sitcom.

“Towards Darkness” deals with a reality that is very personal to the Negret family and is inspired by “experiences we shared as a family,” Daniel said. Though the narrative is fictionalized, the film is a symbolic account of the “human side of a kidnapping,” according to the film’s Web site.

The film’s shoot lasted 24 days on location in Panama. Daniel Negret couldn’t be on location because it conflicted with his classes, but he flew to Los Angeles various times throughout the production.

He flew to New York Friday night for the premiere, and said he “tried to keep [his] expectations at a realistic level.”

“I saw a lot of people at the cinema on line and then was so excited. The premiere sold out. They even had to refund some people,” he said.

He and his brother walked the red carpet into the cinema, something he said he never expected to do. Though he didn’t have any major celebrity encounters, he said Elijah Wood and Eva Longoria were both premiering movies that weekend as well.

“It was a bit surreal, being there,” he said.

The brothers hope a studio will pick up the film, which also stars Tony Plana of “Ugly Betty” and David Sutcliffe of “Gilmore Girls,” at the festival.

On Sunday, critics and potential buyers had a press and industry screening of “Towards Darkness.” The critical reviews have not yet been released, but Daniel Negret said the audience reaction – which was “fabulous and very emotional” – was “as good as it gets and everything we have ever wanted.”

He said Negret Films does not have any new projects planned for the near future.

“We want to see how our first film does first … economically, emotionally,” he said. “Our goal is to make more films eventually.”

To accomplish everything necessary to make the film took a lot of work, Daniel Negret said the company needed “a lot of contacts” in the film industry just to get people to read the script.

“As unrealistic as it sounds, sometimes you just need to pursue it.” Daniel Negret said of his childhood dreams. “We didn’t know whether or not to go through with it because of money, but sometimes you just have to hold your breath and jump.”