Student film features friendship, community

by Jenna Reed features editor

The crew and cast of “Mr. Webb” paused on Saturday night and recognized a milestone for the communications department: a full theater performance by the crew of “The Boys Next Door” was being performed live in Alumni Auditorium while two film productions were occurring simultaneously. As the producer of “Mr. Webb,” Matthew Siler, senior communications major, put it: “It was a good moment for comm.”

“Mr. Webb” is one of a number of films being produced this year by students in the communications department. But this production is traversing new ground and stands out as the first featurette-length film (20-25 minutes) to be produced by anyone in the department.

This lighthearted comedy speaks to the need for true friends. And Siler said it’s taking lots of friends to make this film materialize. Between cast, crew, and marketing and design, more than twenty volunteers are making “Mr. Webb” happen.

“Mr. Webb” is serving as Siler’s senior capstone project and a directed study for production manager Olivia Scholes, a senior communications major. But this film is about more than filling requirements and class credits.

Siler laid out a few of the reasons for producing “Mr. Webb.” He said that he hopes to make films for the rest of his life, but has never done anything of this size. “If I didn’t tackle this before I left, the next steps in my life of making films that preach the gospel would be severely stunted,” he said.

Additionally Siler emphasized the role of community and a perceived gap in Moody’s productions. Siler pointed out that Moody has a communications department “with nothing more to show than a few sporadic individual efforts of singular talent, or some teaching videos that won now-obscure awards 30+ years ago.”

Siler sees the remedy to this gap in the recognition of community: “Once you realize your communal identity and live into it for the community’s sake, your own aspirations and endeavors can very successfully fit within benefiting this community.”

“Mr. Webb” may be Siler’s endeavor to push the community to a new place, but this particular production is being made possible by resources beyond Moody’s community. Local Chicago movie equipment rental houses Zacuto Rentals and Dodd Pro Camera have donated cameras and lens rentals for the Saturday shoots.

“Mr. Webb” is a prime example of a community coming together to create something. And in many ways Siler and his cast and crew are paving the way for future filmmakers, screenwriters and cinematographers at Moody.

The film is currently being filmed every available Saturday. After this, it will enter postproduction, with a projected end date of April 13. “Mr. Webb” will have a premier during the first week of May on Sweeting 4. Following that, Siler and crew plan to release the film on online platforms, including Hulu and iTunes.

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