Newman actors write, direct, shoot and act in short film

By: Madeline Alvarez, Managing Editor

A group of Newmanites kept their creativity alive over the summer by writing and producing a short film, “Leaves of the Ficus.”

The story follows twin brothers Theo and Ben, their partners Iris and Robin, and their friend Willow, who represents a Mother Nature type of character. Theo and Iris are a hippie couple, and Ben and Robin are more serious and caught up in the world. The film explores the characters’ journey of finding peace in a capitalistic world.

Senior Matthew Clark, theatre and English double major, co-wrote and assistant directed the film. He describes it as being a piece that defends against "Kafka-esque society.”

“There's very much this conflict between proper society and the freedom, the joy, the love, the peace that comes from hippie society,” Clark said. “And we just thought it'd be interesting to personify those two essences: one of the corporate world, and one of the peace loving world, and the love of creativity in the arts.”

The film is called “Leaves of the Ficus” because Theo purchases a ficus tree as a gift for Ben and Robin from the plant shop where Iris works and to which Willow supplies plants, Clark said.

“That becomes a symbol of the couple's rebirth in terms of renewed love, possibly having a child together, just a reinvigorated marriage as a whole,” Clark said.

The scenes taking place in the plant shop were filmed in a Wichita shop called Grow.

Clark said that Newman Web Technology Specialist Daniel Murphy, who directed and filmed the project, plans to submit it to several film festivals, including the Doc Sunback Film Festival and the Tallgrass Film Festival, before making it publicly available. Clark said that those who want to watch the film when it is made available can subscribe to Murphy’s YouTube channel, Daniel Scott Films, to be notified when it is published.

Newman theatre alum and current Technical Director Lucas Farney said he had the idea for the story years ago, but he recalled the idea when Murphy asked him and Clark to collaborate with him on creating a new short film.

Farney shared the idea for “Leaves of the Ficus” with Clark, and the two decided to co-write the screenplay.

The film features an all-Newman cast: Farney as Theo, senior Brenden Schwartz as Ben, senior Allison Williams as Iris, senior Katie Stanford as Robin, and Director of Theatre Mark Mannette as Willow.

Farney, who has a twin brother in real life, said he based the characters of Theo and Ben on himself and his twin, Noah. Playing a character based on himself within a story that explores the ups and downs of having a twin was therapeutic, he said.

“The actual story isn't based on Noah and I at all, but there's a lot of the arguments between them [Theo and Ben], the way that they argue, things like that,” Farney said.

He said he didn’t realize how close to home the story hit until he was running lines with Schwartz, who has a twin in real life as well, and he gave him a look of understanding.

“It's hard to be a twin. I mean it's a great gift for sure, but they’re a pain,” he said, laughing.

PHOTO: Screenshot, "Leaves of the Ficus"